Not many people know this, but I'm from a very small town of 2,000 people north of Kansas City. I graduated in a class of 106 people. I don't know if most people think Missourians are bumpkins or that people from small towns aren't tolerant or educated, but it seems to come of a surprise when I tell some people that, yeah, I'm from a small town. I was the executive producer for the My Life, My Town short documentary series this semester. Teams of visual and audio producers put together multimedia pieces about teens in rural towns and the issues they face. There were some really great issues the producers tackled this semester — what it's like being gay in a small town or being Hispanic or religious. The pieces were really wonderful and it was so great working with different journalists to put together a very comprehensive portrait of these teens.
My issue, of course, is a little more frivolous than growing up gay and it's inspired by my high school experience in Lawson. For me, I remember people just talking about how "bored" they were all the time — how there was nothing to do, nowhere to go, etc., etc. Of course, I don't think that's just a problem in Lawson — I think teens, no matter if they live near the beach or in the mountains or have tons of things to do, I think teenagers will always be plagued by boredom.
But I only knew what it was like to be bored in Lawson, so I went with that. And though it may seem strange for a journalist to do this, I immediately gravitated toward interviewing my sister. She's 15 and is a sophomore at Lawson High and probably has the most similar experience to the one I had. It just seemed natural to want to interview her. Some may say it was "easy," but it wasn't because I didn't have access to tons of other kids. A simple phone call to old friends would've connected me to a slew of people. But I knew Mollie would be interesting and since this was already a personal story, I couldn't imagine not talking to her about it.
So, here is it — my own My Life, My Town. At the Ragtag Cinema on Thursday, we had a screening of all the My Life, My Town pieces from this year and a couple from last year. The screening went incredibly well — we had an amazing turnout and some great discussions afterwards. I'm so thankful to the other producers who were a part of this project that is close to my heart, plus the supporters who have been cheerleaders along the way. The discussions and conversations that have been derived from this project are incredible and I hope this project keeps people talking.