Andover Voices Project Chronicles Student Stories

The voices of Phillips Academy Seniors will echo around campus long after they graduate. Andover Voices, sponsored by the Gay-Straight Alliance, will allow Seniors to tape personal narratives, archived and sealed at the library for five years. Frank Tipton, Advisor to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues and Faculty Advisor for the GSA, said that he sees Andover Voices as “…a chance for people to have their story, their narrative, interwoven with everyone else’s in this place. “I always worry, as a teacher, that some students might graduate from this school never having contributed to the ongoing story of this place, and this way I hope that we can ensure that everybody’s story is part of this place’s history,” he added. Andover Voices will record interviews between students and an interviewer of their choice. Prior to the session, the students will have the opportunity to suggest topic directions to the interviewer. The recordings will not be censored and there will be no time limit. Participants will be able to remove their entry from the archives at any time. The five-year waiting period exists primarily for privacy measures. “We thought that it might make students a little more comfortable,” Tipton said. “The main point of the project is not to reveal secrets, the main point of the project is to share about personal experiences, but that might include aspects that are critical, to some extent, of Phillips Academy… we don’t want them to feel that they’re in jeopardy of themselves being criticized for saying something critical, and we thought that a five-year wait provides some distance for everyone concerned.” Elizabeth Brown ’09, a board member of GSA, said, “We feel like the Seniors have the wisdom to pass on at this point, and everyone will eventually have the opportunity to talk.” Brown continued, “It’s important because it’s a way for each class to leave its mark, and for future students and alumni and people both within and outside the community to actually understand Andover life.” Many Seniors are eager to take part in this project. Kaki Elgin ’09, who intends to do a recording for Andover Voices, said, “As we [Seniors] plan our futures, we tend to lose a little of the essence of ourselves in the present, and so [Andover Voices] is a very good way to preserve a little bit of that essence and enable us to come back to this time.” Aaron Sage ’09 said, “I’ll do it because I want to be part of the Andover story.” Hyungtae Kim ’09 said, “I’ll probably do it because I spent four years here, and I want to leave something.” StoryCorps, a nonprofit project that has recorded the stories of over 35,000 people across the nation, inspired Andover Voices. At GSA’s 20th anniversary committee meeting, Frank Tipton introduced the idea of creating a project similar to StoryCorps. Yisa Fermin ’08, a two-year board member of GSA, participated in StoryCorps with her mother and provided details on the logistics, helping to form a model for Andover Voices. “It feels wonderful to see it come to fruition,” Fermin said. Fermin described her experience with StoryCorps as “a more concrete way of reliving how you felt at a certain moment. I think it’d be great if Andover students could do that about their experiences at such a great school, even if they don’t like it, actually. It’s just nice to look back at the kind of person you were a couple years ago… and just look back on your own experiences and see if you feel the same way.” Andover Voices is funded by an Abbot Grant. GSA hopes to continue Andover Voices indefinitely.