Mai Gjere, eighth grade, collects audio stories from Lanesboro resident Sandy Webb, during a community story circle session to gain experience using new technology in the field. The event was organized as part of the youth media and local history program, Youth Access Technology Project (YATP), in 2016. Photo by Sarah Peterson.

Opportunities abound for Houston Co. teens


Are you in eighth through 12th grade? Do you live in Houston County, Minn.? Are you creative, inquisitive, and interested in participating in your community? Are you interested in learning media production skills and sharing your story as part of a nation-wide rural youth community? A brand new local program, called Stories: YES Houston, is looking for you!

In partnership with the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, Stories: YES Houston, is presented as part of the 2018 Smithsonian traveling exhibition, “The Way We Worked,” exploring how work became a central element in American culture, and tracing the many changes that have affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years. The exhibit will be arriving in Houston County in late 2018.

A free program running from April to June, Stories: YES Houston (YES is an acronym for Youth plus Engagement plus Skillbuilding) encourages Houston County high school students to apply to the program by Friday, March 2, 2018. The selected applicants will develop skills in local and oral history research, interviewing, media production, exhibit design, narrative writing, public speaking, and more. By the end of the project, the participants will have produced a series of multimedia stories that will inspire local conversations on economic sustainability and regional identity.

Project coordinator Erin Dorbin, of Houston, Minn., led a similar program in partnership with the Smithsonian and Lanesboro Arts in 2016 titled the Lanesboro Youth Access Technology Project (YATP). YATP ultimately culminated in three high-quality, in-depth, student-created documentary videos that explored topics and issues relevant to both Lanesboro and other small communities throughout the country. The success of that project led Dorbin and the Smithsonian to create a project specifically for Houston County.

In particular, Dorbin “loved seeing the [students’] exploration of their environment and community and their growth as citizens, uncovering history and realizing that they are also creators of history and can influence local decision-making.” Olivia Obritsch, one of the three high school YATP filmmakers, said of her experience, “Apart from learning the technical skills of documentary making, I developed a deeper appreciation, feeling of belonging, and investment in my community and its future. I still look back on the entire process of making these documentaries and think, ‘Man, I did that!’”

Parents, students, educators and community members interested in learning more about the Stories: YES Houston project are invited to a public informational meeting at the Houston County Historical Society on Monday, February 19, at 6 p.m. A short presentation on the project will be followed by a screening of student films from the 2016 Lanesboro YATP. Coordinators will review the county-wide partnership with the Smithsonian, distribute applications, and answer questions.

Additional information and application materials can be found online at


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