A Force for Change

Schweitzer Fellow and PhD candidate Melissa Crum is working with students in the South Linden area to create a neighborhood profile and documentary film.

With the help of a group of eager middle school and high school students from Linden McKinley STEM Academy, Melissa Crum is creating a neighborhood profile and documentary film about the South Linden area, just east of Ohio State.

“I want the students to dive into their project, their particular theme, and look at it from all angles,” said Crum, a PhD candidate in the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy. “The goal is to help them learn some critical thinking skills. I hope it brings awareness to young people that they have the ability to create change—even when people tell them they can’t. They are African-American kids in a low-income neighborhood, in an area that gets bad press all the time. What happens when they take the initiative to create change and find they are capable of doing just that?”

The students themselves, she adds, will drive the results of their research. “We are planning to make a documentary film about the neighborhood and some of the environmental issues it deals with, but the students also might choose to do a radio program or other individualized projects,” she said. “The demographic of the neighborhood is decidedly urban, and there are some environmental challenges because of industrialization in the area.” That includes a plastics plant, several dairy plants, a paint company, and a nearby hazardous waste dump.

Crum’s project is supported by an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, which chose her as a 2013-2014 Columbus-Athens Schweitzer Fellow. The yearlong fellowship program exists to help participants lead community-based projects that seek to transform underserved communities. Crum is collaborating on the project with Linden McKinley’s Roderick Watson, Jr., eighth-grade social studies teacher; and the Greater Linden Development Corporation.

“The students will act as ambassadors for our project, and will do research about the area, including its self-defined character and various challenges it faces, from a neighborhood perspective,” said Crum. “They will interview residents about how they view their neighborhood, work with their teachers, and interact with local officials.” “Melissa has an incredible commitment to contributing to positive change in the local Columbus community through neighborhood-based action,” said Karen Hutzel, associate professor in the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy. “Her work with the Linden neighborhood is but one example of her leadership and dedication to supporting social justice locally.”

Crum said the collaborative documentary film will likely have a screening at Ohio State and at a local venue in the South Linden area next spring. 

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2013 issue of ASCENT from the College of Arts and Sciences.

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