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Austin-East graduates collaborate, feel responsible for finding solutions to protect students

The violence this year, and especially this week, has left many people in the East Knoxville community angry and overwhelmed.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — This week has brought alumni from Austin East Magnet High School together to discuss what can be done to protect students and make the school better. Using their experiences, they're eager to find solutions.

There's no doubt, these graduates are passionate about making a difference.

“What are we going to take with this tragedy and not let that young man’s blood be spilled in vain?" said graduate Sam Brown. 

The Beck Center brought together "The Men of Austin-East" to carry on the conversation. All credited the school for impacting their lives. However, the violence this year and especially this week happening inside their school has left them angry and overwhelmed.

“We’re going down the wrong road to protect our kids," said graduate Anthony Anderson. 

They talked about solutions together, searching for answers about what could be done to help the kids in school. They suggested investing in the families, prioritizing constructive activities, offering students jobs and planting seeds of hope.

“After you get their interest, you have to know a child doesn't care what you know until they know you care," said Anderson. 

Several men said the lack of resources and poverty surrounding the East Knoxville community has made it hard for kids to thrive.

“We have to focus on making sure those families have everything they need so those young people can be healthy," said Brown. 

Graduate Vivian Shipe said one tangible thing people can help with right now is an electronic message board. She said that it is one of the few schools in Knoxville located in the heart of a community, so a messaging board could help bring the community closer together.

It would replace the board in front of the school and allow important announcements to be shared, instantly communicating to the community.

Shipe said the alumni association has been working to fund it for years, but it’s needed now more than ever.

“This is another opportunity we can stand united and say we all stand with Austin-East. We are all A-E strong," said Shipe. "Everybody's asking us what can we do to help, we're getting phone calls and emails. Everybody wants to do something."

The alumni association is asking people to contact the school if they would like to donate to the electronic message board. It's expected to cost $36,000.

Credit: Vivian Shipe