StoryCorps Announces Chicago Public Schools As First Major School District to Commit to National Initiative “The Great Thanksgiving Listen” 

StoryCorps Asks High School Students Across the U.S. to Interview a Grandparent or Another Elder over Thanksgiving Weekend Using New Free StoryCorps Mobile App
 Project Will Capture an Entire Generation of American Lives and Experiences  in a Single Holiday Weekend

Friday, November 13, 2015

For more information, contact:
CPS Office of Communications
Phone: 773-553-1620

CHICAGO - This Thanksgiving, StoryCorps, the pioneering non-profit oral history project, undertakes its most ambitious initiative to date: the Great Thanksgiving Listen, which asks high school students across the U.S. to interview a grandparent or elder over the holiday weekend using the new free StoryCorps mobile app. Participants will upload their conversations—in which a generation of Americans will talk about who they are, what they’ve learned in life, and how they want to be remembered—to the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps Founder and President Dave Isay, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson and high school teacher Alex Fernandez took part yesterday in an event announcing CPS as the first major school district to commit to participating in theinitiative.

“We are thrilled to partner with Chicago Public Schools to launch the Great Thanksgiving Listen, which we hope will unify Americans in this time of great disconnect and division,” said Dave Isay, StoryCorps’ Founder and President. “Together we will collect the wisdom of a generation and archive it for the future, while at the same time reminding our elders how much their lives and stories matter.”   
Since Isay founded StoryCorps in 2003, the organization has given more than 100,000 Americans a quiet booth and a facilitator to record over 65,000 meaningful conversations with one another. Alex Fernandez and Noe Rueda, a student in the economics class Fernandez teaches at World Language High School, participated in 2011. In their conversation, which aired on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and became a StoryCorps animated short called “Making It,” Rueda told Fernandez about launching his first business to help his struggling single mother raise him and three siblings. When StoryCorps began planning the Great Thanksgiving Listen, the organization turned to Fernandez to help them shape the Great Thanksgiving Teacher Toolkit, which is being distributed to teachers nationwide.
“For our children to be successful in the classroom, it is critical that they have access to year-round learning opportunities to keep them engaged even when school isn’t in session,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The Great Thanksgiving Listen provides a unique opportunity for students to remain engaged with story telling and learning through the lens of their own history while spending quality time with family over the holidays.”

“Besides building their listening, conversation and research skills, this project will allow students to learn what wonderful and unexpected stories can emerge from the simple statement, ‘tell me about your life,’” said CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson. “As a former history teacher, I am excited about exposing students to the richness of oral history – especially their own. It’s important to find new ways to use technology to bring history to life and this course helps students feel more connected and engaged so they can learn from and understand the past.”
“StoryCorps allows educators to connect with students on a closer level and this shared experience carries on throughout the rest of the school year in the classroom,” said CPS World Language High School teacher Alex Fernandez.
With the inaugural Great Thanksgiving Listen, StoryCorps hopes to gather more interviews in a single holiday weekend than it has in its 12 years of existence to date. The scale of the project is made possible by the new StoryCorps mobile app, which the organization launched using the $1 million 2015 TED Prize awarded to Isay. He shared his vision for the app in in a March 2015 TED Talk. The app takes the StoryCorps experience out of the booth and puts it entirely in the hands of users, enabling anyone, anywhere to record conversations with another person for archiving at the U.S. Library of Congress and on the new website. Previously, StoryCorps interviews were only possible one at a time in the StoryCorps MobileBooth that crisscrosses the country, or in one of a few permanent StoryBooths (in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta). Now, with the app, thousands of interviews can be recorded simultaneously.
The app guides users through the interview experience, from recording to archiving to sharing their stories with the world. It provides easy-to-use tools to help people prepare interview questions; record high-quality conversations on their mobile devices; and upload the audio to the website which serves as a home for these recordings and also provides interview and editing resources.
StoryCorps hopes to make the Great Thanksgiving Listen an annual tradition, and to continue fostering meaningful connections within families, communities, and the classroom while also creating a singular and priceless archive of American history and wisdom.
StoryCorps is working with national partners in media, technology and education to help bring attention to the Great Thanksgiving Listen. Partners include The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, TEDand NPR.  ABC News is the exclusive television partner for this historic effort. Educational partners include American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Teach for America, Facing History, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY), New York State Association of Independent Schools, and the Smithsonian Teen Tribune.
The Great Thanksgiving Listen is supported by Annenberg Learner, Subaru, AARP, Adobe, Rockefeller Foundation and the LOR Foundation.
About StoryCorps
Founded in 2003 by MacArthur Fellow Dave Isay, the nonprofit organization StoryCorps has given 100,000 Americans the chance to record interviews about their lives, pass wisdom from one generation to the next, and leave a legacy for the future. It is the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered.
Participating in StoryCorps couldn’t be easier: A person goes with a loved one, or anyone else they choose, to one of the StoryCorps recording sites. There, a trained facilitator greets the participants, explains the interview process, and brings them into a quiet recording room where they are seated across from one another, in front of a microphones. The facilitator hits “record,” and the participants share a 40-minute conversation. At the end of the session, they walk away with a CD, while a digital file goes to the Library of Congress, where it will be preserved for generations.
StoryCorps shares edited excerpts of these stories with the world through popular weekly NPR broadcasts, animated shorts, digital platforms, and best-selling books. These powerful stories illustrate our shared humanity and show how much more we share in common than divides us.
StoryCorps has also launched a series of successful national initiatives including: 
  • The September 11th Initiative, helping families memorialize the stories of lives lost on September 11, 2001, in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center;
  • The Griot Initiative, now the largest collection of African American voices ever gathered, in collaboration with the future Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture;
  • The Historias Initiative, the largest collection of Latino stories ever gathered;
  • The Military Voices Initiative, honoring the stories of post-9/11 service members, veterans and their families; and
  • OutLoud, which documents the powerful, varied experiences of LGBTQ people across America.
With the 2015 TED Prize awarded to Dave Isay, StoryCorps has launched an app that puts the StoryCorps experience entirely in the hands of users and enables anyone, anywhere to record meaningful conversations with another person. In July, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation gave StoryCorps $600,000 to improve the app and expand its reach. Uploaded interviews are preserved at the Library of Congress and on the website, a growing, global archive of the wisdom of humanity.

Page Last Modified on Friday, November 13, 2015