When you visit the Lawrence History Center (LHC), you’ll find a collection of documents and records that paint a picture of the city’s past: business records, census data, immigration and family documents, ethnic group information, past newspaper editions, etc. Now, as a result of a summer program for local high school age students, you’ll find projects by members of YouthBuild Lawrence among them.
The summer program titled “What’s Your History?” invited students to explore their own personal, family, and community history, and express their feelings about it through a poster to be displayed at the center, and eventually added to the city archives.
"The artwork and posters that the students create will go into our collection so that researchers can see how Lawrence residents view their history today, and it will also give these researchers insight into the lives of the participants. This will be very helpful for those who try to understand the history of non-famous residents, which is of unbelievable value. Indeed, it is the records of the activities of these residents that truly determine the history of our city," wrote archivist and summer program leader Jennifer Williams in a letter to YouthBuild Lawrence.
Fifteen students from Lawrence, including four from YouthBuild, spent five weeks photographing important places from their childhood, interviewing friends and family, digging through city records, and attending lectures and discussions on the history of Lawrence at the LHC.
“The project helped them place themselves in the historical context of the city,” said Lisa Coy, Coordinator of Career Counseling and Placement Services at YouthBuild Lawrence. “They reflected on how their lives are now, and what people’s lives were back then, and they found a lot of similarities. They saw that a lot of people went through similar struggles with housing, single parenting, joblessness, and it helped them realize that they’re not alone.”
Five weeks later, they weren't alone at the program reception either.
Families, peers, and community members gathered at the LHC to see the projects the youth had produced at the end of the program. They listened as students explained the photographs of children, interviews with immigrants, oral accounts, and newspaper clippings that covered their posters.
“It was great because we learned about each other’s history and stories,” said YouthBuild Lawrence student Iris Santiago. “My family came to Lawrence in the 80’s, and a lot has changed since then.”
Her classmate, Xiomara Millan, shared on her poster what exactly she believes has changed in her city over the years:
“I pointed out how people think Lawrence is a bad city, but there are a lot of good things here. Through YouthBuild, I was able to get off the streets and give back to the community in a positive way. I really want them (future residents of Lawrence) to know who we are. We are out there collecting cans for the homeless and cleaning up parks. We’re part of history as well.”
For more on the project, visit lawrencehistorycenter.org