This NYC middle school wanted to know how its alums are faring. So a group of grads became oral historians.
“Having classes in person will be better—I’ll have a teacher in there.”
“I’ve been taking care of my sister because my parents have been working. I’m going to miss that.”
“I don’t want to go back to school. I’m going to miss not having to look presentable.”
The dozen students Zooming together in May, from various high schools across the city and in Florida and New Jersey, had attended middle school together.
They were all members of the inaugural graduating class of School in the Square, a small, progressive charter middle school in Washington Heights known as S2, and they’ve become experienced oral historians as part of a five-year project to document the voices of their fellow alums.
From their Zoom discussion last spring, they created a list of questions to interview other students about both their anxieties and excitement about heading back to school this fall. In their first two years working on the project, they have collected stories about the pandemic, the racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd, the struggles with remote learning and adjustment to high school.
The S2 Intergenerational Participatory Research Collective, as the project is called, was formed in May 2019, just as these students graduated from their 300-student charter middle school located in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge, serving mainly Dominican American immigrants or children of immigrants from Washington Heights, Inwood, the Bronx and Harlem. The project provides a more meaningful way for the school to understand how their graduates are faring and how to help, if needed.
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