In an emotional event Thursday afternoon, University of Tennessee students paid tribute through poetry to the life and heroic death of Knoxville teenager Zaevion Dobson.
The 15-year-old Fulton High School sophomore died in December, while shielding his friends from gunfire. Knoxville Police say the shooting was gang-related and Dobson was an innocent victim.
Dobson's 12-year-old cousin Jajuan Latham died earlier this month in another case of gang violence.
Professor Marilyn Kallet was moved to tears and to action when she learned of Zaevion Dobson's death.
"I took it to the class and said, 'Well, how would you feel about writing some poems of condolence to the mother?' And they were like, 'Yeah, let's do it!'" Kallet recalled.
She and the 12 students of her undergraduate advanced poetry class have spent the past several months working on a collection of poems for Zaevion's mother, Zenobia Dobson.
Mrs. Dobson attended the reading Thursday afternoon and heard heartfelt poem after heartfelt poem, written by people who had never met her son.
"It just tells me that he was a brave young man and he impacted others and his legacy will live on," she said.
The class sent her the collection of poems last week, for her to read in private.
"It's a gift from God and I'm very appreciative," she said.
Clinton Ricks - a junior English major focusing on creative writing - lost his own brother to gun violence when he was 12.
"That's why when I wrote my poem and I said my poem, I kept it short and direct-to-the-point," Ricks said, "because I know that nothing anyone said to my mom could help her, you know, get over the loss of her son, her creation, a piece of her being."
"I just hope that the healing doesn't stop here with the poetry...This is someone's life that was lost and this is his mother who is effected," Ricks said. "These words are the beginning of something that we can help build upon."