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“The Fire Inside”: 2020-2021 Akins High School Austin Corps Project

By Jeannelle Ramirez


Students at Akins High School have produced a series of audio stories highlighting activists, artists, and community leaders in Austin, with a focus on racial justice. 


This series of audio stories has been produced through a year-long virtual collaboration between Texas Folklife’s student and community documentary training program, Stories from Deep in the Heart and Akins High School’s Austin Corps senior class lead by Social Studies Teacher Linda O’Neal. Students learned interviewing, audio storytelling, and production skills through the lens of community activism.


The five stories include interviews with Chaka Mahone of Riders Against the Storm and DAWA Fund, Capitol View Arts director Clifford Gillard, DaShawn Barr of Peace in Austin, author David Rice, and Ishia Lynette of Austin Justice Coalition. 


A listening party was held on Tuesday, May 11th at the Akins High School theater.

The project was supported by Austin Education Fund. The fund supports special projects conceptualized by AISD teachers. In a recent interview with KTBC-TV, Linda O’Neal shared the impact this project had on her students:


“This project is all about finding the people in your community, finding the stories, finding the people who are making a huge difference - and then creating a podcast about that. It’s been such an amazing experience for my students because not only are they learning about people who look like them who are making a difference at the state and local level, but they are also learning a new skill through podcasting and storytelling.”


Linda O’Neal has been teaching for 14 years. She attended the Texas Folklife Summer Institute in 2012. A previous iteration of her Austin Corps class created a series of artist-focused audio stories. After being awarded the Austin Education Fund grant in the 20-21 school year, she reached out to Texas Folklife to help students produce a series focused on community activism and racial justice in 2020. 


About Akins High School

Akins High School, located in far south Austin, is made up of six learning communities: Arts & Humanities, Business & Leadership, Green Tech, New Tech, Social Services, and T-STEM. Through this structure, students are exposed to college and career pathways while receiving individualized instruction. The Akins High School community educates every student to be self-sufficient, strengthens every student to face challenges of mind and heart, and nurtures every student to become lifelong learners in a diverse world.


The school’s namesake, Dr. W. Charles Akins, helped lead the charge for Austin schools to value diversity, set high expectations, and offer students and staff the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential.