‘Your story as a gift:’ Glenwood Springs Middle School students awarded for excellence in storytelling project
“So what’s our next project?”
That was the best feedback Glenwood Springs Middle School teacher Lucia Campbell could have received after working with her class on the project Bilingual Voices: Life Changing Stories for six weeks.
“As a teacher I was like, ‘oh my gosh aren’t you exhausted from the last project?’ They were in their heads thinking ‘OK now I know how this works and I’m ready to do the next project, it’ll be better.’ I mean that’s just the greatest feedback you can get as a teacher,” Campbell said.
Expeditionary Learning (EL), a national education organization recognized the same students’ work with a certificate of excellence. The students have been invited to share their stories via Zoom for EL’s annual conference. In a news release from Voices, it said the categories EL considered when presenting the awards were authenticity, craftsmanship and complexity.
Voices Amplified teaching artist Vanessa Porras worked with the students and said the stories they told aren’t ones that are usually shared, often due to safety reasons and that even within the program some students remained anonymous for the final presentation of work.
“I think that once you share it out into the community it really makes people who are unaware of what’s going on or that think that this problem is really far away, it really brings it home…it helps people in the community realize this isn’t somebody else’s issue this is everybody’s issue and these are kids in our community that are experiencing this and that (have seen) really awful things at such a young age, and just because they don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened,” Porras said.
Campbell said she was grateful upon receiving the certificate since it’s the highest honor one can receive from EL education. She said it was especially rewarding to watch the students rehearse and push themselves to prepare for sharing their stories at their Celebration of Learning event held for families. Campbell mentioned another teaching artist from Voices, Alya Howe, and how she coached the kids on how to overcome any nerves they had about public speaking and telling their own stories out loud.
“(Howe) told them, ‘you own your story and you memorize from the paper but in your head you know what your story is so go with that confidence that you can remember it. And also, take your story as a gift. So when you are presenting it it’s a gift you give to the audience, so you want to do it well and you want to do it with pride,’” Campbell said.
Voices plans to expand the project to more middle schools in the Roaring Fork Valley and is working on how that will look amidst COVID-19 safety precautions. Campbell said the students were so intrigued by each other’s stories that she put together copies of physical books for them all to have with all their classmates’ stories together. Campbell also made a website for the students so their grandparents and others could rewatch the videos from their presentations.
Glenwood Springs Middle School Principal Joel Hathaway said while the program and partnership with Voices is currently paused because of COVID-19, he continues to try and celebrate diversity even in the small moments and instill within his students and faculty that everyone is equal and everyone belongs.
“Our community is made stronger by the diversity here and the abundance of different stories and different places that people come from. That’s part of what makes us beautiful and that’s part of what makes us stronger,” Hathaway said. “For me that’s what this project is about. Letting kids’ voices that you might not normally hear be heard. What’s not paused is that we still need to do that as a community to keep growing.”
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