Teens capture history

Ron Richardson, a board member for History House, encourages students to generate displays for the museum's rotating exhibits. "It gives kids community service," Ron explains practically, although his real agenda is "a young generation connecting with an older."

It is no wonder then, that Ron brags on the Diaries Project at Chief Sealth High School as overseen by teacher Gary Thomsen. Students there don't just connect with an older generation, they seek out, sort and share history in a format accessible to everyone. They've chosen "The Diary of Lake Union" as their next project - a documentary of history, happenings on the lake and information from a University of Washington geologist.

Sound ambitious? It wears me out to think of the magnitude of it, but Ron suggested I look at what they've already done. Since 2001, Sealth students have created video histories of many Seattle neighborhoods in their Sports Events Marketing & Video Production class.

They've captured White Center, West Seattle and Delridge. They've begun on a third documentary about Highpoint, one that gives a voice to community members as they reestablish the area. The first they did covered area history while the second, "Highpoint 2: The Making of a Community," focused on the rebuild and won an Emmy.

Nothing existed when they began work on South Park. No one had collected a history of the area when teenagers, for school credit, spent their time and energy to create a historic overview. Now the video, available through Seattle Public Libraries, gives everyone an opportunity to learn about the neighborhood.

I spoke with Amanda Zahler, the producer of The Diary of Lake Union. A senior at Sealth, she has energy and enthusiasm that I envy. She began working on the Diaries Projects as a sophomore. When I looked over the list of projects for this school year - "The Diary of Lake Union" is one of about eight - Amanda's initials appear next to a few. On one, Amanda explained casually that a publisher has contracted them to complete a written version of the South Park documentary.

Lake Union stands as "one of the furthest out" neighborhoods they've tried to capture and an unfamiliar area for teens from the south end of Seattle. They don't know our houses and streets but Amanda confidently states, "We'll learn!" This is also the first time they've chosen a marine environment, "for the most part its neighborhoods," Amanda admitted.

"So many components," Amanda said of their gathering process, "there is always something for everyone to do." Chun Zeng, another student collaborator, will create a historic timeline of the lake. "It's not really easy," Chun admitted. One whole class will dedicate time to help research starting with Internet searches and spreading out from there.

Valerie Cook will visit area schools, both public and private, to find out what Lake Union means to the kids. "I'm just learning a lot of stuff today," she says about names of schools and contacts. "I want to do the project," Valerie said with spirit, even if it is an awesome undertaking in addition to after school sports commitments.

Aaron Granillo, another senior, works as cameraman and got to film the Head of the Lake Regatta, a new event held on Lake Union, in the rain. He's worked on several previous projects and explained that the final product usually clocks in at 30 - 60 minutes but "this one is probably longer." Interviews, often done on their own time, take half an hour then get edited down to "sound bites" according to Aaron. For Amanda the final viewing is "sometimes depressing. This is it?" For all their work, they give us a well-crafted, well-researched but quick, living document.

Right now, neither Aaron nor Amanda have an agenda or script for the documentary. They leave that up to their Advisory Board - made up of History House and any other willing area volunteers. The final script also depends on materials, interviews and research. In a week, Amanda hopes for another Advisory Board meeting, to develop a comprehensive list of contacts. Amanda will ask the Board "if we're on the right track. What do they think is important?"

While Amanda realistically admits there can "easily be setbacks," they expect to have screenings in the spring or early summer at Sealth and History House. The worst setback for these eager, dedicated and impressive teens could be a lack of contacts. Can you help? If you are someone, or know someone, who can contribute please contact Mr. Thomsen or Amanda at 206/252-8598 or by e-mail at sportsmarketing1@comcast.net.

I've heard of teens in trouble, and those that cause trouble, but here comes the real next generation. Let's see if we can help them help all of us capture our history.

Kirby Lindsay, a Fremont native, looks forward to learning about the Lake. She invites your comments at fremont@oz.net.[[In-content Ad]]