Submit Your Unsung Heroes Projects to the Milken Center

Unsung Heroes Projects: 10 Steps

The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes has a 10-step process for submitting and building story-telling hero projects in any genre, including audio, film, video, art, etc.:

All Unsung Heroes projects evolve differently—that’s what makes the discovery process so exciting. The steps below are just a starting point and open to interpretation. Allow your own project to unfold as it does and give yourself the freedom to create. Go ahead and make it your own!


  • 1. Assemble Your Storytellers

    Decide whether you want to work alone or with a group. Some questions you may want to consider include:

    • What role do I usually play in a group?
    • What types of people like to work with me?
    • What types of people do I like to work with (and why)?
    • What traits do I want to avoid when picking my partner(s).

  • 2. Define Your Unsung Hero

    Start by discussing what it means to be an Unsung Hero. Define key characteristics of Unsung Heroes, such as courage, compassion, perseverance, conviction and selflessness. Define “unsung”: people who do extraordinary things for others without ever seeking credit for it. Question: why are these individuals not in our history books?

    To identify an Unsung Hero, start by narrowing down an area of interest. Topic ideas are everywhere! Think about a time in history or individuals or events that interest you. Start a list. Read books, newspapers and websites. Add to your list. Talk with relatives, neighbors or people you know who have lived through a significant time in history and add more ideas. Great topics can often be found in your local community. Keep thinking, reading and talking to people until you have many ideas from which to draw.

    Now go back through your list and circle ideas that connect with an Unsung Hero you want to explore with your students. Focus on a manageable subject, and look for a specific topic. The topic should interest your student(s) and allow for research through primary and secondary resources.


  • 3. Select Your Project Outcome

    Unsung Heroes projects can take the following modes. Decide which will be the most compelling way to communicate your Unsung Hero’s story and the most engaging for your students.

    Project modes include:


  • 4. Collect Background Information
    • Look for primary records
    • Start a filing system
    • Keep records of your research

  • 5. Brainstorm Your Thesis

    Based on your initial research, brainstorm a thesis that connects the impact of your Unsung Hero to a theme or message. Be willing to change your thesis as you discover more information on your Unsung Hero.


  • 6. Outline Your Project

    Using your background information and thesis, begin outlining your project. Analyze the data you have gathered so far and decide what you still need.

    • For a performance, outline your script.
    • For a documentary, storyboard your shot sequences.
    • For an exhibit, sketch out a visual representation.
    • For a website, outline the pages and design.

  • 7. Discover Your Unsung Hero (Research)

    Research can be one of the most exiting parts of the discovery process as it brings you and your students closer and closer to your Hero, piece by piece. There are two types of resources used in research: primary sources and secondary sources.

    A primary source is a document, speech or other forms of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time period that you are studying. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event. Examples include:

    • Creative Works (art, drama, films, music, novels, poetry)
    • Original Documents (autobiographies, diaries, emails, interviews, letters, meeting minutes, newspapers, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches)
    • Relics or Artifacts (buildings, clothing, furniture, jewelry, pottery)

    Secondary sources provide interpretation and analysis of primary sources. Secondary sources are one step removed from the original event. Examples include:

    • Current Sources (textbooks, oral history interviews, magazine or newspaper articles, political commentary, literary criticism, poems, novels, short stories)
    • Replicas of Relics or Artifacts (buildings, clothing, furniture, jewelry, pottery)

    Secondary sources lead to primary sources. Make a list of libraries and institutions that might help in your research and plan a visit. Make a list of individuals you want to speak with and contact them for interviews. Keep digging deeper and talking with as many people as possible.

    As you research, make sure to keep an updated bibliography with all of your sources.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: An Unsung Hero project developed for the Discovery Award, or in conjunction with the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes, must be the students’ original work and correctly credit the sources used for project development. The materials used for project development include, but are not limited to: articles, books, government documents, documentaries, film footage, interviews, letters, photographs, radio broadcasts, etc.

    • Documentary: Sources must be properly cited in the credits at the end of the film and in the annotated bibliography.
    • Performance and Exhibit: Sources must be properly cited in the annotated bibliography.
    • Website: Sources must be properly cited in the annotated bibliography with a link to the bibliography on the website.

  • 8. Create

    Once your research is complete, put the information into action to create a compelling project that communicates the story of your Unsung Hero. Include your entire class in the process, even in a marginal manner, as well as parents. Meet with students on a regular basis.


  • 9. Share Your Story

    If you have produced a play, do a performance in your community. If you have filmed a documentary, hold a screening at your school and find ways to share the video online. Be creative—these are just a couple of the many ways that you can share your Unsung Hero’s story with others. By sharing, you become an integral part of the positive change your Unsung Hero helped create, and you can inspire people to also take actions that improve the lives of others.


  • 10. Measure Your Impact

For information about the Milken Center for Unsung Heroes organization, see Unsung Heroes in the Hero Organizations section.

Check out other powerful hero resources at TheHeroPlace, including Hero Tools (such as StoryCraft Hero-Story Writing Software) and Hero Wisdom (such as that of script-writing coach Skip Press). Also, search or submit to other hero databases (such as hero-film/video databases) in the Your Heroes section of TheHeroPlace.

Help us maintain, improve, and expand this and other posts in TheHeroPlace.  Contact us today to add to our unique resource for “All Things Hero!”

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