Bullying. Drug abuse. Gang violence. In many local schools, these are issues students face daily.
Since 2016, Chattanooga has had 120 homicides, many of them gang related. Quintasia Tate, Te'unte Rice, Malik Sawyer, Eric Fluellen, Kentrell Provens, Jaylen Hymon and Jalen Little are just a few of the local teens who have fallen victim to the city's gun violence.
Four local high school students are working to raise awareness and turn their schools into places for learning instead of fear, which they plan to do by using a mural on the Stove Works building in the Southside — if they're able to raise the money necessary to pull it off.
"When we originally came up with the idea, we thought those are the issues teens are facing the most today," said Tahlia Smith, a 16-year-old student at Central High School and manager of the project. "I personally feel like a mural was a perfect way to incorporate all of those things and turn pain and hurt into something beautiful."
And Stove Works, a former coffin factory, provided a perfect location for a memorial for local teens who have died from gun violence.
Tahlia, along with 17-year-old Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy students Kennedy Bass and Skylar Muhammad and 21-year-old Howard High grad Ricardo Nache, all previously participated in Magic Markers, a local summer job preparation program that compensates teens for their work. This past summer, participants were asked to form groups and come up with their own projects, said Frances McDonald, executive director of Mark Making, which hosts the summer work program.
Tahlia's group chose to create a mural of the biggest issues they face.
The overall cost of the mural is $13,896, which includes $5,100 to pay the teens, $2,000 for professional artists that helped with the design, $3,718 for supplies and equipment, and $978 for documentation and a launch party.
Through an ArtsBuild grant and individual donations, the group raised $6,600. To raise the remaining $7,296, they started a Go Fund Me campaign which had raised more than $3,000 as of press time.
"I think people should contribute because if you're an adult and have kids, it could have been your kids going through one of these issues," Tahlia said. "It's up to us to change the world, and it's up to us to make a difference."
To learn more or to make a donation, visit gofundme.com/f/teenmuralforchange.
Email Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.