Gulfport High students document "oil spill history"

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Some students at Gulfport High are helping document the impact of the gulf oil spill. They've been collecting oral histories from South Mississippi residents affected by the disaster.

The students recorded the stories on video and put together a DVD.  They're debuting the documentary at a special release party.

The students' history project shares personal stories of people who felt the impact from the BP disaster. One focus is on seafood restaurants, like the Half Shell Oyster House.

"It was impacted because a lot of people didn't want to buy the food," said student Chantel May. "They were scared 'cause it's mainly a seafood restaurant, so a lot of people didn't want to buy the food. They were scared they were going to get sick."

Demar Hardnett enjoyed participating in the project.

"I enjoyed going out and getting everyone else's story about it and how they were impacted by it," he said.

Brandon Kirkwood interviewed the owner of the Blowfly Inn.

"He was saying how it was down almost 30 percent in sales. And how waiters and waitresses said they make very little money, so it really affected them when people didn't come in and weren't coming to eat," said Kirkwood.

The students also learned the oil spill's impact on restaurants can be a sensitive subject with some owners.

"They didn't want anything to do with me when I asked them about an interview," said T.J. Clewis. "I thought it was pretty weird that they didn't want to talk about how it affected them at all."

One segment focuses on the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

"He told us a lot about the impact on the animals and the eco-system down here on the gulf coast with the oceans and how it affected them, and I didn't really think about that before," said student Ryan Ely.

These young historians and film makers are quite proud of the final product. They say many years from now, people may look back on their work to get a different perspective on the history of the spill.

"It's really good and really exciting for me because it lets the adults know that high school kids do care about their environment," said senior Dereck Webber.

Hardy Thames is the teacher behind the project, which was supported with a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council.

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