Blog Post 10: March Retreat: The Road So Far

What’s the Story is not like any class I’m taking in school this year, or like any class I’ve taken previously.  It is driven solely by the interests of the middle- and high-schoolers involved with the program. The research each group conducts, primarily through filmed interviews, culminates in the final project:  a documentary. We were told, on the day of the first get-together, that, though none of us were adults, we would be treated like adults. So while the heart of the program is teamwork, it really is fit for someone with the motivation to be independent while also being a leader and team player.  A lot of the program is about reaching out to community members and leaders to create contacts and conduct interviews, which not only takes initiative but courage. And while there is scaffolding in place to support the students involved, the aim is not to rely on the supports but to create projects teams can claim as their own.  

I’ve had a really great experience with WtS this year.  I wasn’t sure, going in, what to expect out of the program, but I’ve grown a lot both as a student and as a person.  I’ve spoken to some extraordinarily inspirational people while conducting some of my group’s interviews, and I’ve gotten to know my two teammates and my mentor, who actually drove one of my teammates and me to Putney, Vermont, for an interview, really well.  We didn’t expect to be able to get that interview because of the distance, but it was one of our most powerful and I’m thankful to my team, and the young man who shared his story, for getting it. I have had a lot of fun, especially at the overnights. At first there was a lot of nervous energy, but that quickly turned into excited energy, and that encouraged me to see WtS not as a class, really, but just as a gathering of people. I’m inspired by everyone that is a part of this program, and I’ve made a few friends to show for it.

My team’s topic is foster care.  It’s a complex and sensitive topic, so we tried to cover all of our bases from DCF to local outreach programs to foster children themselves in order to present the full story.  My team and I have learned a lot about the foster care system, like how there’s a severe shortage of foster families available and how people don’t have to be foster parents in order to support the kids in the system, but also about what it means to be a team.  We’ve learned how to be prepared and responsible, accountable and reliable, patient and supportive. I have become more aware of how many people in Vermont are impacted by the foster care system, and how many in my own community are touched by it.

Anyone interested in making a difference should apply to be a part of What’s the Story.  Even if you aren’t sure what you care about, or you aren’t typically a group-project person, or you’ve never used a video camera before, much less made a documentary, I would recommend applying.  I recommend applying because I was all of those things. I had never really given a lot of thought to how I felt about the greater world’s problems (outside of the classroom), but by being forced to articulate my feelings, I have gained opinion and perspective that transcends this project.  I had never been a fan of group projects and always preferred to work independently, and in some ways I still do, but I had always been able to cooperate with others. Working with my team for What’s the Story has further developed this ability, and I’d consider myself a pretty good teammate.  Before, maybe not so much. This program has taught me to work well with others, and that it’s important to listen to what other people have to say because sometimes you save each other from making mistakes and sometimes, when you’re wrong, you point each other in the right direction again. And even if you aren’t proficient in camera usage, this program is a great place to learn.  There’s no pressure and plenty of support, especially if someone else in your group knows what he or she is doing and is willing to give you a hand. Which I’m sure they all are. So if you want to do something more, if you’re interested in making a difference, I say apply. No harm, no foul, and it’s a good experience. Six months ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the program.  And now here I am with interviews from six generous people who also believe in the story I found and want to tell, the story my group is trying to tell. I didn’t think I was a match for this program because I wasn’t sure what I cared about and I wasn’t sure if I could work with other people well. But, through WtS, I found that wasn’t the case at all. I’ve found something that I care about, something that my teammates care about, and together we’re telling a pretty amazing story.  I’m proud of what we’ve done, and I encourage anyone who wants to feel the same way to apply. I promise you that if you stick with it, it won’t be a waste of your time.

Kaitlin Emerson

One Response to “Blog Post 10: March Retreat: The Road So Far

  • Robin Mary Bebo-Long
    1 month ago

    Kaitlin,
    It has been a wonderful journey. I have enjoyed following you and your experience as you progressed through your What’s the Story? curriculum. I was particularly moved by your words ” I didn’t think I was a match for this program because I wasn’t sure what I cared about and I wasn’t sure if I could work with other people well. But, through WtS, I found that wasn’t the case at all. I’ve found something that I care about, something that my teammates care about, and together we’re telling a pretty amazing story. I’m proud of what we’ve done, and I encourage anyone who wants to feel the same way to apply.” Kudos, I’m proud of you too.

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