When UTC students return to Dalewood Middle School in Brainerd this week, they will bring with them ideas and enthusiasm generated for the school in part by the community. But they will still need community support to turn that into something the school can use.
"We could definitely use money, materials and volunteers to help make these concepts come to life," said Leslie Jensen-Inman, who is overseeing the project. "CreateAthon onCampus has been a life-changing experience for most of us who have been involved. It has been so wonderful to witness the growth of the students and the coming together of our community."
About 40 professionals in various fields and placements joined Jensen-Inman's Professional Practices of Graphic Design class last week for a 24-hour "CreateAthon" to brainstorm ideas and develop a plan to upgrade the school.
"Twenty-four hours might seem like a long time when you're not sleeping, but it's really a short time to produce a lot of work," the young UTC professor of art, design and technology said. "It actually takes a whole community to make positive, significant change. We're really excited to be able to present these concepts and then work with Dalewood's principal and school to implement them."
The collaboration also involves CreateHere and the Urban League of Chattanooga.
The team focused on four areas: documenting the process and the community support it generates, transforming the entryway into a place of school pride and achievement, renovating the art shop and gallery into a usable and inviting place for creativity, and making the time-consuming and color-coded student-level tracking system easier for colorblind principal Rodney Johnson.
"I work with a lot of creative professionals ... but not even that prepared me for the past 24 hours," said marketing consultant Kent Callison. "Every one of these students is prepared for the job force."
It is hoped that the project and community attention will inspire Dalewood students to in turn ready themselves for the work force by going to college.
"We wanted to show that not only we as UTC and CreateAthon care, but the Chattanooga community as a whole cares as well," said Dawn Pfeiffer. "They're there to support [Dalewood]; they believe in you, just like we do. That's very true, otherwise 1,000 people in the city of Chattanooga wouldn't have checked up on you."
Pfeiffer was part of the documentary team. According to her, the project was the most talked about topic on Twitter during the 24-hour creative period. Related YouTube videos and ongoing blogs received large numbers of hits as well, she said.
"This is a big deal for our school," said Dalewood art teacher Michel Belknap. "We are honored and excited. We feel like being part of the community in this way, being given this chance to shine is just the biggest honor."
The overall project is part of a larger movement by the same name that uses community, grassroots efforts as an approach to significant change.