An initial goal of improving both hard and soft skill sets at Fosston High School led to the production and gifting of two dozen memory books that will be cherished for years to come.

This Life Story Book Project brought together 10th Grade Language Arts students with residents of two of the town’s nursing home and assisted living centers.

School leaders matched each student with an elder resident to learn about a piece of history through the experience of a local resident and capture it in one-of-a-kind books.

The uniqueness of the program, combined with the benefits for students and the community, earned Fosston High School the 2017 MREA Profile of Excellence Award. “Producing such a personal keepsake for someone develops a greater sense of selflessness,” MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan said. “Students gained compassion and empathy as they learned about their resident’s life history and essential life skills.”

The project began with students conducting interviews with the elder residents. They focused on improved their listening and narrative writing skills while connecting with community members from other generations. About 25 volunteers helped by providing additional knowledge and experience alongside what the students were learning in the interviews.

In the development of the books, students gained technical skills in photo editing, word processing, desktop publishing and video production. They also produced PowerPoint and multimedia presentations to share the results of the project in the community.

Many of the students continued to visit their assigned resident after the completion of the Life Story Books.  Some signed up for ongoing volunteer hours.  Some were invited to return for birthday parties, celebrations and in some cases, they attended the funeral when their writing project partner passed away.

“Seeing how the events of history affected an actual person provides a young person with a greater sense of the global connectedness of our world,” Nolan said. “They are no longer events of history, on the pages of a textbook.”

Future plans for the project include learning how to put a QR code on the back of a photograph to allow readers to listen to a recording of the resident describing that photograph.