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 2017-18 fellows have developed with their students, and to celebrate the inspiring work that the Germanacos Fellowship has made possible.
Evan de Gennaro, Laney College, Oakland, CA
Evan de Gennaro and his ESOL classes produced two different projects, using oral history to improve their listening and speaking skills. In the first semester, students from over a dozen different countries interviewed each other and shared their stories on stage at Laney College’s theatre. In the second semester, a fellow Laney student produced a video of students interviewing each other, sharing stories that ranged from their favorite pet cat to their vision of the American dream.
“This project helped the students and myself become more visible on campus. So often the students, especially ESOL students, and part-time adjuncts can feel invisible, but we even got the president to participate!” (Evan de Gennaro)
Jennifer Escobar, Moreno Valley College, Moreno Valley, CA
Jennifer Escobar and her students at Moreno Valley College created a website, Oral Histories of the Inland Empire, to provide local residents a platform for sharing their stories. Her first class interviewed and uploaded eight diverse narratives. Together with other educators in Perris and Moreno Valley, Jennifer hopes to continue spreading the practice of oral history and amplifying more voices in the next year.
“I looked at oral history as a culturally responsive instructional activity. Many of the students said the project was one of the most enriching learning opportunities they’ve ever head. Many of them interviewed people close to them and so they learned a lot about their family members and their friends.” (Jennifer Escobar)
Frank Perez, San Benito High School, Hollister, CA
Frank Perez and his Mexican American History class published Veteran Voices Project: Honoring the Experiences and Perspectives of Local Latino Veterans, in partnership with the San Benito County Arts Council and the Community Media Access Partnership. His students interviewed thirteen local veterans, sharing stories of their challenges both on the battlefield and returning home, and each student walked away with valuable lessons from their time spent with this overlooked community.
“It’s really priceless for those veterans. It wasn’t just about their military experiences, but to be able to share their story with somebody who was willing to listen to them and honor them, it was really rewarding for everybody in the project.” (Frank Perez)
(Photo by John Chadwell)
George Nava, a local Vietnam War veteran, holds his copy of the book. George was interviewed by Anita Lombardo, a senior at SBHS who plans to go into social work.
To read more about this project, check out the Benito Link’s coverage of their book launch.
Jennifer Dean, Leander Middle School, Leander, TX
Jennifer Dean designed an “opt-in” oral history project for her students, responding to the way her students enjoyed learning and reflecting on narratives they read last year. She brought a guest speaker from Southwestern University’s Latina History Project, which is building an archive of oral histories, and this experience inspired students to interview important people in their own lives and represent their stories through art.
Kyla, project at right: “For my oral history project I interviewed my mom because she’s my role model. I chose a ladder for my final project because my mom has been through so much, but she’s climbed her way to the top becoming successful and making tremendous progress. She put herself through nursing school with small children and is an inspiration.”
“The way I approached it, the students are the directors and I’m the producer. I asked, ‘What is your vision for showing this person’s story?’ and they all came up with something completely different from the person sitting next to them.” (Jennifer Dean)