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Why School Archive Projects Work

The most valuable possession any person has is their story, their history, the reasons they will be remembered.

Children of poverty make up most of our urban school systems. They rarely raise above the struggle of meeting basic human needs long enough to even think about their history.  To often it is not passed on to them. They do not know it. They have never thought about it.  They have not written it. Nobody has recorded it for them. They worry about their parent's jobs and the next pay check, the next weekend. This lack of a past often leads to a lack of goals for the future. Time for a personal history, time to think of goals 10 years in the future, is unheard of. You plan forward for a week, not a decade.

Thus mistakes are made.

Dropouts happen in a world without goals, and too often isolated from the world outside their neighborhood.

Students do not realize they are creating a history for themselves, and their future children, every day. They simply need to record it.  They need to connect with a bigger picture of life.

The best parents and teachers work to help their children and students connect with their personal history and life goals.  Such work by parents and teachers is common. Life goals are the topic of hundreds of thousands of personal conversations among teachers, parents, students, and classmates every day. An Archive Project only helps life goals and history to become more concrete with a place to store that history, and those goals, as they existed at one time in a child's life.

A School Archive is a resource for parents, teachers, and students in their work for the future.

With an Archive Project a school provides a focus on personal history and life goals. Students are given a place, time, and encouragement to think of that history.  They can record their past and their plans for the future. They can make it be something more, possibly what they want! Then they can come back, re-examine what they have done, and share their experience with students following them a decade later. They can help change lives by returning to their class 10-year reunion and volunteering to talk with the decade younger students.

All along the way the School Archive and "the letter" can be an opportunity for many priceless conversations with parents, teachers and classmates.

Everyone makes mistakes, but we are a community. You help those who follow you to do better. That is how we all will be remembered.  The central and most memorable part of the School Archive Project process will become the 10-year 8th grade reunion.  The mentoring provided by returning students to current students, and the feedback to former teachers, will be a priceless gold mine of information for all involved.  We just need to pay attention to what is said.

"I am making a history" is the message of the Archive Project. Time is passing. Do not let it be wasted!

The Archive Project is not leading to new conversations about new topics, only more of them, maybe in more depth, and with many students who never had conversations about their future before.

It is because the Archive Project is ultimately not creating new thoughts, nothing not already being discussed, or considered, in other settings, that it can claim to need only a "$2 per 8th grade student" budget. It only provides a visible and secure place to store the product of those conversations and thoughts: one version of a life history and the priceless life goals. Thus those valuable conversations happen more often, expand on the topic of the future, and more students stay in school.

What would you do differently if you were 13 again?

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