Five years had passed since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, but a group of students from universities across the nation had only four weeks to document the remnants of the devastation and rebuilding efforts in the city.
Adrienne C. Collatos ’10 and Candice R. Porter ’13 were part of a team of eight students commissioned by Students of the World, a non-profit organization that annually selects university-level students to create multimedia projects highlighting global issues and the work undertaken to address them.
This year’s team produced a multimedia project that focused on the collaboration between two areas in New Orleans—the Lower Ninth Ward and the Broadmoor neighborhoods—with organizations created to aid the rebuilding of those neighborhoods.
Though they had corresponded via e-mail in the spring, the students had not met each other until late May. After three days of pre-production in Austin, Texas, the team began their four weeks of work in New Orleans.
Armed with notepads, cameras, and tripods in the middle of the redeveloping city, the students had a weighty task on their hands. Collatos, the producer of the project, said she realized that the team’s work required true immersion in the culture and community of New Orleans.
“The biggest challenge was developing trust with the people you’re interviewing,” said Andrew M. Eisbrouch, a student at the University of Michigan who served as the media coordinator for the team.
Many outsiders had already strolled through the city, capitalizing on its hardships—every now and then, the team would see tour buses cruise through, Eisbrouch said. To gain the residents’ trust, the students spent the first week meeting people without cameras.
“You don’t want to injure them again,” said Porter, the journalist of the team, adding that she wanted to create a story that was “true and sincere.”
“You don’t want to portray them in a wrong way and tell the story wrong,” Porter added.
Through face-to-face interactions with city residents, who sometimes even invited the team into their homes, the students said they found a community driven by hope and in the midst of great change.
“Just being there with the joy and optimism that’s there—you don’t see it in other places,” Porter said. “You walk down the sidewalk and say hello to the neighbors. I’m from New York, and you don’t see that, so I miss that inclusiveness.”
The students plan to hold screenings of their film and photo shows to increase support for Students of the World on campus.
—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at email@example.com.