Who Brings Christmas in September?

Written by Virginia Campbell

Santa Steve Woodward arrives on UT-Chattanooga’s campus. (Photo by Kalie Shaw)

Near the end of an 80 degree day, Santa Steve Woodward cheers down Oak Street by Lockmiller Apartments on UTC campus in his old-timey Santa suit: a red robe, lined with brown fur, down to the ankles of his black boots, complete with a matching Santa hat and a dainty pair of spectacles. Having listened to Christmas music during his drive to campus, he’s already radiating the warm spirit of Christmas and asking students walking down the street whether they’ve been good this year.

Continue reading “Who Brings Christmas in September?”

Wheeled Women

Written by Nessa Parrish

Baylee Rauberts and Meredith Fullbright discuss skating and what it takes to get started. Video by Nessa Parrish.

The sounds of chirping birds and skateboard wheels meeting concrete blend together in a symphony adored by millions of people across the globe, including Meredith Fullbright, a student-teacher that has just recently started her journey with the sport, and Baylee Rauberts, a Chattanooga longboarder, with two years of riding under her belt.

Continue reading “Wheeled Women”

Draining Discs at The Sinks

Written by Ben Greenwell

The wooden sign at The Sinks. Photo by Ben Greenwell.

You may be surprised to know, but there’s nothing quite like sinking a hard rubber frisbee into a chained basket in the woods. Just don’t get upset if you lose your disc in a sinkhole. Disc Golf is one of the fastest growing sports, and the number of courses around Chattanooga make it extremely accessible for beginners and players returning to the game.

Continue reading “Draining Discs at The Sinks”

Bring Back What The Kids Love

Written by Collin Cantrell

The Rivermont Baseball field banner. Photo by Collin Cantrell.

Sports have been and always will be a huge part of children’s lives. Over one year ago, COVID-19 took sports away from children in a way we never thought was possible. Evan Hughes, President of the Rivermont Youth Athletic Association, took action to ensure that children were able to safely live out their love for sports, despite the pandemic. 

Continue reading “Bring Back What The Kids Love”

Homebound Hobbies

Written by Madelyn Hill

Anna Miller plays a favorite song. Photo by Madelyn Hill.

Ever since the emergence of COVID-19, times have been hectic for nearly everyone, pushing many people to get creative and find a way to spend their time. Anna Miller and Jerrod Niles discuss their quarantine hobbies and give an inside scoop on how these activities have helped them build their new normal. 

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Record Breaking Year

Written by Chandler Elkins

A look into Yellow Racket Records, a local safe haven for those that have a passion for vinyl. Video by Jerrod Niles and Chandler Elkins.

Many small businesses have either had to close down or make significant changes in order to survive because of the pandemic. Surprisingly, this coincides with the recent influx of vinyl sales in both local shops and larger distributors such as Urban Outfitters. Chattanooga hosts a couple eclectic record stores that have both vintage collectibles and “new” music that has been formatted into vinyl. Recent albums becoming mass-produced has acted as a vehicle of normalcy given that the high demand for vinyl kept those making them employed while 18 million Americans lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

Yellow Racket Records is a local gem that provides its patrons with a unique experience that is bound to keep them coming back. With their student discounts on Wednesdays, the ‘Salvation Station’ that features records at widely reduced prices, and an in-house tattoo shop, nearly everyone is bound to find something that catches their eye, or even their ears.

Meet The Storyteller

Chandler Elkins is a senior Communications major writing for Rising Rock at UTC. She aspires to integrate the knowledge she has acquired minoring in Women and Gender Studies into the writing she does for media. Chandler strives to use her ability to engage with large groups of people as a way to create a space for stories that deserve to be told. She is passionate about repurposing used clothing and furniture, and enjoys cuisine, travel, and live music.

