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Austin-East High School community gathers for ceremonial lighting of new messaging center

Officials said that the new electronic messaging center at Austin-East High School will act as a message board for the East Knoxville community as a whole.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Nothing is more important in a community than communication. Now, the East Knoxville community has a new way message residents.

The Austin and Austin-East Alumni Association raised money for a special improvement at the school, a new electronic sign. They raised $68,000 in total to install it, replacing the school's current sign. They also said they hope it will act as more than an average school sign.

"It's a link between the community and the school," Vivian Shipe, an AE alumni, said during the event.

They're calling it the electronic message center and revealed it during a ceremony on Aug. 7. The sign is expected to inform the East Knoxville community about upcoming events, policy changes and anything else — not just the school.

"The community needs to know that if Ms. Campbell says, 'Look, there's an agenda item on the Knox County School Board meeting coming up next week, we really need the community to be there to help us communicate some needs of Austin-East' — that kind of information can be broadcast on that electronic messaging center," said George Underwood, the president of the association.

Officials said they only needed $48,000 to build and install the sign. The extra money they raised will go into the school's budget, according to officials.

"We take students, no matter what their circumstances are, and make sure they can achieve whatever they want to achieve," Tammi Campbell, the principal of Austin-East, said in-regards to the event. 

In April, an Austin-East High School student was shot and killed by police in a bathroom. Anthony Thompson Jr.'s death sparked weeks of protest and backlash in the community, as well as calls for unity.

After Thompson Jr.'s death, nonprofit organizations and community groups were also formed to support East Knoxville. The United Way of Greater Knoxville started a fund that leaders can use to directly support East Knoxville.

"We will rise we'll continue to love each other, extend grace to one another," said Campbell. 

Protect Our People Tennessee (POP Tenn) was also started, a group of fathers and community members dedicated to protecting students and showing them they are loved.

You can watch the ceremonial reveal of the new sign here: