Everyone has a story.
Whether you’re talkative or taciturn, introverted or extroverted, you have a story that deserves to be honored and shared. Whether you choose to take on 50 profiles or 300, you can still serve your community by covering the story of the people — their experiences, their life advice, their reminiscences about the past and their hopes for the future.
Humans-of projects can be powerful tools to teach everything from interviewing to environmental photography. If you choose to pursue such a project, think of it as something more. Stories are the way to bring people together. By stripping features down to the essential quotes, you are telling stories in their purest form.
Every spring, the journalism program undergoes a leadership transition. The underclassmen applying for positions curate their best work, interview with Ms. Austin and wait for the fateful decision email to appear in their inboxes. It’s comparable to the casting of a play, both in drama and in anticipation.
Sophomore year, I opened this email fully expecting to receive one of my top choice positions. After scanning the list for a few seconds, I found my name under senior editor.
Ms. Austin pulled me aside and told me her master plan for the senior section. She wanted to feature every single senior in the yearbook instead of covering only a fraction as we had done in the past. She wasn’t sure if it would work, but she felt that this year’s staff was strong enough to try.
We replaced the traditional 40 short blurbs with 174 full-length features. We expanded into the online platform. We upped our environmental portraits.
Leading Humans of Harker altered the way I tell stories. Instead of asking, “How was Homecoming?” I ask, “What keeps you up at night?” Instead of asking, “What’s for lunch today?” I ask, “When have you defied expectations?” Over the past two years, I’ve had the chance to interview seniors about empathy, nonconformity, activism, friendship – all ideas that transcend the bubble of our Silicon Valley school. In the dwindling hours before graduation, I now have a convenient excuse to start deeper conversations with my classmates.
As a junior, I would wander around after school searching for seniors — any seniors — and by sheer force of will convince them to let me take their photo. Because environmental portraits walk the line between candid and posed, they rely heavily on the relationship between photographer and subject.