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Audio Archives: Youth Voices and the Pandemic

Join the team at the Vermont Folklife Center (VFC) and two partnering educators to learn about Listening in Place, the VFC’s effort to document the experiences of Vermonters throughout the pandemic and beyond. Drawing on decades of experience supporting youth and educators in using oral history, ethnography, and multimedia storytelling to better understand Vermont communities and culture, the VFC’s latest initiative offers a unique opportunity to overcome distance and amplify student voice. Through this work we seek ways to maintain our connections to one another when we most need them, engage with personal stories to strengthen our relationships, and create a record of these times that includes significant input from young people.

Panelists will share how they launched and completed audio media projects with students and navigated the challenges of creating meaningful connections using remote recording technology. This session will also focus on future effort to encourage greater representation of youth perspectives on life during COVID-19. What do young people want to see included in local reporting and storytelling and how does the act of “making space to listen” play a transformative role for teachers and students?

Mary Wesley is a digital storyteller and explorer of folk culture. She studied Anthropology and Philosophy at McGill University, then returned to her native Vermont to work as a field archaeologist for the UVM Consulting Archaeology Program. Later Mary attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies to learn radio production and Multimedia Storytelling. In collaboration with the Country Dance and Song Society, she has helped conceive and manage a community storytelling project, collecting oral histories in traditional dance and music communities around New England. She has worked with other Vermont non-profit organizations including Young Tradition Vermont and the Wake Up to Dying Project to create opportunities for community education and engagement through stories. Mary currently serves as Media and Education Specialist at the Vermont Folklife Center and is the host of the VFC’s own podcast, “VT Untapped.”

Alexandra (Sasha) Antohin – Director of Education. Sasha is an anthropologist, educator and program administrator. She is committed to supporting educators and cultural institutions to engage in community-based, qualitative research. Prior to joining the Vermont Folklife Center, Sasha served as Senior Research and Program Director (2017-2020) for the Avoice Virtual Library Project, one of the largest digital archives dedicated to capturing Black legislative behavior in the United States Congress. 

Sasha is passionate about creating spaces for diverse audiences to engage with research and analysis on issues of urgent societal concern. Recent editorial work on two publication outlets (Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research, The Jugaad Project: Material Religions in Context ) demonstrates her interest to encourage greater inclusion of emerging scholars and practitioners outside of academia. 

In 2018 Sasha completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and participated as a member of Africounters, an interdisciplinary research group focused on issues facing the African continent. 

Sasha completed her doctorate in Social Anthropology at University College London and has taught at George Washington University and Westchester Community College. She has conducted fieldwork in the Russian Far East, north-central Ethiopia and the Washington D.C. area. Sasha is particularly passionate about promoting anthropology and ethnography for non-traditional applications and creative pathways. In her free time, Sasha enjoys performing with string ensembles and singing with local choral groups.

Sarah Keener – Sarah is the librarian/tech integrationist at Hazen Union School in Hardwick, Vermont. After working in a variety of roles in and outside the field of education, she has found a happy home in the library, where she is able to weave together literacy, STEAM, and project-based learning. This year, she has been fortunate to work with the Vermont Folklife Center and a partner at VPR to explore Listening in Place, audio storytelling and ethnographic interviewing. This work has opened opportunities for students to practice active listening skills, explore identity and develop empathy, find creative outlets through sound, and connect as a community.

Billy Corbett – Billy teaches high school Social Studies at Vergennes Union High School in Vergennes, VT. Prior to teaching at Vergennes, he taught at the High Mountain Institute in Leadville, CO and worked in college admissions. He is passionate about place based and project based learning. He has worked with local organizations such as Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and Rokeby Museum to engage his students in real world applications of their in class learning.