MAY 8, 2013 / Legacy Project / – Roger Ebert would have appreciated the National Grand Prize-winning story in this year's Listen to a Life Essay Contest. Jake Taylor, 13, of Chapel Hill, NC interviewed his grandfather, 78-year-old Jack Taylor, to gain a new appreciation of movie theaters as "mausoleums of magic." Thousands of students across the country interviewed grandparents and grandfriends for the Legacy Project's 13th annual contest. Jake Taylor wins the Grand Prize of a Lenovo ThinkCentre computer, a keepsake timepiece from Expressions of Time, and a framed award certificate courtesy of Frame USA.
Jake is a grade 7 student at Carolina Friends School in Durham, NC. His teacher, Lisa Joyner, worked on an intergenerational project with her entire class. She believes that especially for middle school students, contact across the generations is invaluable.
"This is such a meaningful contest," says Joyner. "There are many real-life lessons and insights students can gain. The class interviewed local seniors, focussing on what life was like when the seniors were the age of the students."
In his well-crafted essay, Jake writes that the movie theater was the only place "a small-town Indiana boy like Jack could pilot a fighter plane or solve a murder mystery."
Most importantly, "Movies taught Jack to dream, taught him to keep hope – despite bleak surroundings."
Jake concludes his essay by saying that "when the world around me appears cruel and unforgiving, I will remember my grandfather's words."
From California to New York, young people learned important life lessons from the stories shared by older adults. To enter the Listen to a Life Contest, students 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 oldest person interviewed was 101-year-old Hide Shibuya of New York. Her great-granddaughter, Karan Ishii, 15, learned that "war is a three-letter word packed with rage and hurt."
Hide described the day her small village in Japan was bombed during World War II. "Once a bomb was dropped, sparks ignited everything around it in a raging fire." All that was left of Hide's home was ash.
Ten runner-up winners in the Listen to a Life Contest receive a keepsake timepiece from Expressions of Time, based in St. Louis. One of those runners-up lives in St. Louis, 18-year-old Myra Stull. She interviewed 87-year-old Imajean Drozkowski in a local nursing home to enter the contest.
Imajean shared stories of a "time when you saved every jar, used every thread, and dried your hair in front of the gas oven. It was a time when even little things had value."
"Generations are a living time perspective," says Legacy Project Chair Susan V. Bosak. "This contest gives young people and older adults the motivation to talk meaningfully with each other. As more people live longer, they can be a tremendous resource to enrich young lives and create a legacy to change the future."
The next Listen to a Life Contest begins September 8, national Grandparents Day. The annual contest is run by the Legacy Project, a big-picture learning project that offers parents and teachers ideas and activities for building closer relationships across generations. Generations United in Washington, DC, partners with the Legacy Project on the contest to reach children, youth, and older adults across the US.
To find out more and read all the winning essays, visit www.legacyproject.org.