Student Documentary on Lowell to Premiere in the Fall
The first rule of Community Social Psychology is to research a problem or subject before making recommendations for change. For several UMass Lowell graduate students, that has meant really getting to know the different neighborhoods of Lowell over the last six months.
"I think I know more about Lowell now than I do about my own hometown,” says Maria McDuffie, who moved from North Carolina to attend the Community Social Psychology graduate program at UMass Lowell.
The students have been learning about the seven neighborhoods of Lowell — the Acre, Back Central, Belvidere, Centralville, Pawtucketville, Downtown and the Highlands — as part of their group project for the class Advanced Community Dynamics taught by Prof. Bill Berkowitz. Their aim is to increase cohesiveness among the neighborhoods and make a documentary film expressing what each has to offer.
To become more familiar with their subject and learn the differences and similarities between Lowell's neighborhoods, the students filmed video of almost 90 percent of the city. That footage will soon be edited together with resident interviews the students conducted at Lowell Telecommunication Corp.
The students worked with neighborhood leaders to build momentum for the project, bringing the organizers together in a rare all-neighborhoods meeting.
“Even if nothing comes of the film, the neighborhood leaders said it was worth our effort to get them together and talking,” says student Vanessa Kahrman of the meeting.
Documentary to Premiere in Fall
After several interview sessions, the students have gathered enough footage to begin editing soon, but would still like to include more residents in their film.
“Ideally, we’ll feature people from all neighborhoods, ethnicities and community groups to get an idea of what’s going on in all of Lowell,” says Danielle Marie Carkin.
Carkin, Kahrman and McDuffie, along with classmates Dan Bach and Jonathan Bulger, plan to premiere the as-yet-untitled documentary in the fall.
During the taped interviews, residents were asked questions about their neighborhood, their thoughts on other areas of the city and their likes and dislikes of their local areas. The students were surprised by how many respondents struggled to name something they'd change about their neighborhood.
“The only concern that came up often was about parking and traffic, but those are issues that happen in any city,” says Kahrman.
The students were also surprised by how many interviewees said they don't often venture outside of their neighborhoods into the other areas of Lowell. Students hope to change that through more collaborative events and partnerships to make the neighborhoods more accessible to all city residents.
Overall, the prevailing feeling expressed by most residents was a distinct sense of pride in their neighborhood, which the students say they don't often see in other cities, including their own hometowns.
“A lot of people really like where they live and have pride in their neighborhood,” says Kahrman. “There’s a reason they live in their part of Lowell.”