North Coast Rural Challenge Network

NCRCN Project: Anderson Valley - 'Voices of the Valley'


Project description: 'Voices of the Valley' is a nationally recognized oral history project in which Anderson Valley High School students preserve their town's stories in annual volumes of books and audio compact discs.

In 1997, a group of eight seventh graders had a schedule glitch that gave them a free period. Mitch Mendosa, their teacher, challenged them to use the time to create a meaningful project that contributed significantly to the school and community. After much debate, they decided to create an Anderson Valley oral history.

The students felt strongly about preserving the voices of the people they talked to, so they had to learn how to use digital audio technology as well as book production techniques. Two years later, 'Voices of the Valley: Volume I', a book and audio compact disc set was completed and is available for sale.


This project developed into a high school class that produces annual volumes containing the stories of Anderson Valley. Moreover, our community embraced the project and looks forward to the book signings every spring.

'Voices of the Valley' Staff

Matching teenagers with elders may seem a bit incongruous; we've found it to be intriguing. These two populations are extremely disenfranchised. Teenagers are at a crossroads where they are trying to define how they will fit into society. They are no longer little children, yet they are not considered as adults. Computer advancements have brought very sophisticated desktop visual and audio technology into our schools, enabling us to produce books and compact discs. Our students gain technological expertise very quickly and are yearning for opportunities to show that they can use these skills to contribute something worthwhile. They thrive on community acceptance and praise. Our elders have contributed for a long time and have lived through some of the events that our history books describe. They possess wisdom and the gift of retrospect that only living awhile can provide.

In the process of allowing students to use their innate curiosity coupled with their understanding of advanced computer technology to collect and preserve our stories, the students and community become connected in an unprecedented way. Congressman Mike Thompson honored 'Voices of the Valley' by selecting it as a Local Legacies Project in celebration of the Library of Congress. Our Volumes are now permanently housed in the Library.

'Voices of the Valley' student historians have completed quite a few brief documentaries featuring many of the elders in various volumes of 'Voices of the Valley' books. To learn more about the the documentary project and to listen to the documentaries, click here.

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