Humans of Grand Valley reflection

Claire Fisher

This year, I had the chance to work on Humans of Grand Valley. Humans of Grand Valley is modeled after Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York. During my time with the project I’ve had the opportunity to meet incredible people, help tell their stories, and watch as others connect with and enjoy their stories. I’ve learned that telling stories can be a powerful way to build a community.

Currently, there are four students working on Humans of Grand Valley as photojournalists. A few times a week, we post interviews on our Facebook page. As photojournalists for Humans of Grand Valley, we walk around campus looking for people to interview. When we find someone, we introduce ourselves and ask if we can interview them for the project. After having a conversation with them about their life and their experiences, we take some photos and post our interview with them on our page.

I can be a naturally introverted person, but Humans of Grand Valley has pushed me to get out and talk to strangers. Through my conversations with humans around campus, I’ve found that strangers aren’t that scary. In fact, I’ve found that strangers can be friendly, interesting, and willing to open up about their lives. The members of the GVSU community I’ve spoken to have shared their stories, their perspectives, and the incredible things their doing in life with me simply because I was interested in asking about them.

By telling stories, Humans of Grand Valley also helps those reading the posts connect with strangers from the community. Whether the post is about loss, money struggles, family, or needing a nap, many people find themselves connecting with and relating to the stories on the page. Knowing that other people in the GVSU community are experiencing the same things as you are can help everyone feel less alone in the world.

When posts aren’t something you can relate to, the story can open your mind up to new perspectives. From starting a job, to experiencing racism, to being a nontraditional student, Humans of Grand Valley interviewees often share personal and moving stories. From speaking with so many people, I’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to be someone other than myself.

Oftentimes, while we’re walking through campus, we get wrapped up in our own lives and forget that there are other people around us. We can also forget that those people have lives, stories, and troubles of their own. Humans of Grand Valley is a great reminder for me and for those who follow the page that everyone has a story. Everyone has something going on in their lives, something I know nothing about until I ask.

Regardless of how much we might disagree with someone when it comes to politics or no matter how different their life is from ours, we’re bound to have something in common. Humans of Grand Valley has helped me find common ground with a variety of people around campus and helps build a stronger community within GVSU.

Through this experience I’ve gained empathy, met some incredible people, and grown as a journalist and as a person. Based on my experience, I would encourage you to engage someone from your community and show interest in their story. You might make a difference in their life and you might also make a difference in your own.