Sometimes the process of trying to tell a story just inserts itself. The process becomes a part of the telling.

Today, I’ve invited my colleague, Irene Turner (funny coincidence! no relation!), with whom I’ve been working on the GCDD Storytelling Project for nigh on two years now, to guest in on my blog.

As a new episode of Hidden Voices airs tomorrow, Irene gives us behind-the-scenes glimpse. The entire episode is about the interesting challenges people with intellectual/developmental disabilities face when they come to the end of high school. After traveling the state of Georgia, collecting so many stories, we found that the high school transition is one of the most dangerous part of a person’s life.

Episode four drops tomorrow. We hope you’ll tune in.

Before we get to Irene’s post, I just want to mention that I’m still in the process of porting over to my new site. I haven’t completely figured out how to bring you, my subscribers at the old site’s blog, with me, so I’m posting this both places. Please standby as you may have to, gulp!, do something to help me keep you onboard.

When Making the Story Becomes the Story

by Irene Turner, Resurgens Impact Consulting

The Inclusive Post Secondary Education program at Georgia State University has a focus on new media. Aptly named IDEAL or Inclusive Digital Expression and Literacy, the program focuses on media literacy, communication, production, and storytelling. On any given day the 9+ students that chose this program as their college experience can be found attending classes, hanging out with classmates, and working in different music or computer labs on projects. The IPSE program is so much more than these day-to-day activities though. The IPSE program is an opportunity for students to attend college who might other-wise not have a path to the classroom. You see, the IPSE program is geared towards inclusive education for students who have a developmental disability. 

It’s all of these intersecting factors made the IDEAL program a perfect fit for the Storytelling Project’s podcast, Hidden Voices.

We had been in production of the Hidden Voices for about 3 months when the episode on IPSE programs was up for recording. I made the usual calls to the program coordinator asking about three students who had told their story through the Storytelling Project in 2018 and who were a self-proclaimed ‘Fam Squad’. (Click here to read our original GCDD Storytelling Project about the program and The Fam Squad.) Everyone in the Storytelling Project loved their story and accompanying pictures, which included one very attractive robot that lives in the building. The Fam Squad has all the makings for a great story: humorous anecdotes, inside jokes, instances of challenge and overcoming, and an undeniable bond that shines through their words that they speak about each other.

Over several planning calls, the IPSE program coordinator threw out an idea that ended up being one of the most memorable experiences from the entire podcast production. She proposed we have ALL of the students from IDEAL in the interview for the episode. Since this interview was going to be recorded for audio, we had the unique opportunity to call on the varied skills that the students had been learning over their semesters in media courses.

I consulted the Hidden Voices team and they loved it. The students were excited too.

We were all set for an epic recording session that verged on a very meta experience: we would interview IDEAL students about being in the program, the recording session would be produced and documented by IDEAL students, using skills they learned in the program, and the episode elements themselves would be media created from the IDEAL students… was an audacious –and— awesome plan.

When Shannon and I arrived at the IDEAL home-base on GSU’s campus the day of recording, we sat in on a morning meditation class. I was grateful for the time to just sit and breathe with the students before we launched into production mode.

I knew once we started, it was a one shot deal to get the equipment set up and everyone in place for Shannon to nail the interview. I switched on the audio recorder during the class just to get some b-roll on file but what happened as the start of recording session unfolded was pure magic.

We had 9 students in total, each producing a different part of the session and ALL of them totally engaged and focused. I would even venture to say they were each in their ‘flow’.

Picture this, three students (the original Fam Squad) as interviewees, one co-interviewer, two photographers, two sound engineers, and one graphic artist freakin’ live-drawing the whole thing! All happening in a corner conference room in a high rise building, in the middle of downtown Atlanta. It was genius.

After an hour of talking, one of my co-sound engineers for the day asked if they all could ask some questions, so we turned the mics around and everyone got a turn asking questions and answering them on the audio file.

Eyes lit up, smiles popped out, and some shyness emerged.

All in all, it was a beautiful couple of hours where students turned their classwork into real-world work, and together we created a recording that’s aiming to change our state for the better—and to make the case for IPSE programs to continue to exist at all.

What a way to pay it forward to those coming after you and to align skill with mission. I hope whoever is reading this clicks on over to the podcast episode and gives it a listen.

A whole lot of students put a whole lot of heart into this one, and we’re proud to amplify their story on Hidden Voices. Tune into Hidden Voices on Apple, Spotify, iHeart, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.