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During the 2017-18 school year, secondary and postsecondary students and educators at schools in Perris and Moreno Valley participated in a project called “Oral Histories of the Inland Empire.” The goal was to highlight the diverse experiences of Inland Empire residents through oral histories.

In July 2019, a group of educators from Moreno Valley Unified and Val Verde Unified school districts and Moreno Valley College was awarded a grant from CTA’s Institute for Teaching to support up to 30 teachers’ classrooms (middle school through college) in completing an oral history project during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Jennifer Escobar, member of the Riverside CCD Faculty Association and associate professor of English at Moreno Valley College, applied for the grant with Karyn Thomas and Kimberly Thomas, Val Verde Teachers Association, and Angelena Tavares and Ken Miralles, Moreno Valley Educators Association. They received an IFT Impact Grant of $18,480 for the project — only the second community college grant in the 10 years of the IFT grant program. This is the second time Escobar submitted a grant. “The good thing is they provide feedback, so I listened to what they said, talked to colleagues and reapplied,” she said.

The “Researching (With) Our Communities Through Oral Histories” grant will support ongoing and new collaborative oral history projects for educators who work in Val Verde and Moreno Valley school districts, and Riverside Community College District. Educators participating include Kathryn Stevenson, Zanny Allport, Ed Rice, Melanie James, Valerie Zapata, Emma Pacheco, D’Angelo Bridges, Juan Sepulveda, Angela LeBlanc, Lisa Ramapuram, Joe Osborne and Martha Borjon-Kubota. Nearly 2,000 students are expected to participate.

Lead team members will select a theme to unite the foci of the oral histories across the three partner districts. One instructor is focusing on commuters, another group on people who break barriers, and another faculty member project involves students interviewing LGBTQ+ educators.

“The purpose is to provide culturally responsive and sustaining research opportunities with students from middle school, high school and college,” Escobar said. “Students will have the opportunity to learn more about their narrators (interviewees), go through steps of oral history mythology, and share their finished narrative.”

As with other research methods, oral history methodology requires students be responsible for their learning. Conducting this oral history project will require and strengthen skills in writing, reading, listening and speaking, and critical thinking.

Though the individual projects may take the form of an essay, final projects could also be realized as a play, poem, photo essay, or other format. In this way, the proposal encourages student creativity while also building students’ awareness about writing within a given genre and medium for a particular purpose and audience. In this case, students are encouraged to employ activism in their projects, giving students a voice to take positive action for social justice, equity and acceptance in their communities.

The grant proposal includes professional learning workshops led by CCA/CTA members from the three districts plus invited guests — for example, a speaker from Studio for Southern California History.

Students will share their projects at two community events in the spring, which the public is invited to attend. Find more about the project at

IFT is the grant-giving arm of CTA, and all CCA members are eligible to apply. The deadline to apply is March 31. The grants are announced in June. For more information and to apply, go to