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Storytelling App Connects Students with Older Adults

Storytelling App Connects Students with Older Adults

Carson Steidinger, left, interviews Jeanne Lawton, center, and Victoria Tchoryk at the Cary Senior Center.

Jeanne Lawton remembers when she heard the Vietnam War draft numbers called for her college classmates. She was just a little older than the student who interviewed her last week at the Cary Senior Center.

“I guess that was probably when it really hit because we were in the common area and you would just see guys crumble to the ground, and then you didn’t hear from them anymore. So that had a great impact on me,” Lawton told her interviewer, Cary High School junior Carson Steidinger.

Steidinger is one of 11 Cary High students participating in a unique documentary project with Cary-based Senior Correspondent, a media venture that offers a “seasoned view of the world.” The students learn about war and other life experiences by interviewing older adults and publishing their stories via the new Senior Correspondent mobile application.

“The students who have been interviewing seniors through the Senior Correspondent app have been more engaged with the history they’re learning in class,” said teacher Katie Dukes. “They’re excited by these personal stories and are looking for opportunities to share those stories with their classmates. It’s been so fun to see the students’ enthusiasm after they complete their interviews. As a teacher, I’m looking forward to using the personal experiences shared through the app with my future classes.”

Throughout November the students are meeting weekly with older adults at the Cary Senior Center and residents of the Highland Apartment Complexes. Their questions about war are a special focus, as Senior Correspondent highlights this content in advance of Veterans Day. But the students are inquiring into other matters, including career paths, big-league dreams, and gender roles. All of the interviews connect with Senior Correspondent’s mission to amplify the voices of older adults for the good of society.

“We believe that people seek the perspective that comes with age,” said Senior Correspondent founder and CEO Daniel Pryfogle. “Amid the constant buzz of 24-7 news, people are hungry for the long view, which means context, history and insight born of experience.”

Karla Nantz teaches a class on the Holocaust and genocide. The prospect of her students getting first-person accounts attracted her to the project.

“The course that I teach is enriched through the use of eyewitness and survivor testimony. As such, when Daniel Pryfogle reached out to our school regarding this opportunity, I jumped at the chance to get involved,” Nantz said. “By interviewing seniors using the Senior Correspondent app, students have learned that although history is largely seen as static and unchanging, the richness of it comes from individuals’ interpretations of the events. Each individual will experience that historic moment in a different way and look at it through a variety of lenses. Not only have my students’ understanding of historical processes changed, but the depth of their analysis in class has improved, as has their general enthusiasm in regards to learning.”

While the students gain insight into historic moments and personal lives, they are also helping Senior Correspondent make the app better. The app enables users to explore news and opinion from older adults, take on assignments to enrich reporting, and publish stories using the photography, video and audio tools of a mobile device.

“The students’ feedback has been extremely valuable as we seek to create a one-of-a-kind social storytelling app,” said Pryfogle. "It’s instructive just to watch the students use their mobile devices as they conduct these interviews. We believe people will find a variety of ways to use the app, including photojournalism and documentary work, oral histories and memoir writing. As for coverage of current events, we believe the app will help users contribute to reporting that clarifies rather than confuses the news of the day.”

About Senior Correspondent

Senior Correspondent () is a venture of Signal Hill (http://www.signalhillspot.com), a Cary, N.C.-based leadership and communications consultancy. The award-winning Senior Correspondent delivers unique perspectives on U.S. and world news, politics, arts, sports, travel, health, technology, money and work across multiple media platforms. Senior Correspondent’s mission is to amplify the voices of older adults for the good of society. The free Senior Correspondent app is available now on Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.seniorcorrespondent. The app will be released soon at the iOS App Store. The Cary High School students’ stories can be viewed at /assignments.

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