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Girls Inc. members share life stories through digital productions

Date: 6/2/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- Their stories were all different. One addressed a relationship with a mother, while another detailed how a father came back into a young woman's life. Another was about always feeling like an outsider. The only common thread of the seven stories was a willingness of the authors to honestly present a part of their lives for others to see.

Last week, seven girls who attend programs at Girls Inc. presented two-minute digital stories they produced under the guidance of Professors Gloria DiFulvio and Aline Gubrium of Commonwealth College at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) at Amherst.

"Digital stories offer a unique perspective into the lives of the girls. It was truly inspiring to see their stories evolve and the support they gave one another. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with Professors Gloria DiFulvio and Aline Gubrium. Their passion for digital stories and their willingness to allow access to Girls Inc. to UMass resources made this project possible," Amanda Thompson, program coordinator for Girls Inc., said.

The girls, who are between the ages of 14 and 17, come from Holyoke and Chicopee. They produced the autobiographical presentations that combined still photos with music and narration.

"The digital stories were made by us because we wanted to show different perspectives in our lives," Julisa Deleon, one of the participants, said. "These stories were made to show that life isn't perfect and everyone has a story."

DiFulvio said the girls produced "incredible stories in a short length of time."

Her program at Commonwealth College uses the production of digital stories to assist in the therapy of people as diverse as cancer survivors to college students who are battling drug abuse.

She said the similarity between the groups "in that [the program] brings a group together and gets them to think in depth."

The process included conducting a "writing circle" in which the teens developed their stories and then work in UMass computer labs as well as DiFulvio bringing computers to the Holyoke Girls Inc. teen center.

The word most used by the girls to describe their experiences in the program: "awesome."

Girls Inc. Executive Director Suzanne Parker said after the viewing the seven productions, "It's amazing how powerful a message you can have in two minutes."