#9 – March Retreat: WTS is Like No Other

When my principal first told me about What’s The Story it took me awhile to understand what it was. This is mostly because What’s The Story is not like any other course I have taken before. When describing it to my friends, I have learned that the easiest way for people to understand what it is, is to say it is a journalism program, but it is also so much more than that. In WTS the main goal is to make a documentary about a topic you believe needs addressing, then take it public. The whole cohort meets around every three weeks, sometimes for only a few hours at CVU, or for a one night retreat at the Common Ground Center in Starksboro. The first few times we met we were still getting a grasp of what topic we might be interested in exploring. We were asked to do a few blog posts about things we cared about to get our brains moving. At our first retreat we were put into groups, that were only temporary, but were going to start help us figure out what it would be like to work on a team. By the second retreat we were ready to start planning our documentary. Now we have just finished the March retreat, where we started editing all the film we have shot.

WTS is different from another course I have taken because it is much more hands on and fun. With normal courses in school, there are assignments and assessments and you know exactly what you are learning, but with WTS I haven’t even noticed that I am learning because I am having so much fun! It isn’t hard to learn with WTS. Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges that you have to overcome when making a documentary. Such as, but not limited to finding times to work with your group because everyone is so far away, finding the right people to interview, actually doing interviews, and finding time to fit all of this work into your busy schedule. But, I would highly recommend this course because I have already learned so much, and it’s only half way over!

My topic is Income Inequality in Vermont. So far I have had a lot of fun learning about this topic and conducting interviews. One of the main things that has become aware to me is how much income inequality there is in our little state, and how many things we could be doing to fix it. For example when we were interviewing the Lt. Governor he talked about how if a child needs money to do something like go to the Flynn with the school, if you have the money, it helps other children if you double or triple the amount, because a lot of families struggle to pay for things like that. Another highlight of being in this group is we got to interview Bernie Sanders, which was absolutely amazing.

There are challenges to being part of a long-term team, but it’s also a lot of fun. I have grown to know everyone in my team very well and we have a lot of fun together. The biggest trouble for my team has been finding time for all of us to meet because we are SO BUSY! But, we are getting better at it and we are starting to get a lot done. We have also decided to present at the GIN Conference, which is a lot of work but is a really great place to go public with our project because it is to students and teachers, who are the audience we are trying to reach. Overall, our team is making great progress!

People should apply for WTS if they have the time to put the effort in. When I started WTS I wasn’t sure how much work it was going to be, I have now learned that it takes a lot of time and effort to finish with a project that you can feel good about. You should also apply for WTS is you are looking for a learning experience that is pretty independent. For the most part, the kids in the program are incharge of how the product turns out. The mentors and teachers are there is you need them, but in the long run it’s the kids who have to decide to put the work in. I don’t think this happens enough and it has been really helpful in making me more independant. Overall WTS has been a great experience and I can’t wait to continue!

Alaena Hunt

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