On Tuesday, November 14, ten members of Fairfax High School’s National English Honor Society participated in The Great Thanksgiving Listen, sponsored by StoryCorps, in the FHS Library with a select group of Fairfax City senior citizens. FHS Librarian Anne Nolan, co-sponsor of NEHS, worked with members to prepare questions and practice using the StoryCorps recording app. EHS members then gathered in the library, each paired with a senior citizen. The elders, some of whom took a shuttle from the Heatherwood Retirement Community, shared memories and experiences from their lives and provided unique oral history perspectives.
Students heard about all kinds of experiences, ranging from what it was like to live in Alaska before it became a state, to memories about living and working abroad for the Department of State, to what it was like living in segregated Virginia, to what it was like to be a graduate of Fairfax High School in 1946 and a FCPS principal in the 1970s (former FCPS William “Bill” Martin was one of the interviewees!). As Libby Powers, current President of the FHS chapter of NEHS observed, “It was impressive to be able to hear about the fascinating experiences that our senior citizens have had – we all learned so much and were so surprised at the cool things they had done.”
The event celebrated the art of storytelling with the nuances of interviewing and successfully preserving oral history. NEHS members will upload their interviews to the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. They will be a part of the “The Great Listen 2017” collection. After starting with a small group of seniors this year, NEHS hopes to continue The Great Thanksgiving Listen next year with a larger group of seniors and more NEHS members.