The Veterans Heritage Project
The Veterans Heritage Project (VHP) was founded by history teacher Barbara Hatch at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek, Arizona in 2004. Her goal was to motivate and inspire her students through an enhanced educational experience that uses real-life stories as a vehicle for teaching and learning.
In 2009 a 501c(3)was created to facilitate the future development of the program. Since 2008 the program has been expanded into 24 schools. Subject to available funding, VHP’s goal is to have a club in almost every school district (over 160) in Arizona, and beyond by 2020.
Since the program’s inception, over 850 students have interviewed and honored approximately 1050 veterans, publishing their stories in VHP’s year-end book entitled Since You Asked.
The Organizational Model:
VHP is an after-school club or in-classroom programfor 8th through 12th grade and college-level students; it is tied to class curriculum and state standards in English, Social Studies, Civics, and History. VHP is accessible to all students—no matter their grades or socio-economic background. The purpose of the club is to enable participating students to interact with military veterans in their local communities. These students are responsible for interviewing and writing up personal accounts of their veteran’s military experience.
These Veteran stories are compiled and published by the students into hardcover-bound, local edition-books entitled Since You Asked. The books are released at community receptionsat the end of the school year. Recent books have contained almost 600 pages. Receptions are attended by more than 500 veterans, students, and guests. Each year the books and recorded veteran interviews are permanently archived in the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.
Benefits and Outcomes
A project as unique as VHP provides many advantages for the student who chooses to participate. Some of these are in the form of enhancement to the standard school curriculum and classroom assignments, but equally important is the more intangible learning in the form of human interaction, empathy, and respect.
Primary Academic Advantages:
- Learning activities and assignments are delivered in a “project-based” model, allowing students to have “real-life” experiences that help them put classroom learning into practice through integrating history, civics, geography, communication skills, finance, and journalism.
- By participating in VHP, students carry additional weekly time commitments for such core academic skills as independent research, interviewing, writing, editing, and management of their projects.
- These increased responsibilities may add as much as 3-5 additional hours of enhanced academic learning each week.
Enhanced Academic Advantages: Business Management
- Integrated into this model is an opportunity for students to learn basic business management skills by developing and implementing their own collaborative plan for production of the year-end book and community reception.
- Leaders are elected, weekly and monthly deadlines are set, and accountability is established for the production of the year-end book and community reception.
- Leadership Development: Over the four-year program, students have opportunities for becoming effective leaders through development of good interpersonal and persuasive communication skills while leading and supervising the collaborative business model developed by the members of the group.
Four-year participation in VHP motivates students toward a successful path to college, career readiness, and service to their communities. Ninety-five percentof VHP students seek post-secondary education at both two and four-year colleges including military service academies.
Students learn about overcoming challenges from their veterans. “I thought I had a tough time, but it’s nothing compared to what veterans have gone through.” This realization often motivates students to stay in school, form interests, and set goals for themselves.
VHP provides a foundation for learning that engages students in understanding their own democracy as it relates to regional and global conflicts. They become educated and informed, allowing them to become responsible and active citizens.
For VHP students, history becomes more than names and dates to memorize. They hear stories from men and women who provide personal accounts of their service and give “life” to textbook learning and classroom lectures.
VHP students become leaders who inspire others around them. They model respect for service and patriotism and accept challenges beyond the ordinary classroom. "We can leave history to the cynics, who write movies and portray things as if they are fanciful, or morbid, or worse. Or we can have young scholars sit face to face with veterans and hear their stories, write their stories, publish their stories, and advance their stories. There is no history better than that."
Dr. Michael Crow, President Arizona State University Keynote Speaker at VHP’s April 2013 Student-Veteran Reception and Book Signing