After the success of our summer program for local youth in 2013, the staff members at the Lawrence History Center were anxious to hold it again this year. With funding from the Betty Beland Greater Lawrence Summer Fund (GLSF), archivist Jennifer Williams and intern Andrew Scott worked with fifteen students this past July and August. The goal was to help local youths develop their research, writing, and public speaking skills by researching and documenting their life stories as they relate to the broader history of Lawrence.
The perception of Lawrence is largely negative, so Williams and Scott worked hard to help students realize they should be proud of living in Lawrence, not ashamed. After a discussion of the positive events in Lawrence with regional, national, and worldwide impact, the students began to realize this fact. As one student said, “I feel proud now...our city is important, we've done important things...no one ever talks about this stuff, but they should.”
After writing a timeline of their lives and conducting oral histories with their family members, the participants developed topics related to their lives that they were interested in researching. These subjects included the social history of Lebanese community, the history of women in Lawrence, the history of fashion, and the development of rights for the Latino community.
The materials through which students looked included oral histories, scrapbooks, magazines, letters, research papers, photographs, and newspaper clippings. They were genuinely surprised at the large amount of history that had been preserved at the Lawrence History Center and enthusiastic about their chance to make new discoveries about their topics. One student stated, “This is great, I never knew this was here…can anyone come in and look at this stuff?”
The students used copies of the materials they found in the Lawrence History Center’s collections as well as their own photographs to create a poster that they felt represented the history they researched. They were also given art supplies with which to decorate their posters. The results were meaningful and creative posters of which the students were very proud.
On the last day of the program each participant stood in front of their families, friends, teachers, LHC staff, and fellow participants to discuss their poster. They also talked about what they learned throughout the program, and any other thoughts they had. The audience asked questions about each poster that helped the participants to think more critically about what they learned and researched.
All of the students expressed the fact that they learned important facts not only about the history of the city, but also how their lives and interests have been impacted by that history. One student focusing on the history of women in the city said “People think it was men who did everything important, but women really rule the world...we were important in the Bread & Roses Strike and in the mills. We made this city.”
The remarks of the participants as well as the family members and friends who came to watch the presentations made it clear that everyone was proud of the participants’ accomplishments. After the presentations were over everyone received a certificate of recognition in order to highlight their achievements.
We are very happy with the results of the program and are proud of the dedication and enthusiasm displayed by its participants. We aim to continue our efforts to promote the history and significance of Lawrence’s history to residents of all ages in the coming years.