Earlier this year, StoryCorps Atlanta headed to the Mainstreet Community Services Association, Inc. to record the conversations of residents who have staked out their piece of the Mainstreet Community legacy. Community Association Manager Nadine Rivers-Johnson organized a successful on-site recording day in the community’s clubhouse, rolling out the red carpet for the StoryCorps team.
Located less than five miles from the historic Stone Mountain Park, Dekalb County’s Mainstreet Community is a residential community that was developed based on the tenets of the Greenpeace Movement of the early 1970′s. Today, the Mainstreet Community vigorously guards its proud heritage even as it charts a new path into the twenty-first century.
In early December StoryCorps Facilitator Kevin Oliver and I made our way to East Salinas, California to visit Sherwood Elementary School and collect stories for the National Teacher’s Initiative. There, we met educators who enjoy their work and shared what it’s like to teach children whose parents are often migrant workers. Fact is, some of the educators we talked to also have parents who are/were migrant workers, and in the case of teacher Gloria Baker, once worked in the fields themselves.
This fall, San Francisco’s St. Anthony Foundation celebrated 60 years of providing food, shelter, clothing, and health services to much of the city’s homeless population. The day kicked off with a Hope Rally on the steps of City Hall and finished with a BBQ Block Party in the heart of the city’s Tenderloin District. StoryCorps San Francisco was there to share some of the many stories we’ve recorded with St. Anthony’s community for the past three years.
On the eve of the fifteenth anniversary of Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride weekend, StoryCorps Atlanta partnered with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History to host, Pride and Community: Preserving the Black LGBTQ Experience. Since opening its recording booth in Atlanta two years ago, StoryCorps Atlanta has captured and archived hundreds of stories from the African-American community, and many of the participants who have come into the booth are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender or queer. This evening was an opportunity to celebrate the lives and stories of Atlanta’s Black LGBTQ community and discuss why it’s important for its members to preserve their stories.
StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to the City of Roses to record stories of the area’s teachers for our National Teachers Initiative. While in Portland, StoryCorps Facilitator Gaspar Caro and I spent a day at a middle school operated by Self Enhancement, Inc., which has grown from an after-school basketball camp into an agency that serves thousands of students. The next day, we drove down the street to Jefferson High School, where we spent two days recording the stories of teachers who have participated in the Oregon Writing Project at Lewis & Clark. OWP trains teachers to help their students explore and gain a critical understanding of the world through writing.
Two OWP teachers we met were Chrysanthius Lathan and her former professor, Thomas McKenna. According to Chrysanthius, she began standing up for herself in class as a result of her brief interaction with Tom six years ago.
In Indianapolis, Indiana, Dan Taylor, who is affiliated with Teach Plus Indianapolis, recorded a StoryCorps interview with Aaron Wallace, 13. Aaron was Dan’s student at the Tindley School last school year. At Tindley, Aaron and other students attended Saturday school with Dan whenever he thought they needed extra attention.
Dan and Aaron talked about Dan’s teaching, which Aaron says is “strict but fun.” Dan confessed that he tries to emulate the teaching style of his 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Lewis, who sang and danced in her classroom. Dan says that with Mrs. Lewis, “every day in the classroom felt like an educational Mardi Gras.”
Toward the end of their interview, Aaron told his former teacher of the difference his methods have made in his life. Aaron used to have trouble with reading and writing, but teachers like Dan have helped him make progress. Aaron recalled Saturdays spent in Dan’s classroom playing learning games, which have fueled his desire to become an engineer. Dan told Aaron that “caring and work make a great classroom.”
StoryCorps Facilitator Gaspar Caro and I traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, as part of the National Teacher’s Initiative to record the stories of public school teachers and students in the area. St. Louis is one of 20 cities participating in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate Initiative, a multifaceted initiative focused on building the knowledge, understanding, collaboration and resources required to improve high school graduation rates.
We had the pleasure of spending one day at Shearwater High School, an alternative school that helps students attain their high school diplomas and prepares them for college. Walking through the hallways of Shearwater, you are greeted with hand-painted signs of uplifting messages, like “Life is what you make it.” It is a place where young people who have faced serious obstacles in their education come for a second chance.
StoryCorps’ National Teacher Initiative took me and my co-facilitator, Naomi Greene, to St. Louis, Missouri, to record with public school teachers. During our stay, Gateway Institute of Technology High School Principal Beth Bender recorded with her friend, co-worker, and fellow teacher, Amy Horton.
After sharing stories about her childhood and school day memories, Beth broached the elephant in many classrooms and school hallways: sexual orientation. In doing so, she described the importance of strong student-staff relationships and the challenges she has faced as a principal who is also a lesbian.