High-tech look at Cloverdale history

  • Students from Cloverdale High played a key role in the creation of a traveling kiosk, right, loaded with interviews of Cloverdale residents. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

That isn't a new automated teller machine, there in the school office at Cloverdale High School.

It's an interactive kiosk that tells stories, stories about the history of Sonoma County's northernmost city and about the lives of people from all walks of life there.

Beyond being often fascinating, the interviews displayed by the machine seek to introduce neighbor to neighbor, counteract prejudice and suspicion, and develop a sense of "us-and-them" into one of "we."

Officially termed a "Mobile Interactive Museum," the human-connecting technology features a good many interviews aimed at dissolving the divide between Latinos and Anglos in the north county. But at the push of a button, people of all sorts tell their stories, share their successes and challenges and by implication invite others to step for a moment into their shoes.

"People tend to other-ize," said Phyllis Rosenfield of Santa Rosa. She's one of the county's most diligent proponents of genuine acceptance of diversity and a key member of the partnership that created the kiosk. She'll move it next month to the Cloverdale Citrus Fair.

"This is an opportunity to cross boundaries and make deeper connections," she said.

The kiosk came to be through the shared vision of a nonprofit that Rosenfield founded, called Listening for a Change; the Cloverdale History Center; and Cloverdale High School. English and history students of teacher Wendy Conner conducted the oral-history interviews, some of which can also be seen on the website of Listening for a Change.

Trained by the agency, students have been interviewing Cloverdale residents on video for four years. Teacher Conner said the process has taught students interview skills, built their confidence and opened their eyes to the value of moving beyond presumptions about a person and delving into his or her life.

"They realize there is so much more to people than you see on the street," the teacher said.

2013 Cloverdale High grad Caroline Naiman said she grew up in the small town thinking she knew everybody, and that conducting interviews with Listening for a Change showed how much she didn't know.

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