Partnership in Action: Intergenerational Storytelling with Sequoia Living

Several residents have cried telling their social workers how this is the best thing that’s happened to them in a long time.

Taryn Patterson
Sequoia Living Intergenerational Specialist
About the Partnership:

Voice of Witness is working with Sequoia Living, a local nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing and social services to seniors experiencing economic hardship across the Bay Area. VOW is supporting an intergenerational storytelling project that focuses on relationship building through the co-creation of story art including oral history, photography, painting, and more.

In 2019-2020, through weekly Ida B. Wells High School student visits to the Willie B. Kennedy Senior Center, participants build strong intergenerational relationships through oral history, creating visual art based on their personal narratives. The finished narrative art collages were displayed at the Western Addition branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

In 2021, the Sequoia Living consultancy expanded to include sophomores from the Urban School of San Francisco’s service learning program. Students and Sequoia residents engaged in relationship building through oral history-based storytelling while exploring a wide range of topics including ageism, local history, identity, culture, and more. The program is focused on multidirectional learning and promotes the art of listening as a form of service. The program participants connected virtually, due to COVID-19.

In 2022, VOW supported a new cohort of English language learner students from Willie L. Brown Middle School to work with seniors on an intergenerational storytelling project, using oral history and ethics-driven, culturally responsive practices to build relationships and foster communication across the generation gap. For students, a key benefit of the program was having authentic opportunities to practice conversational skills in English.


Based on reports from seniors and students, the project is resonating deeply with participants.

Ida B. Wells high school student Daniella G. reflected: “It’s very self-therapeutic. It helps you talk about what you have in mind. You can share it with other people, and even though we just met, we feel very comfortable with each other.”

Senior Vicky Blake has been similarly moved by the project: “It’s been inspiring to be with these young ladies. Finding out their wisdom, their strengths, their weaknesses, their fears, their growths. To be here with the future is very powerful for me.”

Sequoia Living Intergenerational Specialist, Taryn Patterson, said: “Several residents have cried telling their social workers how this is the best thing that’s happened to them in a long time.”

John Warren, Service Learning Teacher at the Urban School, stated: “It was powerful to see the students and the seniors invest so much in one another. In a relatively short time, they created real bonds fostered by the sharing of personal stories. The students were deeply impacted by what they heard from their Sequoia Living partners, who shared life experiences that were often so different than their own. Voice of Witness provided thoughtful guidance that ensured fruitful conversations, and I’m very grateful to them for making this project possible.”

A student from the Urban School noted: “Through hearing stories, I learned about perseverance and helping others. The experience also gave me different perspectives about opportunities and privilege.”

Interested in working with Voice of Witness?

Through our consulting services, VOW offers expert oral history and education support to programs, organizations, schools, and more. These collaborations emphasize the power of sharing stories and build empathy, community engagement, and key student skills. We work with partners to develop customized, interactive projects, workshops, and/or curricular support using VOW’s award-winning methodology.

Please contact Erin Vong for more information.