AHS Students Place in Listen To a Life Story Contest

Mari Lofy, Reporter

Listen to a Life is an annual story contest held by the Legacy Project. Out of eight winners, two Arrowhead students were selected. James Linkmark, a junior, won first place with his story A Father’s Best Friend, $100 in cash, a keepsake art piece from Cedar Lake Studios, and an autographed copy of Dream. Braden Schilling, a junior,  was an honorable mention with his story Jane.


The aforementioned pieces were written for Composition. According to Becca McCann, a composition teacher, the class was already composing a piece that involved an interview. When another Composition teacher, Terri Carnell, found this contest, both teachers decided to give the piece a more authentic audience by having their students submit.


“My inspiration for my story came from my childhood because I had always heard this story and knew the main ideas of it, but had never talked in depth about his time in Vietnam,” Lindmark said.


The Legacy Project is about growing something new in human history. Their goal is to connect dots between generations and create a bigger story of change. The Legacy Project was founded in 2000 as an independent research, education, and social innovation group. 


Schilling said, “I never got to really spend a lot of time with my great grandma or get to know her before she had dementia. My grandma would always tell stories but I couldn’t relate with them well. I wanted to learn a bit about her life before and how my grandma handled it all since it seems like such a difficult thing to go through.”


Lindmark wrote, “He hadn’t even realized the cord was cut and his wife held their second son in her arms. As the newborn was passed to him, Bob thought of the screams. They were too similar to ignore.”


According to the Legacy Project contest rules, the contest is only open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and Canada who are 8-18 years old. The co-entrant, the person they are interviewing, must be over 50 years old and cannot be a parent or legal guardian.


McCann said, “I love this contest. I think the act of interviewing an older adult is so worthwhile as students can learn so many valuable lessons while also preserving a bit of history in the process. I think the word count is enjoyable and challenging for students too as they cannot write over 300 words. It forces them to narrow the focus of their piece and examine everything they have written.”


Jim Barry is the longtime lead judge. He is a retired educator who cares about language and hope across generations. Barry and his wife read through each submission highlighting, starring, and underlining to evaluate every entry.


Lindmark said, “I chose to write about this story because I saw it having the most potential. I thought that the death of his friend and the birth of his kids were two of the biggest parts of his life, and they were already connected.”


The story can only be 300 words and must include the entrant’s and co-entrant’s complete name and age along with the co-entrant’s relationship to the entrant. The story must be an original true story about a real event or experience in the co-entrants life. To find out the correct details for the story, contestants must conduct an interview with their older entrant.


“Another one of my students was a runner-up for 2022, Jack Braunschweig. He interviewed a Holocaust survivor,” McCann said.


Jane now had to find a new way to love her mother, not as the same mother figure she had been her whole life. She was watching the old mother she knew slip away from her. It hurt Jane, the helpless feeling she had; but she knew that her mother could not help it. She could not seek to grasp onto the mother she’d always had,” Schilling wrote.


Susan Benton, a Canadian entrepreneur, is the manager of this business. Cedar Lake Studios was created and launched in 2015 by both Benton and Wendy Campbell.


According to Cedar Lake Studios they offer “a selection of art and gifts, each one carefully chosen for its quality, uniqueness and story.” 


All of the seven runner ups receive an autographed copy of Dream and a framed keepsake award certificate from Frame USA and a mini keepsake chest. The total approximate retail value adds up to about $125. The prize must be accepted as awarded and is non-transferable. 


The Legacy Project gave out two special Markham EcoLegacy Awards, which are stories shared across generations that have an environmental theme. They are part of the Generations Dream community process for 7-generation work which is about people and place. The 7-Generation works with social regeneration and ecological regeneration. There are seven broad themes within the work; environment and climate change, economy, community, health, education, aging, and knowledge. 


McCann said, “Lindmark used a flashback as a way to make his piece entertaining, concise, and thematic. It also enabled him to add vivid description to his piece, putting us right in his grandfather’s perspective. Schilling used thoughts and dialogue as a device to put us in his grandmother’s perspective. It also helped him reinforce his main theme, about roles changing as we age, and how obstacles can be a new beginning.”