Message from Susan V. Bosak
7-Generation Educator, Legacy Project
This is the 19th year we've run the Listen to a Life Story Contest. Every year the entries are inspiring and thought-provoking, and every year the contest gets more important. As we lose vital human connections in families and communities, this contest is a reason to rekindle them. It reminds us why connections across generations, in particular, are so important.
What do young people learn in this contest? They learn how to listen – and listening is one of the best gifts we can give someone. They learn how to craft a compelling story. They learn how to connect with someone in the real world, not just online. Says one teacher, "This was a wonderful activity for our students, combining the skills of interviewing with writing. Our students today are behind screens so frequently and this was an opportunity to actually sit with an older person and listen to a piece of their life."
And students learn about real life in the real world – things like life and death, historical atrocities we should never allow to be repeated, racial injustice, cultural roots, and empathy. We can learn much about ourselves today from the stories of yesterday.
Everyone on this planet has a unique story – all we have to do is listen. And if we listen, we can change lives, including our own, and change communities.
For the contest, a young person 8-18 years interviews an older adult 50 years or over about their life experiences – their dreams and goals, obstacles they overcame, pivotal moments, how they found hope – and submits a 300-word essay.
Our youngest entrant this year was 9 years old, with the oldest co-entrants being in their 90s. Generations learning from each other and learning with each other. You know what? I believe this kind of meaningful intergenerational engagement can change the world. That's why the Legacy Project has the global intergenerational initiative YOU 177. It's all up to YOU – Young and Old United.
We appreciate all the grandparents and grandfriends taking the time to share, and students taking the time to listen.
While not every entry can be an "official winner," everyone who participates in this contest is a winner. Each entry is important to us, and we respect the time – and effort – you put into making an entry happen. While I wish we had the resources to provide personal feedback on each entry, please know that we appreciate every single word you write and every part of yourself you share.
We have some folks we'd like to thank – because without them this contest wouldn't be possible.
First, a warm thank you to the teachers and parents who encourage and support young people in entering this contest. A grateful thank you to our long-time partner Generations United in Washington, DC, who helps get the word out to young and old, and organizations big and small, across the country. And an appreciative thank you to our corporate sponsors who provide such great prizes – especially Expressions of Time.
The last thank you, with a hug, is to our long-time lead judge Jim Barry, a retired educator who cares about young people, language, and the hope we can find across generations. He carefully reads through submissions – highlighting, starring, and underlining to evaluate every entry.
The judging process is as thorough as it is in large measure because of his efforts.
The next Listen to a Life Story Contest starts on National Grandparents Day, Sunday, September 8, 2019. In the meantime, click below to find out this year's Grand Prize Timeless Award winner and the seven national runner-up Legacy Award winners. The Legacy Award winners are presented in no particular order, other than an interesting sequence. Enjoy the stories!
With warm wishes,
Susan V. Bosak
Read the 2018-2019 national Listen to a Life Contest Winners
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