After ten productive months, we are posting our final blog entry about the Up from the UnderStory project. This university-community project brought rural youth and adults from the towns of Glencoe, Wilseyville, West Point, and Railroad Flat together with UC Davis scholars and students. Together, they created photos, maps, videos and this blog telling the story of the area’s community renewal.
As we wrap up the project, we’d like to recognize all the time and energy so many of you put in to making this project a big success!
Lets start by thanking the youth, who came together weekly to learn how to use media to document community renewal projects and share them with the community:
And kudos to the adult storytellers who shared their history, culture, and hopes with the youth media team. It is these folks’ community renewal efforts that the youth profiled in their photos and digital stories:
Thanks also to the Community & Youth Advisory Groups that help shape and guide the project:
Appreciation also to the UC Davis scholars and students who contributed to the project:
Ryan Galt, Assistant Professor: Community Development
Julie Sze, Assistant Professor: American Studies
Julie Wyman, Assistant Professor: Technocultural Studies
Michael Ziser, Assistant Professor: English
Teresa Eggers, Graduate Student: Technocultural Studies
Denise Nicole Green, Graduate Student: Textiles and Clothing
Vendana Nagaraj, Graduate Student: Anthropology
Amy Spinetta, Graduate Student: Dramatic Art
Adrian Yen, Graduate Student: Anthropology
Melissa Chordas, Graduate Student: Creative Writing
Jonathan London, Director: Center for Regional Change
jesikah maria ross, Project Director
Whitney Wilcox, Graduate Student: Community Development
Up from the UnderStory had a wide range of impacts on the variety of participants involved. Young people described the project as providing powerful learning and developmental experiences including: increased self-confidence, public speaking abilities, knowledge of their community, and pride in the role as a media maker, leadership capacities, and a sense of self as a full member of the community.
“The best part of the project was meeting everyone on the team. I wouldn’t have had the courage to walk up to Ariel and say lets be friends.” (Danielle).
Young people also commented on the community building experience of the program and the value in making new friendships with youth from other backgrounds and parts of the community. The gained relationships provided them with a sense of pride.
“A project like this gives us older folks a wonderful opportunity to interact with young people we wouldn’t otherwise know. Acting as friends and guides, we can help them see the rich resources we have in Blue Mountain and perhaps encourage them to join us in activities that improve the quality of life for all of us here” (Community member).
Community members commented on their excitement about how the project told important and sometimes forgotten stories about their community. They saw value in how the project brought together generations, presented the community to the broader county, regional, and state audiences; and the collaborative relationships that were developed with members from UC Davis.
“I just wanted to thank the students and participants in this project for bringing the community together in such an outstanding way.” (Dawn Frye)
“At first I had some trepidation about partnering with UC Davis, but I like how you’ve gotten out of the Ivory Tower and into the community. I now think differently about UC Davis” (Steve Wilensky)
Community storytellers highlighted the value of unrecognized relationships in the Blue Mountain region and with the University, and how the community was offered the opportunity to come together to celebrate itself and reveal the deep ties that existed.
“College is a scary word. But this project has really opened my mind about the possibility of going to college.” (Ariel)
Advisors appreciated the skills and capacities imparted by the youth through the project. They were excited about an increased curiosity and awareness about post-secondary education, often seen by these rural and geographically isolated youth as an insurmountable hurdle.
“People had gotten in the habit of feeling bad, because of the negative images from surrounding communities. But the videos and digital stories stirred deep feelings of respect about our community and its residents. This video can help to fight stereotypes and increase visibility within our community” (Community Advisor).
The project successfully renewed community pride through deep feelings of respect among Blue Mountain residents. The stereotypes and misperceptions by surrounding communities had left a negative mark on West Point and its three neighboring communities. The media product proved to be of enormous value in fighting these stereotypes and in increasing the community’s visibility.
“I see nine individuals that with some help created something very unique and beneficial. Where there are nine, there are at least two more behind each one of you that can do this! This project makes me proud of young people” (Community member).
“I am in awe at the job (the students) did. Most of these students are not high achievers and yet they excelled at this program” (Community Member).
“Before this project I didn’t know all these different community organizations and projects existed. Learning about them really expanded my appreciation for everyone in the community and how everyone is trying to make it a better place” (Danielle)
UC Davis faculty members felt it was a positive experience, because of the personal connections and ability of exploration in their given interest areas. Through the project they discovered mutual research interests across disciplines that may spark interdisciplinary collaborations or co-authored publications.
“ARC provided the opportunity to attempt my first foray into leading a community-mapping workshop. I see great opportunities for these types of workshops as the starting points of projects that document local circumstances, resources, and issues for the benefit of community members” (Ryan Galt).
We think Cathrine Lambie, Co-director of the Blue Mountain Coalition for Youth and Families, summed it up: “Up from the Understory was a great opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our youth and see how people are working together to improve our community. Hearing these stories can help us build momentum to keep making Blue Mountain a better place.”
Up from the UnderStory was the pilot project that launched the UC Davis initiative, The Art of Regional Change. Working with Blue Mountain residents set the bar for the continuing work we will do to create and implement meaningful and useful media arts projects that bring together scholars, students and communities to advance positive social change.
We are currently building a website that will feature the Up from the UnderStory project, including a showcse all of the community videos. Visit www.artofregionalchange.ucdavis.edu. in March ‘09 to see your community’s stories, comment on them and share the with others.
Thanks again so very much.
jesikah maria ross, Project Director
Melissa Chordas, Project AssistantRead More......