COVID Through The Looking Glass

Written by Amanda Brooks

Ana Leonard poses in front of her “Looking Glass” exhibit. Photo by Amanda Brooks

Ana Leonard, small in stature with a shaved head, is a student, artist, and documentary photographer. Creating art centered around togetherness and gathering became difficult among a pandemic causing division and loneliness. Leonard began to experience this difficulty when it came time for her Senior Thesis Exhibition at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

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Slow Drawl Studios

Written by Meagan Alford

Laura Johnson sits outside with her pets. Photo by Meagan Alford.

Laura Johnson answered the door with her goldendoodle, Willow, resting on her hip. She invited me into her home in historic St. Elmo, and took me into her studio. Each wall was filled with plans, pots waiting to be fired, and finished creations of her own design. 

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The History Inside The Chattanooga National Cemetery

Written by Jerrod Niles

Spring wind rustles through freshly bloomed leaves and carries the aroma of fresh cut grass. The silence is like that of no other. Being surrounded by those who gave the ultimate sacrifice can be more than humbling.

The Chattanooga National Cemetery is located in the heart of Chattanooga Tennessee. Founded in 1863 by General George Thomas for the union men he had lost in his campaign, it still stands today pristine and closely watched over. 

A look into the Chattanooga National Cemetery with Jim Ogden. Video by Jerrod Niles
Continue reading “The History Inside The Chattanooga National Cemetery”

The Triple Victory of the 6888th

Written by Kalie Shaw

A look into the fascinating history of the 6888th. Video by Kalie Shaw

To find the 6th Cavalry Museum in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, it’s best to make use of a GPS. The museum is tucked away from the main road, sitting inside a plain-looking building on the edge of Chickamauga Battlefield and — as the diorama inside will tell you — directly across from a repurposed officer’s house. The most distinct thing about this building is the large sign on the front displaying the name of the museum. 

Continue reading “The Triple Victory of the 6888th”

Birdwatching in Chattanooga

Written by Elise Steele

Members of the Chattanooga Ornithological Society pause along a trail to spot a bird in the distance. Photo by Elise Steele

A small cluster of binoculars and pointed fingers aim excitedly toward a skyline of trees on the Reflection Riding nature walk as members of Chattanooga’s Ornithological Society search for a cawing American Crow.

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Legacy of Grief

Written by Mark Drinkard

Video by Mark Drinkard

Boxes of medical equipment fill Mandy McAllister’s small, quaintly decorated home in Brainerd. There was no preparation for her mother’s diagnosis of metastatic cancer or for her eventual stay in hospice care. 

As the machines, slings, and medicine become more necessary the answers become all the more grim. Ushering a loved one through their final days is a task no one is truly ready for, but through family and communication, the McAllister’s stayed together.

“In a matter of two or three days, she went from being pretty healthy—going to garden club, going to church, hanging out with family—to having conversations about going into hospice care,” says Mandy McAllister.

McAllister, an administrative specialist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was the primary caretaker for her mother, Susan Reggin, while in hospice care. She was flooded with guilt, grief, and unfamiliar medical responsibilities all at the same time, so she greatly appreciated the support and validation of her family.

Her son, Jacob Paige, speaks on the family’s close connection that only grew stronger through these hardships. 

“We communicated as frequently and as in-depth as normal,” says Jacob. “Knowing that it doesn’t matter what’s going to happen, and it doesn’t matter if the cancer is going to get better or worse, we’re still the same people. If she’s got eight months to live or two weeks to live, we are still on the same level all the way through, and that just creates a smooth transition.”

Mandy McAllister listens to the audio story about her mother and reflects on the wonderful times they shared. Photo by Mark Drinkard.

Although death is never an easy confrontation, the McAllisters have felt eternally grateful for their limited, but cherished time with Susan. Mandy’s mother and family were forced to face mortality in a slowed and intimate state.

“This could be the last time I really hug her. Is this going to be the last time she remembers who we are? Is this the last birthday? Is this the last ‘X’—whatever it is,” Mandy said. 

