Our Elders: Our Links to the Past — The North Star Reports – by Tasha Engesser. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
During the spring semester of 2014 I was privileged to be assigned to write an end of the semester project with a greater purpose than just getting a grade. The assignment was to research my own family and history and to connect it to the class. The truth is, most papers, finals, and projects we work tirelessly on in high school and college are forgotten about once they are turned in, but this project was much more personal and lasting.
Throughout all of my research and interviews with family members, several points stood out. The first point is the importance of storytelling in my family, the second is the prominent role my family plays in my life, and the third is the realization that my elders have such interesting personal histories I often forget about.
I have grown up on being told stories. Sometimes these stories were fictional and other times they were nonfictional anecdotes (usually with an element or two of fiction added for effect). The stories I grew up on taught me life lessons, entertained me, and gave me a great love for stories in general. I think this one of the greatest gifts given to me because it allowed me to become the avid reader that I am and helped influence my public speaking style, both of which helped me thrive in school.
I should have known all along how important a role family plays in my life, especially with all the stories I was told about them, but I continue to realize their importance more and more each day. This past year has been one of the toughest times for me because I was away from my family. This project allowed me to feel connected again. I gathered during this project that family was one thing that no matter what else happened I could fall back on. Throughout the school year I have surrounded myself with family photos so as to feel at home and comfortable in this new place, and I found that my family does the same. I received a picture of my grandma’s coffee table that she sits beside daily. On it rest pictures of my aunt, mother, and sister’s weddings. I noticed a family trend of taking group photos whenever the extended family gets together so that we can always remember the day.
Before this project, I would look at my family photos and see only the people in them, but now I see so much more. The final point I realized through my research is the one I hope will stick with me ’til the end of my life because it is such a great realization: my grandparents and other elders are such impressive people. I have always known this but haven’t really given it much thought until this project. I never knew how much my parents and grandparents did before they were my parents and grandparents. I think many people forget to acknowledge that these people that we think of as old and traveled were once young and inexperienced like us. It is quite marvelous to be able to learn some of what my elders did back when they were young.
I hope that the new information and the insight I have collected and shared throughout this semester give me a new sense of direction with my family. I hope that I can continue to learn about who my family members were and are outside of just being my family. It truly is a gift to me to be able to share these stories of my family’s past. [From Professor Liang’s 2014 World History II class.]
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports
The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.
We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu