Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard high school students documented the stories of residents who have been risking their lives by working on the front line. The Harvard Press, collaborating with Everyday Boston and Harvard Cable TV (HCTV), helped students produce the Frontline People interview series, highlighting these workers’ important contributions to the community.
Students Anya Buchovecky, Charlotte Foley, Jordan Hoover, Olivia Ren, Ella Richards, and Jackie Walker participated in the project, and their interviews of a doctor, a firefighter, an emergency medical technician (EMT), a police detective, a nurse, and a Council on Aging (COA) van driver can be found on the Harvard Press and HCTV websites.
Cara Solomon from Everyday Boston was one of the leaders of the project and spoke to the Press about the mission behind Frontline People, as well as some of the work that Everyday Boston has done. “We need to hear different voices,” she said. “Everyday folks are not highlighted in the media.” Solomon explained that through projects like this that share important stories of everyday people, neighbors can connect to one another even in isolation. Frontline People not only brought these stories to light, but also helped this group of student interviewers grow as journalists.
When preparing for their interviews, many of the students overcame personal challenges, leaving them with a rewarding experience. For instance, Walker, who interviewed COA van driver Scott Dinsmore, participated in last year’s Report for Harvard workshop and saw herself grow since then. She told the Press, “In the Report for Harvard workshop last fall, I struggled a lot with coming up with questions that told a story or that weren’t grabbing for short answers … This time around, I realized that I had been overthinking it, so I tried to relax into the conversation and let my own curiosity guide me while also staying on task.”
Ren, who interviewed Detective Daniele Fortunato of the Harvard Police Department, said that overcoming her nerves was her biggest challenge. “It was a little nerve-wracking to interview a figure of authority and have all of it be recorded for people to see. I couldn’t hide stutters or mistakes with a written transcript,” Ren explained. However, she ended up having “a candid, meaningful conversation with someone [she] normally wouldn’t be able to talk to.”
Solomon expressed a similar sentiment when speaking about the challenges she saw the students facing. She noted that “getting past the nerves and being able to get under the skin of the conversation and … to the heart of what [the interviewee] is trying to say” is a difficult skill to learn, but that all the student interviewers “did a great job.” She added, “Their curiosity was clear and that was exciting.”
The students overwhelmingly said the project was a positive learning experience for them. Hoover, who interviewed EMT Amy Gothorpe, said: “I definitely felt that this was a positive learning experience for me. I love journalism, and I am always looking for different ways to improve myself as a reporter. With this project, I gained more experience and knowledge about interviewing, which will help me continue as a reporter.”
Buchovecky interviewed Dr. Hugh Silk, a family medicine physician at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Richards interviewed Joyce Maiore, a labor and delivery nurse at Emerson Hospital. The two spoke to their interest in hearing the stories of these frontline workers. “I enjoyed hearing the stories from Joyce Maiore from our interview,” Richards said, “I feel that I now have a greater appreciation for all the frontline workers, especially those in hospitals.”
Buchovecky expressed a similar sentiment. “I have heard stories on the news about the amazing things frontline workers in different parts of the state and the country are doing, but up until this project, I hadn’t heard anything about what frontline workers in our town were doing,” she said. “Learning about what people in our community are doing to help during this pandemic was definitely my favorite part of working on this project.”
Visit the Press website at https://bit.ly/2Dj1VgQ
for links to all six videos in the series.