by Michael Smith
(Weldon, NC, U.S.)
Should we rally the youth to get involved with helping to publish a historical book for a small rural town? How?
Mayor Julia M. Meacham of Weldon NC spearheads a monthly "Coffee Chat with the Mayor" at 10am each 4th Friday of the month.
Seniors, who were raised, presently live and/or migrated from Weldon, gather together at the Town Hall to identify pictures of Weldon's past residents and buildings with the goal of publishing a historical book with pictures and captions.
I hesitate to raise this idea to the mayor because the mayor is spearheading the project but I think the youth could and should learn about the history of their town, participate and contribute to the project. They may learn something about how things have or have not changed and what needs to be changed.
From the Editors:
Michael, we always think it's a good idea to involve youth in community organizations and community decision making.
They are the true stakeholders in the future.
As such, it would really be an excellent idea for them to understand community history and culture.
Getting youth interested in history projects proposed by adults often is tricky. We haven't had much luck with the direct approach, as in: come on over to city hall and learn about the history of your town because that's something you should know.
One of us has witnessed a successful experience of involving youth through annual reenactment of a dramatic and somewhat tragic historic event that occurred in our city back in the days of slavery.
As the event became annual, more and more young people have taken an interest and become actors and actresses. You can believe that those particular youth are no longer indifferent to their city's history.
So for your project, the historical book, maybe the approach could be something that interests the young. For example, some would be talented at working with digital photos, enhancing the quality of scanned historic photographs to the maximum extent possible.
Others might like to learn just such a skill.
Maybe the youth could be drawn in through setting up competing teams to try to market or distribute the book.
Or perhaps you can borrow the reenactment or historic skit idea. If the youth made up their own drama based on community history, they could frame it with their own interpretation of how the history has created the town they are occupying today.
Your mayor is doing something valuable in encouraging people to become interested in town history. People usually find making a keepsake book of the town's history to be a bonding experience.
Another of our editors reports still having such a book put together by his home town many years ago. At this point the local history book has the status of a family heirloom.
So yes, we think getting the youth involved is good for the youth, giving them perhaps a better appreciation for their surroundings. It's popular among the young to be disrespectful of their roots, you know.
Secondly, involving youth in collecting local history can engage the parents and grandparents who otherwise might not be very interested. About every parent who ever helped with homework can attest to the fact that sometimes parents become intrigued when they see a subject through the eyes of their offspring.
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