After the success of our summer program for local youth in 2013, the staff members at the Lawrence History Center were anxious to hold it again this year. With funding from the Betty Beland Greater Lawrence Summer Fund (GLSF), archivist Jennifer Williams and intern Andrew Scott worked with fifteen students this past July and August. The goal was to help local youths develop their research, writing, and public speaking skills by researching and documenting their life stories as they relate to the broader history of Lawrence.
The perception of Lawrence can be negative, so Williams and Scott worked hard to help students realize they should be proud of living in Lawrence, not ashamed. After a discussion of the positive events in Lawrence with regional, national, and worldwide impact, the students began to realize this fact. As one student said, “I feel proud now...our city is important, we've done important things...no one ever talks about this stuff, but they should.”
After writing a timeline of their lives and conducting oral histories with their family members, the participants developed topics related to their lives that they were interested in researching. These subjects included the social history of Lebanese community, the history of women in Lawrence, the history of fashion, and the development of rights for the Latino community.
The materials through which students looked included oral histories, scrapbooks, magazines, letters, research papers, photographs, and newspaper clippings. They were amazed at the large amount of history that had been preserved at the Lawrence History Center and were very enthusiastic about their chance to make new discoveries on their topics. One student stated, “This is great, I never knew this was here…can anyone come in and look at this stuff?”