Hamilton and Chattanooga County leaders welcome back-to-school teens

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Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy, Hamilton County Commissioner David Sharpe and Juvenile Court Judge Robert Philyaw were among several community leaders who lined up at the front entrance of the Brainerd Secondary School to welcome students on Wednesday morning.

“I was nervous and scared,” said Dakota Putman, a junior at Brainerd, as classmate Mariah Carter agreed. “We liked the energy, it’s different.”

Both Putnam and Carter said that with the welcome, they feel good about the school year and look forward to having a good one.

“Let’s go Brainerd, let’s go,” chanted teachers and community leaders as students got off the bus and headed for the main entrance.

After breakfast, the students gathered at the gymnasium where Executive Director Crystal Sorrells led a pep rally accompanied by Brainerd High School alumni and teachers. LaDarius Price, community outreach administrator for Cempa Community Care and one of the organizers of the welcome event, led the students in assertiveness.

“I’m a success no matter what anyone says,” Price said, having the students repeat after him.

Price told the Chattanooga Times Free Press via text message that it’s important for students to know that their community loves and supports them.

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Hamilton and Chattanooga County leaders welcome back-to-school teens

“We often deny the fact that not all kids have someone at home to nudge them and encourage them,” Price said. “On the first day of school, you have the opportunity to set the tone for the morale and general climate of the building. Students having community leaders and influencers to encourage them on the first day open the door to positivity and a state festive spirit!”

Price led several events for young people after two mass shootings in Chattanooga, such as several roundtables to open dialogue between teenagers, community leaders, teachers and their parents, as well as smoke-free Sunday events in July aimed to curb gun violence among young people. He said the least adults can do is show their support.

A May 28 downtown shooting injured six teens, and a June 5 shooting on McCallie Avenue left three dead and 14 injured.

“I’ve seen kids show up to school at Ubers because they want to be there,” Price said. “The least we can do is be there, wait for them and show them how much we love them and support their decision to be educated.”

Brainerd alumna and 1996 Olympian Venus Lacy was front and center Wednesday, offering her support and encouragement to everyone who walked through the doors of her former alma mater.

“(LaDarius) told me they had this,” Lacy told The Times Free Press. “It’s my first time, so it’s been a pleasure and an honor to come back to the school I graduated from and to be here for the students.”

Lacy, who led Brainerd High School’s basketball team to the 1983-84 championship and won a national championship at Louisiana Tech University – and was named the nation’s top female player in her senior year of college – said she wanted to be more involved. .

“I want to get more involved with the students here at Brainerd High School, it’s my stomping ground,” Lacy said. “They (teachers and coaches) gave me so much here, it helped me get to college which led to me getting a degree in sociology and a minor in English, so this is where it all began.”

Contact La Shawn Pagán at [email protected] or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

Christy J. Olson