This holiday weekend, high school kids across the country will be bringing their phones to family dinners. Not just to text their friends, though – they’ll be interviewing family members, StoryCorps-style. It’s a project called “The Great Thanksgiving Listen,” and it’s being done through the free StoryCorps app. One North Texas class lining up its questions.
StoryCorps founder David Isay’s voice and image are on the big screen in the classroom.
“Over and over again,” Isay says, on the YouTube Video, “I see how the simple act of being interviewed means so much to people...”
This is Mark Harrington’s 11th grade AP history class. The public radio oral history project is new to a lot of these kids at Seagoville High, southeast of Dallas. Still, they’re eager to start a conversation. 16 year-old Kasey Lewis’ target is his sister Courtney, who’s a decade older.
“We were both born in April," Kasey says. " She’s, well, lesbian, and I just want to know if it was hard for her to come out to my dad, who’s very kind of traditional.”
Alexandria DeLoch is the second of four kids. She wants to interview her mom, who’s been through a lot.
“I mean, well, she had her first child at 14. And it’s like four of us and she had to raise us all by herself until recently. I like, think I want to know how it feels? What were all the struggles she had to overcome to raise four kids and come out how we did?”
Alexandria, in this AP class at Seagoville, is doing pretty well so far.
Jydiann Dialino’s first interview choice? His grandmother. She’s here from home in the Philippines. Jydiann was born there too but hasn’t seen his grandmother since he left eleven years ago.
“When I first saw her at the airport I almost cried. Cause I grew up with her,” Jydiann explains. “Cause my mom, she moved to America to get a better job, to live here. I was left with my grandma. She could take care of me. So I grew up there. Then, it was like, I kind of didn’t remember how my mom was or what she looked like. So when I came over here by myself, it was hard to adjust. She was my mom. I didn’t really know that.”
Mark Harrington, the teacher, has been talking up StoryCorps. Through “The Great Thanksgiving Listen,” his kids will record their conversations using the app, then post them on the website StoryCorps.me. They can even get some credit.
And Harrington’s planning for a chat himself – with his mom, a widow. At age 9, young Mark had a brain tumor. It was successfully removed.
“And I always wondered what it was like for you as a parent to go through that,” Harrington says. “My sister found this four or five page writing that my father had done many years ago going through that.”
Now, Harrington has a reason to ask his mom about it. Something he’s never really done.
“It’s so hard for a parent to have a child that’s ill. You know a brain tumor was virtually a death sentence. I always wondered how it clouded their lives.”
Student Drymon Payne, who’s 17, wants to find out about his mom -- by talking to his dad.
“I would probably ask my dad about why my mom left him. Because I’ve always been curious about that,” Drymon says.
She left when he was too young to remember.
“My dad said he would tell me about it if I ever straight-out asked him,” Drymon explains. ‘Hey, can I know why they (she) left?’ I decided to not ask that question, because I think that might hurt me. That’s one of those questions I didn’t think was a good question to ask. I think with this, I would be able to ask and I might be able to get a straight answer.”
Straight answers. They’re a goal of StoryCorps. Another? Just getting the chance to ask the questions.