Susan Reggin served as a clergywoman for over 30 years. Her philosopher’s brain and her dedication to others was passed down to her family. 

“I adored my mom, so everything about me that’s good, I would attribute to my mom,”  says Mandy, “I think she gave me tools and a model for how to work with other people. We all carry her around in our hearts.”

Mandy reminisced on those quiet moments, sitting at her mother’s bedside reading old poems and laughing through fading memories. 

She smiled thinking about her niece and mother playing with stuffed animals, forgetting about the future. It’s those moments that stay with family till the end. It’s the seconds of quiet, vital peace in the midst of the storm, that they look back on and wish to relive.

Mark Drinkard and Mandy McAllister discuss her mother’s life and final months in hospice care.

Meet The Storyteller

Mark Drinkard has 3 years of experience in student media. From those experiences, he has gained skills as a videographer and video editor. He has used his knowledge of creative tools such as Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, and Audition to make and produce videos and audio projects. He is also adept in his knowledge of lighting, audio recording, and audio editing. Mark Drinkard currently lives in Chattanooga TN as he attends college. Photography is a passion of his and the rural landscapes offer a great backdrop to find and make photos. His goal is to provide a voice to everyone and use his skills to tell the stories of the voiceless. For questions, collaboration or to hire Mark Drinakard, contact him at markdrinkard2@gmail or (865)407-3317

One Year of COVID-19

The class of 2020 sit on Chamberlain field for their socially distanced graduation. Photo by Billy Weeks

Campus is beginning to look the way it did before COVID-19 pushed students, faculty, and staff to return home and begin learning and teaching classes online. The students of Rising Rock Media were tasked with a project for UTC’s Student Government Association: A Year of COVID-19. The class was split into three groups and covered the past, the future, and a general overview of life in the pandemic. Our hope is that this series helps our friends, classmates, and teachers to feel stronger about the challenges that we overcame together, and provide a light into an unknown, but brighter future.

Sustainable Fashion: Flip It & Reverse It

Story by Stephanie Swart

Written by Elise Steele

Video by Stephanie Swart

Aisy Nix, sophomore at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, operates a personal business, reworking thrifted and vintage clothes. Nix creates colorfully patched, embroidered, and acid-washed masterpieces out of the “tired” clothing someone else decided to ditch. 

Aisy Nix browses the clothing racks at America’s Thrift in Chattanooga, TN. Nix, a sophomore at UTC, buys second-hand clothing for her small business, A.Z. Thrift, in an effort to combat fast fashion through creating unique pieces out of pre-owned clothing. Photo by Stephanie Swart

Her mission is to offer a sustainable clothing option for people in her community.

“Fast fashion [in larger clothing corporations], utilizes child labor without taking into consideration the environmental impacts,” says Nix.

Nix started selling acid-wash reworks in the summer of 2019. Thanks to self-taught sewing lessons, her success and creative progress has grown significantly since. 

Throughout her business and creative endeavors, Nix has learned, “the more chances you take, the more likely there’s going to be a positive outcome.”

Check out Nix’s work and business profile on Instagram, @a.z.thrift.

A Rising Rock Production

Stephanie Swart

Stephanie Swart is a Senior Innovations in Honors student pursuing a BFA degree in Photography & Media Art, with a double minor in Art History and Communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is the Photo Editor for UTC’s newspaper, University Echo, and the Managing Editor of UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. Swart is a storyteller and truth seeker, and she plans to continue these pursuits beyond her time at college.

More Than Grades, A Student Teacher’s Relationship With Her Students

Story by Meagan Alford

Kalani Cannon’s refrigerator at her home is adorned in several drawings, doodles, and notes from her students at Soddy Daisy middle school. It’s called “Miss Kalani’s Fridge of Fame.” One amongst several students whose artwork is on display drew a rainbow with them and Miss Kalani standing underneath. To its left is a mermaid with blue hair, little hands that have been made into a camel and a dinosaur, and a note that reads, “Miss Kalani is fun, kind, helpful, cool, sweet, loving, outgoing, weird, funny, crazy, awesome, amazing, and kid-friendly.” 

