DECEMBER 4, 2013 / Legacy Project / – Young people across the country can travel through time and change lives. Interview a grandparent or grandfriend about their life experiences to enter the Legacy Project's national Listen to a Life Essay Contest and win a Lenovo ThinkCentre computer. The contest runs each year in partnership with Generations United in Washington, DC. The Legacy Project also offers schools and families free online resources for building closer connections across generations.
Now in its 14th year, the Listen to a Life Contest changes lives and communities. When they hear the real-life stories of older adults, young people become more aware of the lifetime ahead of them, their own dreams and goals, and what's needed to achieve goals and overcome obstacles. Listening to a life also develops 21st Century learning skills and builds vital connections across generations in a largely age-segregated society where family members can live great distances apart. For older adults, meaningful connections with the young help support a longer, healthier life.
Legacy Project Chair Susan V. Bosak has made it her mission to connect generations in a way she believes can transform the world we live in.
"Generations are a living time perspective," says Bosak. "When you bring young and old together, you complete the circle. This contest gives young people and older adults the motivation to talk. As more people live longer, they can be a tremendous resource to enrich young lives and create a legacy to change the future."
13-year-old Kyle Macdowell from Arlington, TX agrees. He says, "I see my grandma a lot, but not until this contest did I really realize who she is. I never knew about her background or what struggles she has had. I learned a lot."
Teacher Laura Yerou in Albany, NY, says, "What a positive and memorable experience this has been for myself and so many of my students. Student after student gained tremendous insights about how to live a good life, and what it means to grow up and older. Additionally, an increased respect for our elders was developed by so many of my young writers."
Lori Halbison, a teacher in Higley, AZ, says, "I can't tell you how many thank you's I received from parents just because they learned more about the grandparent interviewed and it was valuable for the whole family."
To enter the Listen to a Life Contest, young people 8-18 years interview a grandparent or grandfriend 50 years or older about the older person's hopes and goals through their life, how they achieved their goals and overcame obstacles, or key life experiences. The young person then writes a 300-word essay based on the interview.
The Grand Prize Timeless Award is a Lenovo ThinkCentre computer. 10 Legacy Award winners receive a keepsake timepiece from Expressions of Time. All winners receive a framed award certificate from Frame USA and a specially autographed copy of the award-winning book Dream: A Tale of Wonder,
Wisdom & Wishes about time, legacies, and dreams across a lifetime.
Bosak offers these tips to help you do a life story interview:
An interview is just like talking with someone, but with prepared questions.
Choose a quiet time for an interview, without the distraction of a TV, computer, or smartphone. Show respect by focusing your full attention on the person you're interviewing.
You can write down the answers to the questions, or do an audio or video recording. Recording the interview ensures that you don't miss anything and also allows you to review the interview at a later time.
"Triggers" are important when you're doing a life interview. It isn't enough to say, "Tell me about your life." Triggers can be many things – questions, photographs, keepsakes, home movies, music.
You can use some "closed" questions (which prompt someone to give only a "yes" or "no" answer), but most should be "open" questions like: Tell me about...; Describe...; What was it like when...?; In what ways...?; Why...?; and How...?
If someone is talking about an unhappy or painful experience, show that you understand how they feel ("That's very sad"). If the person doesn't want to talk about something, that's okay – just go to the next question.
It's okay for there to be moments of silence or emotion. A person's life is important, and emotion is natural. Accept emotions as part of the process.
"The best gift you can give someone," sums up Bosak, "is to really listen to who they are and what they're about. That's the same whether you're younger or older."
The Listen to a Life Contest deadline is March 28, 2014.
To get free online life interview tips and questions, Across Generations activities, and the complete Listen to a Life Contest details, visit www.legacyproject.org.