Students and Soldiers
"Students and Soldiers" weaves together stories from 12 Montana veterans,
as told to 30 Willard Alternative High School students
...stories that share the often harrowing, sometimes tragic and always life-changing experiences of serving in the American Military.
Our Story

Montana Public Radio approached Willard Alternative High School Project in the Spring with the idea to create a class that tags on to the Veteran's History Project that is run by the Library of Congress. The VHP is an effort to collect firsthand oral histories of veterans and preserve them for future generations  in the American Folklife Collection at the Library of Congress.

We began the year teaching our students about interview technique and what makes great radio. In that phase, we brought in several speakers to talk to the kids about how to conduct an interview and the importance of primary source oral histories includin
g, Dr. Bernadette Sweeney from the University of Montana (who is directing a project called "The Gathering"-- collecting the oral histories of Montana's Irish) and Josh Pollarine from Historical Research Associates (who did his graduate research collecting oral histories of veterans).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ©Amanda Opitz 2011

The students also traveled to the University of Montana for a few field trips. During one trip they visited the Montana Public Radio Station. There they met MTPR News Director Sally Mauk and participated in an interview exercise, and Sound Engineer Beth Ann Austein demonstrated the recording process in the studio. The students also toured the School of Journalism at the University of Montana and heard how the skills they were learning in class can translate into a career. During the second trip the students visited the Mansfield Library Archives where Director Donna McCrea showed the students how archives are kept, let them sift through some interesting pieces that are archived in the Mansfield Archives, and lectured on the role of primary sources in academic research.

During these weeks, project facilitator AmeriCorps Vista Member Amanda Opitz was busy recruiting veterans to participate in the interviews and eventually found 12 willing participants. We then split our 30 students into groups and set them to work researching the historical context for the time/place where their assigned vet served.

After they finished their research, we took a week and a half and conducted interviews at the Montana Public Radio Station on the University of Montana campus.

The students then logged and edited their interviews into an hour-long special that aired on the Montana Public Radio Network on Veteran's Day (Nov. 11th) at 1pm MST. The raw audio will be sent to the Library of Congress and archived in the American Folklife Collection in the coming weeks.

Photos:  Willard Alternative High School Students visit Montana Public Radio Studios for the first time (Upper Right). Tyler Pyle takes part in an interview exercise with MTPR News Director Sally Mauk during a field trip (Left). Keifer Clark interviews Bataan Death March Survivor Ben Steele at his hotel room at the Hilton Double Tree Inn. Also pictured is MTPR Sound Engineer Beth Ann Austein (Below).

                                                                                                                                                                                    Photo Courtesy of Julie Jorgenson, Ben Steele's Daughter

©Noah Van Pelt 2011


"Students and Solders" is the result of a collaboration between Montana Public Radio, AmeriCorps Vista and the Willard Alternative High School Project.
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