Kalani Cannon shares details about maintaining the balance between being a college student and a student teacher. Video by Nessa Parrish.

Cannon is twenty-one years old. She’s an artist, sitting in front of a colorful backdrop that she created herself in her basement. She’s a skateboarder, kicking her Vans back and forth underneath her seat. And now, she is in the second phase of her residency as a full-time student teacher for sixth-grade science at Soddy Daisy middle school.

Continue reading “More Than Grades, A Student Teacher’s Relationship With Her Students”

Area 61: Hosting Local Art, Exclusively

Written by Ben Greenwell

Keeli Crewe, director of Chattanooga’s art gallery, Area 61, discusses how her business has helped keep downtown locally oriented. Her gallery helps give local artists a platform to share their work. With the recent lack of foot traffic and increase in rent prices, Crewe discusses how Area 61 continues to fight for local culture.

As soon as you set foot through the door, one’s senses are tested with a wild, colorful array of paintings and sculptures. After a few seconds, the soft jazz starts to reach your ears and by this time, Keeli Crewe, gallery director at Area 61 is probably excitedly showing you her new favorite piece.

Continue reading “Area 61: Hosting Local Art, Exclusively”

Rock The House Without Rolling Your Safety

Written by Elise Steele

At first glance, Stratton Tingle may look more like a band member than an Executive Director, with his waist-length dreadlocks and black-denim jackets, but that’s exactly the type of creative personality SoundCorps needs.

Continue reading “Rock The House Without Rolling Your Safety”

Brian’s Buzz-worthy Bees

Written by Meagan Alford

Story by Jenna Yates

Multi-media produced, shot, and voiced by Jenna Yates

Jenna Yates brings a heart-warming story of a man who is working to help hives of bees along in their journey, to help them thrive and give them a home. His name is Brian Workman, and he says that bees are very important. He says, “one of every three bites you take is made possible by the bees,” as they pollinate 80% of the world’s crops and plants. Workman prides his work in being a helping hand to these bees to do what they were put on earth to do, which is to protect the hive, feed the hive, and make honey for the hive. He sees them through times when food is scarce, and gives them medicine when they need it. One summer, Workman took care of 30 hives that have roughly 50-60,000 bees per hive. As numbers decrease through the fall and winter, he patiently and steadfastly sees them through next spring, while the bees slowly triple their numbers in size. He says, “If we did not have them, life would be completely different as we see it today.” 

Produced by Rising Rock Media

Ordinary Heroes of Chattanooga

Written by Meagan Alford

Video by Nessa Parrish and Dewayne Bingham

We are Rising Rock Media, a dedicated and curious team of multi media content creators, journalists, audio engineers, and photographers. We have found that when we listen and look towards our community, that there is a seemingly never ending spring of stories, unique experiences, and important people who call Chattanooga home. We have collected and compiled a series of stories throughout the semester that remind us that we need one another. To learn from one another, to feel seen and represented by one another. Heroes. Those that we look to in times of grief and uncertainty to laugh with, be inspired and supported by. The year is coming to a close, and the devastation that 2020 has held causes us to peer inward, and pour outward toward our community — towards artists, dancers, local business owners, and creators of the like. One thing is for certain — people are fascinating, and these stories, we hope, will fascinate you too. Please enjoy these stories as we explore the heroes of our beautiful home, Chattanooga. 

Click the story buttons in the next section of this page to learn about the hometown heroes that you may not know about.

Continue reading “Ordinary Heroes of Chattanooga”

The Voices of Chattanooga

Written by Haili Jackson

WUTC’s Scenic Roots has recently collaborated with Rising Rock Media to create Rising Rock Radio. Rising Rock Media, a UTC course taught by Billy Weeks, unites students with a variety of creative talents under one goal – storytelling. The radio show will  include stories from Rising Rock’s ‘Art as Protest’ and ‘Ordinary Heroes’ segments with features from Photojournalism students. We invite you to share local stories that UTC students have produced, directed, and edited. 

