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Leah Ann Powell, a senior financial analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Hillacy Williams, a billing coordinator at Unum, paint over blue walls at Brainerd High School Friday, June 21, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Classrooms were painted earlier in the week.

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A GoFundMe campaign has been started for the school’s remodel, being spearheaded by the Brainerd Together citizen group. Donate at gofundme.com/f/brainerd-together-remodel. To learn more about the remodel, keep up to date on the progress and get involved, visit brainerdtogether.org.

On a recent community workday at Brainerd High School, Tammy Martin paused to think about her teenage youth at the school. She fondly remembers weekdays packed with dance team practices and choir rehearsals.

Looking around the school 26 years later, she can see her younger self walking through the halls — where not much has changed.

Martin said she is disappointed in the state of the 59-year-old school. She's not alone. A group of alumni and community members turned out last week for five days of renovations to BHS.

"My heart melts," Martin said of the disrepair.

As she prepped a room for a fresh coat of paint, Martin said the renovation is more than cosmetic; it's personal to the community.

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Olivia Walter, an intake specialist at Unum, scrapes barcode stickers from pipes used to create desks in a classroom adopted by the Chattanooga Fire Department at Brainerd High School Friday, June 21, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The pipes were being used to make desks for students.

Earlier this year, organizations came together to plan to renovate the school throughout the summer. Through painting, renovating lockers and classrooms, the hope is to provide students with an up-to-date learning environment. Local businesses hopped on board, including CBL & Associates, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Regions Financial Corporation, which encouraged employees to volunteer for last week's cleanup. Some groups adopted classrooms, too.

Martin said she wishes alumni could walk through the halls — which have not once been renovated since the school's 1960 opening — because that's what sparked her desire to get involved.

"As an alum, we often come to the school to attend sporting activities, but you never see the classrooms," she said. "I didn't know how in need the school was until I saw it with my own eyes."

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Reiley Wilson, an internal auditor at Unum, helps paint the hallways at Brainerd High School Friday, June 21, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volunteers from several Chattanooga companies participated in the renovation project over the past week.

Martin comes from a family of teachers and currently teaches third grade at Barger Academy of Fine Arts. Every minute she's not in her own classroom prepping for her students, she's out at Brainerd volunteering, she said.

As a teacher, she believes there's no way BHS' staff and students could have felt comfortable in the classrooms and common spaces pre-renovation. She's found that it's important for a learning environment to feel like home to stimulate growth.

"Over the years, the morale and reputation [of Brainerd] has gone down," Martin said. "After this, it'll go up."

She moved out of East Brainerd when she got married a few years ago, but the way she sees it, by giving back to the community that was once her own, she's forging the way for the next.

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To read more about the school’s needs, remodel and swell of community support, visit timesfreepress.com.

Barbara Turner-Chappell agrees with that message. That's part of why she's planning to move from Ooltewah to the Brainerd area over the summer. One of Turner-Chappell's daughters, Madison, is excited to enter her freshman year at BHS in the fall, her mother said.

"The small things I can do today can make the biggest impact," Turner-Chappell said as she painted white primer onto faded walls of a classroom. She said she planned to spend three days volunteering last week.

Turner-Chappell lived in the area before, and one of her sons, Orlando, actually attended Brainerd as a freshman before the family moved to Ooltewah. She said service is important to her and her family, and moving back will give them a chance to benefit from the school's renovation along with more opportunities to volunteer.

"This wouldn't be a bad place if we put more into it," said Martin. "What's coming out of this school will be our society."

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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Alan Lebovitz, the executive vice president at CBL Properties, paints the wall of a classroom at Brainerd High School Tuesday, June 18, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volunteers from across the Chattanooga community worked on revamping the school for next year's students.
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