Voices Remembered: Pico Rivera Parks and Recreation's Veterans History Project Brings Teens and Seniors Together While Preserving Important Oral Histories

By Gonzalez, Sandra J.; Ruiz, Eyvette | Parks & Recreation, November 2015 | Go to article overview

Voices Remembered: Pico Rivera Parks and Recreation's Veterans History Project Brings Teens and Seniors Together While Preserving Important Oral Histories


Gonzalez, Sandra J., Ruiz, Eyvette, Parks & Recreation


Eleven miles southeast of Los Angeles lies a city of 63,000 people. While not considered large by California standards, the City of Pico Rivera is known throughout the Los Angeles and San Gabriel region, chiefly because of its active veterans' programming.

Pico Rivera boasts four veteran's posts, including two Veterans of Foreign War and two American Foreign Legion posts. Hosting blood drives, music events and receptions, these Pico Rivera organizations serve veterans and their families with positive communication and support.

There are many generations of families who reside in Pico Rivera, and among those families many served in U.S. war efforts. The city's Department of Parks and Recreation wanted to find a way to collect the stories of the local veterans and preserve them for future generations, while simultaneously facilitating positive interactions between Pico Rivera's teens and its senior population.

Making Intergenerational Connections

In researching how best to achieve these goals, the department learned of the Veterans History Project, a national volunteer effort spearheaded by the Library of Congress that is focused on preserving veterans' war stories. The United States Congress created the program as part of the American Folklife Center--its authorizing legislation received unanimous support and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in October 2000. The success of the program relies on a national network of organizations and individuals to record the interviews and submit them to the permanent collection of the Library of Congress. The mission of the Veterans History Project is to collect, preserve and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear those voices directly and better understand the realities of war. In addition, those U.S. citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.) are also invited to share their valuable stories. More information, including guidelines on how to become involved in the project, can be found at www.loc.gov/vets.

The Pico Rivera Department of Parks and Recreation decided to work with its teen club to create a learning opportunity and intergenerational project for the city's youth and seniors. The Veterans History Project seemed like a great way to highlight senior veterans and help share their stories, while simultaneously offering new and different programming opportunities for teen participants. The teens responded with excitement, while understanding that this project would require research and dedication in order to be successful.

Getting Started

With a group of brave and willing teen interviewers on board, outreach began to search for local veteran participants. A number of different methods were used--the Pico Rivera Senior Center was an obvious first stop, as it is an active location for local seniors, with more than 200 patrons visiting daily. From there, department staff reached out to the commanders of each of the four veterans' posts, as well as the Veterans Council and Ladies Auxiliary presidents. Standard outreach methods were also employed, such as creating fliers for posting at all city buildings and community centers. The city newsletter and quarterly recreation programming guides also featured articles or requests for veteran volunteers. Finally, all parks and recreation personnel and other city staff members were asked if they or other members of their families had served. …

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