As Ray Bassett, editorial director and host of Scenic Roots, states “They know how to tell stories. Stories with heart; stories about life here in Chattanooga and stories off the beaten path,” he said. “These are examples of storytelling of this generation, by this generation but not only for this generation but for everybody.”

With the help of Scenic Roots, Rising Rock Radio is eager to share stories that are not only waiting to be told, but stories that need to be told.

Rising Rock will share their audio stories of documenting Chattanooga starting December 3, 2020 and running through January 2021.

Tune into Scenic Roots on WUTC 88.1 FM on Thursdays from 3-4pm and again at 8pm.

Gain access to these stories here: https://www.wutc.org/post/rising-rock-showcase-scenic-roots

Music as Protest in Chattanooga

Written by Thea Marshall

(Video By Nessa Parrish)

You’re walking through the streets of downtown Chattanooga, mask on, sweat dripping down your head from the summer’s intense humidity. You have passion in your heart and a sign in your hands, fighting for something much larger than yourself. You are protesting.

Cameron "C-Grimey" Williams smiles after speaking out on police brutality and systemic racism at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Friday, July 26, 2020. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams smiles after speaking out on police brutality and systemic racism at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Friday, July 26, 2020. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)

Local rapper Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams uses his music as another way to protest. His songs Live Together and Glimmer of Hope play at protests around Chattanooga. Williams started making music about 15 years ago and specializes in writing his own lyrics. His inspiration comes from his own life experiences as well as experiences from people in the community, current events and most importantly, real life situations. Grimey says music is an easier way to convey a message rather than speaking on it. 

Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams enters the Hamilton County Courts Building to be tried for charges related to peaceful protests in Chattanooga, including disorderly conduct, blocking a highway, reckless burning, inciting to riot, and others. Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)

C-Grimey speaks about what it will take for the community to influence change once these messages have been heard. “It’s going to take the community educating themselves on how they have power in this wonderful democracy.”

As far as what is next for C-Grimey, he released a Chattanooga Ted Talk on November 8th where he discusses racism in America before COVID. He also discusses how the movement has come together in Chattanooga. Grimey is working on an album as well. 

Now put your headphones in or turn your radio up to max volume. You are protesting.

An interview between Ben Ducklo and Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams. (Audio by Ben Ducklo)

Thrifting Mom

Liz Holliday, owner of the Thrifting Mom poses with packages she is going to send out to customers. (Photo By Kelly Kindle)

Liz Holliday, the owner of “Thrifting Mom”, is not a mother, but she will wear and sell your mother’s clothes. “It’s your mom’s clothes. I sell clothes that your mom probably used to wear,” says Liz. Liz has had a passion for thrifting ever since high school and since then has developed her passion into a business. “ I ship nationwide, and most of my customers are regulars who always come back”, Liz says. Liz’s account has a current following of 1,542 and her items are sold within minutes of being posted. The process of making posts for her thrifty finds is simple; having her models rep her latest finds stand in front of a linen bed sheet hung by two paperclips.  Liz gathers clothes from local thrift shops as well as from shops all over that are not the average Goodwill.

Thrifting Mom’s Instagram account. (Photo By Kelly Kindle)

“Thrifting is important to me because it helps reuse and recycles clothes that will more than likely just end up in landfills and ultimately damage the environment”, says Liz.  When individuals thrift, it helps boycott against supporting fast fashion.  “Fast fashion is brands such as Forever 21 and H&M, that overproduce really cheap clothing by means of cheap labor,” explains Liz. Many fast fashion brands have factories in foreign countries that do not pay their workers adequately, make them work in unsafe conditions, and place their waste in landfills.  “ I like to wear clothes that I thrift, because it’s sustainable fashion”, says Liz, “clothes that were made in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s were just made differently than the clothes that are made today. I like the durability of the clothes I go for and the stories that are behind those individual pieces.” Liz helps raise awareness of fast fashion through her posts on her Instagram “@Thriftingmom”. Liz has an end goal of having an official online store. “ I didn’t think that this would continue for this long, but I definitely want this passion of mine to continue with me through the next chapters of my life”, says Liz. 

