Small Voices, Big Change - Ashland Youth Center Oral History Project
Over last 10 months, Story Bridges has paired with Alameda County Health Services to capture the unique history of the REACH Ashland County Youth Center in a traditional oral history project. The story behind the REACH Ashland Youth Center, or AYC for short, is inspired – envisioned and spearheaded by a group of young people who just wanted a safe place they could go to “hang out and relax.” With the help of adults, the youth organized in the basements of apartment complexes, conducted surveys to uncover the needs of their community, and appealed to community leaders like Supervisor Nate Miley for support. Once support and funding were secured, the youth continued their involvement- working closely with the architects and engineers to create a building that will meld community driven art and state of-the-art facilities, a building that will receive the highest LEED Green certification, and a building that will provide the security for Ashland youth to “be themselves.”
Story Bridges wanted to continue in the legacy of REACH by facilitating a project that would also be youth driven and would connect its participants to the Ashland community. After months of training in traditional Oral History Methodology, interviewing technique and video production, the students connected with the key figures that made the AYC possible. The students met with community leaders to discuss the real need for a youth center in the Ashland community and the hopes for the change to come. The youth got technical- interviewing the engineers designers and architects responsible for the multi-million dollar building, and the surrounding complex that will tie in a Middle school, and several parks. And, finally the students interviewed the youth who attended hundreds of meetings, demanding a youth center be built. Each interview unlocked new doors to the AYC’s story and spurred our interviewers to dig deeper.
Through this process I have watched the youth team transform by gaining confidence and engaging with eloquence. As one participant, Maira Rojas, says, “I have learned how to ask the questions that I actually want to know the answers to.” Having the ability to relate to adults, to other youth and to steer conversation and discussion is one of the most powerful lessons Story Bridges offers.
Our team is now finished with the interviewing and is in the archiving stage. When the project is over, the team will have filmed, audio recorded, transcribed and summarized over two dozen interviewees. We will also have become a part of the greater Ashland Youth Center History that is already serving as an example of how small voices can enact big change.
Jazmine da Costa facilitates Story Bridges’ Ashland Youth Center Oral History and “Success Stories” projects. A Princeton grad, Jazmine practiced oral history at the 911 Memorial and other storytelling organizations.