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Clackamas Community College instructor Sue Mach to lead two digital workshops in February and May

For Sue Mach, every story is important. That's why she agreed to lead two free workshops dedicated to stories about Willamette Falls.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - CCC English instructor Sue Mach will greet participants in the upcoming Willamette Falls Storytelling Project in the computer lab at Roger Rook Hall.The Willamette Falls Storytelling Project creates an opportunity for community members who have an attachment or connection to Willamette Falls to tell their stories, Mach said.

The first three-day workshop takes place from Feb. 23-25, and registration is open now. The second workshop is set for May 4-6; registration is not yet open for this one. Class size is limited to 15, so early registration is recommended.

The storytelling project partners include Clackamas Community College, the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Rediscover the Falls, a nonprofit dedicated to raising money to reopen the falls to the public.

"The vision for Rediscover the Falls is world-class public access to Willamette Falls through an experience that honors the site's historical and cultural significance, repairs and conserves the natural habitat and strengthens the regional economy," said Shelly Parini, executive director of the Friends of Willamette Falls Legacy Project.

'Natural fit'

Mach has been a member of the English department faculty at Clackamas Community College for 20 years, and has taught digital storytelling for the past five. Though currently on sabbatical, she wanted to be a part of the project because she thinks storytelling can be transformative.

"On a personal level, storytelling can be healing for people, and it is healing for the community to hear each other's stories," she said.

Parini worked at CCC for years and took Mach's digital storytelling class.

"She is passionate about storytelling and approached me about doing this project," Mach said.

"We are both huge fans of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and wanted to find a way to connect the college to the project in a way that was meaningful and lasting. When I became the interim executive director for Rediscover the Falls, we both agreed that a digital storytelling project seemed like a natural fit for the college and the falls," Parini said.

Willamette Falls

"The falls represent thousands of years of history. That's why we're hoping some of the Native American community will take part" in the workshops, Mach said.

Willamette Falls has defined people's lives in this area through industries like the woolen and paper mills.

"There has been so much sadness when people lost their jobs when the Blue Heron paper mill closed," Mach said.

"But out of that sadness can come the possibility of the rebirth for something else. There are people working now dedicated to the revitalization of the waterways, and the promise of that is exciting."

"CCC has been an eager partner throughout the development of the Willamette Falls Storytelling Project, but it's Sue Mach's heart and hard work that's driven the vision for the workshops," Parini said. "The project partners deeply appreciate that the workshops are free and accessible to all stories connected to the falls."

Storytelling workshops

People who sign up for the workshops will first write a 250- to 500-word narrative, then "we'll whittle that down to something we can record," Mach said. "People can bring in images that go along with the narrative or create images."

These can include objects or photos or things that participants create. They can then write a piece of music or find a copyright-free piece of music to accompany the images.

Participants use an editing program called We Video that makes it very simple to edit their stories. They put the narrative on one track and edit in the images and music.

The result is a three-to-five minute film that "has a deeper meaning, now that they have created it themselves," Mach said. "At the end, we show them to each other, and participants can choose what they want to do with the films."

She hopes some students will allow the Willamette Falls Legacy Project to archive the films on its website. Students also can show their work at a film festival in the spring at the Oregon City Public Library.

Sharing stories

People who are nervous about sharing their stories or using unfamiliar technology should not be worried, Mach said.

"You don't have to be a good writer to tell your story — just tell your truth. No one will be judging your grammar," she said.

As for technology, there will be plenty of helpers as participants begin to create their film.

Mach hopes participants will include "tribal members and generations of people who worked in the mills" and their families.

When people tell stories they have a "better understanding and connection with someone," she said.

"Storytelling creates empathy,and we need some empathy that crosses political, race, class and party lines. It's hard to hate someone when you know their story."

Telling stories

What: Clackamas Community College, Rediscover the Falls and the Willamette Falls Legacy Project invite participants to join one of two three-day digital storytelling workshops dedicated to stories about the falls.

When: Workshop 1 will take place Feb. 23, 24 and 25; Workshop 2 will take place May 4, 5 and 6. The workshops begin at 10 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. the first two days, and at 3 p.m. the last day.

Where: Roger Rook Hall, at Clackamas Community College, 19600 Molalla Ave., Oregon City

Registration: To register for Workshop 1, visit clackamas.edu/academics/skills-development-training/workshops, then click the CougarTrax link, located in step one. Click Continuing Education (green box), then click Search for Classes/Workshops. Click Submit at the bottom of the page, then look for ZHWL-100-1600, Writing & Story Development for winter term, near the bottom. Click on the box at the left, then fill in personal registration information. Fill this out and click Submit. For those unable to register via the website, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Rediscover the Falls

In 2015, the Willamette Falls Legacy Project partners created Rediscover the Falls, a 501c (3) nonprofit organization to build friends and raise funds for the Riverwalk project. Rediscover the Falls' first assignment is to help make the riverwalk vision a reality. Over the past several years, thousands of Oregonians provided input into the project's values and scope.

Together, the WFLP and RTF will ensure all Oregonians and visitors have access to a world-class experience of Willamette Falls while also enjoying the natural beauty of the Willamette River.

To learn more about Rediscover the Falls, visit friendsofwflp.org/rtf.

To learn more about the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and the storytelling project, visit willamettefallslegacy.org/willamettefallsstorytellingproject.

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