Most Student Venture participants at Howard School of Academics and Technology didn’t have power in their own homes, but the group didn’t want to miss the opportunity to help others.
So as their teacher sent text messages, calling for their help, the students showed up.
“I understand that the city couldn’t get to everybody fast enough,” said 19-year-old Nigel Ward. “With our help, people can get help faster.”
The soon-to-be high school graduate is among about 10 members of Student Venture — an outreach ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ — who have cut down a half-dozen road-blocking trees in South Chattanooga since tornadoes hit the city on April 27.
And the students are accepting requests to chop more.
“We’re teaching them to want to be leaders and represent Christ in a tangible way,” said Aubrey Fritz, who teaches Student Venture at Howard.
The group has chopped trees in Alton Park, East Lake and St. Elmo. Fritz said he started organizing the students after seeing the devastation from the storm in Alton Park.
“A lot of people can’t afford [tree removal services], but here we are with these young bodies,” said Fritz. “I text them and say, ‘We’ve got work to do.’ They show up and expect nothing in return except a meal from me.”
The Rev. Lurone “Coach” Jennings, executive director of the Bethlehem Center, a nonprofit community center in Alton Park, called the Student Venture group an answer to prayer when they came to move a tree that fell from the Bethlehem Center property across Alton Park Boulevard, blocking traffic.
Jennings said he didn’t know how he was going to have the tree removed. Then came Fritz and his students.
“I was in a meeting and they just showed up, right Johnny on the spot, like guardian angels,” said Jennings.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...