You can see her latest posts and thrifts you can buy on Instagram “@Thiftingmom”

Meet the Storyteller

McKenzie Carver

McKenzie Carver is a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and pursuing a degree in Communication and Spanish. McKenzie is passionate about traveling and the people she meets along her travels. For inquiries or more information, contact her at dxy429@mocs.utc.edu.

Generational Curses

Brittney Pickett feeds her daughter, Brooklyn, and prepares her for daycare. (Photo By Lorenzo Pickett)

A mouthful of a pancake drenched in sweet maple rests on Brooklyn’s palate as her mother, Brittany Pickett, adjusts her earrings and prepares her for daycare. Brittany is a single African American mother, who has risen to the challenge of raising her child alone, due to the incarceration of her baby’s father, Shaun Theus. Shaun has been incarcerated for almost three years, which means that Brooklyn has suffered the damage of single parenthood for the majority of her life. Shaun was incarcerated after being convicted of drug charges, although there were no drugs found on him at the time of his arrest.

The mass imprisonment of Black males has been a proven statistic for decades. According to the “Sentencing Project,” Black males account for 38% of the imprisoned population, but only 12.7% of the United States population. The mass, and often unjust, imprisonment of Black fathers contributes to generational curses, where children are raised in these single parent households from one generation to the next.

Without the presence of a father figure, these African American children are brought up not knowing how to be a parent of their own one day or accept genuine love from a stable male figure. This has impacted Brittany and Brooklyn, as well as many other Black mothers and children in their community. Brittany stated, “Out of ten of my friends, seven of their babies’ fathers are imprisoned. Some of these arrests were justified, but others of them were victims of targeting and were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Brooklyn Pickett poses for a portrait . (Photo By Lorenzo Pickett)

A challenge that Brittany faces is that Brooklyn does not genuinely know her father and may later struggle with growing in a relationship with him. Brittany explained that the lack of a father in these children’s lives causes detrimental effects, unless there are others who actively intervene and aid in the growth of these children—such as Brittany’s father.

Brittany rejoices in the fact that Brooklyn has been shown the love of a male figure in her life by her grandfather, Larry Pickett. It is individuals like Larry that help shape the futures and minds of children raised by a single parent, but without positive figures like him, these curses are much more likely to pass from generation to generation.

Meet the Storyteller

Lorenzo Pickett

Lorenzo Pickett is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga who majors in Communication. He has experience in guest services and has been a camp counselor for the past 4 years. Lorenzo’s passion is storytelling, creating art, and showing genuine love and loyalty to those around him. He can be contacted at qfv861@mocs.utc.edu.

Gaining Grounds Grocery

Video by Haili Jackson

There are baskets of apples, squash, garlic, and zucchini waiting to be picked up as natural light pours into a small and charming room tucked away in the historic St. Andrew’s Center.  

Photo by Annisten Mann

Holly Martin, executive food director of the Chattanooga Sustainable Food Center, opens Gaining Ground Grocery, bringing fresh and localized produce to Highland Park’s table. 

The shop aims to celebrate and share the value in local food producers and entrepreneurs, and engage the community with food that you can feel good about.  

Martin says there are three main points that the Chattanooga Sustainable Food Center focuses on food access, food education, and the engagement of local food. Her vision is to pair these ideals with Gaining Ground and provide better food access to the community that is grown as locally as possible. 

