After years of staring out their high school windows at the traffic on Interstate 10, New Orleans high school students created a documentary about the impact that razing the once tree-lined boulevard had on their Treme neighborhood. Their three-minute film earned the students a national award this summer.
Tulane undergraduates (center) work together with FirstLine charter school students on a project incorporating storytelling, writing and reporting, and film creation and production. (Photo from Luisa Dantas)
The Tulane University students who served as mentors to the young filmmakers were winners too. Their prize: a more nuanced understanding of the unique city of New Orleans.
“They know so much more about New Orleans history and culture after experiencing life through the eyes of the high school students,” says Tulane instructor Luisa Dantas.
Tulane students in Dantas’ service-learning class, Place-Based Storytelling in New Orleans
, partnered with Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School, a FirstLine charter school, to create short films about the city.
Place-Based Storytelling is sponsored by Andrew Fredman, a 1984 Tulane graduate, and is one of several courses connecting Tulane undergraduates to local schoolchildren on projects incorporating storytelling, writing and reporting, and film creation and production.
The Chicago-based nonprofit Congress for the New Urbanism awarded the Clark Prep students first place in its Highways to Byways video contest. “Splitting the Treme”
chronicles the adverse impact of the interstate’s construction in the 1960s on the chiefly African American neighborhood. The New Orleans City Council presented the Clark Prep students with a proclamation on Aug. 8.
Tulane students advised Clark Prep students on every aspect of the documentary in the after-school digital media club, and Tulane provided the equipment, says the club’s adviser, Darcy McKinnon, executive director of the New Orleans Video Access Center.
Clark Prep students and their Tulane mentors proved a perfect match.
“You gain new perspective when you work together,” McKinnon says. “Everyone left the experience with a more robust sense of the place in which they live.”
Mary Sparacello is a writer in the Office of Development.