Rebecca Chapman was just 14 and starting high school when she founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to Denver’s most mature residents. She called it Stories Worth Saving; the goal was to preserve and share the life stories of elderly citizens.
Now, as Chapman begins her senior year at East High School in Denver, she continues to record video interviews, edit footage, and post videos of older citizens on her website. She hopes that other students will join her.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting such diverse people,” Chapman says. “It’s interesting to talk to people who have grown up in Denver and see how their lives are so different from mine.”
The idea for Stories Worth Saving came from time that Chapman used to spend volunteering at nursing and assisted-living homes with her grandmother. While Chapman was there, the residents would often share their life stories with her.
Thanks to a grant from the Rose Community Foundation’s Innovate for Good program, Chapman was able to purchase video equipment to get started. She began interviewing residents at Kavod Senior Life assisted living facility.
Chapman also connected with older citizens when she was least expecting it. “A while ago, I was out having sushi with my friend, and a woman overheard me talking about Stories Worth Saving. The woman said, ‘I’m a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor, do you want to interview me?’” Chapman remembers. That woman is Fanny Starr, whose story can be found on the website.
Another interview that impacted Chapman was one with a man named Michael Cousins, who was gay and had no legs. “He kept telling me how music has gotten him through so much, and it was cool to see a different perspective,” Chapman remembers. “Three days after the interview, he passed away. It was sad that he died, but cool that I got to interview him in such a raw, personal way.”
Chapman says of her years with Stories Worth Saving, “I’ve learned to let go and listen.” Often, she says, the interviews diverge from what she originally planned. “I have realized that the interviews will not be as powerful if I am trying to control them through very specific questions.”
She encourages teens who wish to make a difference in their communities to follow their interests. “Do whatever you want to do, but don’t just do something,” Chapman advises. “Do things you are passionate about.”
How Families Can Help
Currently, Chapman runs the nonprofit by herself. Students can help by volunteering to do the following:
- Edit video interviews, if you are a student with video-editing skills.
- Record video interviews of elderly citizens with whom you are connected. “I definitely can work with people and help them through [the first interview process],” says Chapman, “but I’m looking for people who are confident enough to do the interviews on their own after that.”
- Help maintain and update the Stories Worth Saving website, if you are a student with online editing skills.
- Assist with fundraising to help fund and maintain the Stories Worth Saving website.