Since 2015, the VOW Education Program’s Sharing History Initiative has supported passionate and underfunded teachers, storytellers, and community leaders in bringing social justice-based storytelling into their communities.

In summer of 2016, the VOW Education Program launched the Germanacos Fellowship for Sharing History, which provides support for outstanding Sharing History Initiative participants to explore groundbreaking new oral history projects with their students.

Thanks to the generosity of the Germanacos Foundation, we have been able to support five fellows each year with funding for project materials and specialized guidance from the VOW education team. We worked closely with them to help them develop and refine their projects, further their own curricular and artistic goals, and push the boundaries of oral history-based storytelling.

We are thrilled to present some of the projects that the 2018-19 fellows have developed with their students, and to celebrate the inspiring work that the Germanacos Fellowship has made possible.

Brian Williams and Tina Eng, East Bay Arts High School, Hayward, CA

Brian Williams and Tina Eng taught an English Language Development (ELD) course for students classified as Long-Term English Language Learners, a class that is often left without curriculum or direction as teachers work to accommodate the needs of their students. Brian and Tina developed a podcast project that put the students’ skills to the test, experimenting with audio equipment and editing software that allowed them to create engaging stories from their interviews with teachers in their community. Despite the challenges that come with creating an audio project in one small classroom, their podcast was a hit at the community event.

“Some students who in earlier experiences may not have been engaging with the lessons are instead grabbing hold of technology and finding new toys to play with […] and that draws them further into the idea of engaging with the project, which encourages and builds on their use of the reading and writing and speaking skills.” (Brian Williams)

Watch this video for a project overview and student and educator testimony.

Oliver Rosales, Bakersfield College, Delano, CA

Oliver Rosales worked with Manuel Rosas to develop an essay project based upon family immigration stories, collected through oral history. Four essays were selected to be presented at a campus event called “Hechando la Casa por la Ventana,” a Spanish idiom for sparing no expense. Planned entirely by students, the event was dedicated to the community, and included street tacos, a live DJ, face-painting for children, and the sharing of stories. The testimonies were transformative for the audience, and affirmed the experiences of those who were present.

“Hechando la Casa por la Ventana was an extraordinary and history making event for our Dreamers. Students who were once too timid to even speak Spanish on our campus openly shared their story of how they arrived in the US. It was a snowball effect where many more of our students followed by sharing their own stories.” (Oliver Rosales)

Two students enjoying the community event, Hechando la Casa por la Ventana.

Maria Bucon-Scales, Impact Academy of Art and Technology, Hayward, CA

Maria Bucon-Scales developed a project with her four classes that allowed them to develop their creative nonfiction writing skills. After reading oral histories and The Things They Carried, the students interviewed a narrator about an artifact, something they carried, and turned those interviews into short nonfiction stories. Together with an image of the artifact, this collection of stories display the range of human emotions and experiences. Maria published their work into two volumes, so that students could see their writing in print.

“My students and I felt inspired, supported, and brave each and every time we connected throughout this project.” (Maria Bucon-Scales)

The two books Maria published, featuring over 100 stories.

Evan de Gennaro, Oakland High School, Oakland, CA

Evan de Gennaro taught a dual-enrollment ESOL course at Oakland High, allowing students to accumulate early college credit from Laney College as they further their language skills. His students developed an oral history project to interview community members and turned those interviews into short podcast episodes. The opportunity to practice their writing, speaking, and listening skills while building relationships with their teachers, neighbors, and friends really brought the class together.

“Overall, this experience created more excited, authentic learning opportunities that deal with real life while achieving academic goals.” (Evan de Gennaro)

Listen to Evan de Gennaro’s Oakland High podcast on their SoundCloud.

Nooshi Borhan, Contra Costa College, San Pablo, CA

Nooshi Borhan and the students in her Advanced Oral Communication Skills course created a project focusing on immigration, conducting interviews with community members who had migrated to the US. They focused on capturing the person’s life before, during, and immediately after migration. Nooshi published their stories into a book, and gave one copy to every student as well as each narrator as a gift and thank you for their participation.

“At the end of the semester, we had a celebration lunch. They were all so proud of their accomplishment and I was so very proud of them all.” (Nooshi Borhan)

The book Nooshi published, featuring her students’ stories and the keywords from their narratives.