The inside of Gaining Grounds Grocery. (Photo By Annisten Mann)

“I felt like my heart has always been in community nutrition,” she says, “and after I worked for the Chattanooga Area Food Bank for a long time, I started managing the Main Street Farmer’s Market and saw that I really wanted something that increased access to fresh food — especially for low-income families.”

Areas in and around East Chattanooga have been considered ‘food deserts,’ which are places where fresh and healthy foods are inaccessible. Martin, though, holds food deserts to be just a small piece to a bigger picture – a “puzzle piece to poverty.” 

“It’s kind of a ‘buzzy’ word. If you look in an area that is truly defined as a food desert, food is not the only limiting resource,” she says, “usually there is a lack of good medical care, good transportation, and affordable housing as well.” 

A local shopper gets groceries at GGG. (Photo By Annisten Mann)

And, while access to fresh and healthy food is deeply important to Martin, she believes that food goes further than nutrition. 

“To me, food means community,” Martin says, “I think food goes way beyond nourishment to our bodies. It’s family. It’s getting together. I find it fascinating the things that you can do with food and what it means to different people. Food is the ultimate way to share things. That’s what food means to me.” 

As the day ends at Gaining Ground Grocery, she offers freshly ground peanut butter and a word of advice depicted on the official T-shirt for the store, “Keep your friends close and your food closer.” 

Holly Martin speaks on her background with food and how her inspiration became a business. (Audio By Sierra Wolfenbarger)
Poster by Haili Jackson

Strength in Differences

Friendship can look very different than you would expect it to. Though similarities draw many people together, differences between us can do the same. People who are different from one another can be just as close as those who are incredibly similar. Today, divisiveness is prevalent since we must physically be apart to protect those we love and ourselves. It is important to remind ourselves of the love and connections we have in these trying times. Strength in Differences is a ten-part project featuring portraits and interviews with friends who are close despite their differences. In it, we at Rising Rock Media, aim to look at togetherness while staying six feet apart.

(Written piece by Charles Bledsoe.)

Sandi Bledsoe and Julie Dennis have an unbreakable friendship that will last the rest of their lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has separated many loved ones, but not Julie and Sandi.

The unbreakable friendship between Julie and Sandi has lasted for over 15 years. Through the years Julie has faced adversity in her fight with MS (Multiple Sclerosis), but through it she has maintained a mindset that makes her invincible. Julie’s strength comes from her faith in God and striving for better health through her diet intake.

A little over a year ago Sandi gave up her quick and easy commute to work to move in with Julie. Julie’s husband, a truck driver, is often gone for weeks at a time. Sandi holds Julie accountable in her positivity and drive to increase the movement in her legs. They spend their weekends in their pool doing intense leg and core strength training in hopes that Julie will walk with a walker soon. Their love for each other and their ability to keep each other uplifted is truly inspiring and heartwarming.

It just goes to show, when you give someone kindness and constant positive support, they feel like they are special and strong. Julie never lets her disability change the way she loves and shows kindness to everyone she comes in contact with. Sandi is the ultimate giver of love and time. Together their friendship can bring tears to anyone’s eyes.

Next time you think about helping someone you see struggling, don’t think about it. Be more like Julie and Sandi, and do everything out of love—especially caring for others.

(Written piece by Tierra Web.)

There are approximately 7.5 billion people that exist in the world. Of those 7.5 billion people there are no two people on this planet that are exactly the same. 

There is something distinctively unique about every individual that walks this earth that sets them apart from their peers. For Alexis Hodge and Moriyah Wimbley this distinct characteristic happens to be the shade of their skin.

Walking through life together for almost  a whole decade, Alexis and Moriyah have lived through some of the same life experiences. Although the experience was the same, the impact it had on each of their lives was completely different.

For Alexis growing up as a biracial female in the heart of the south, discrimination based on her gender and the color of her skin has had a huge impact on the person she is today.

At the age of five Alexis had her first encounter with the cruel act of racism. She was told by an uneducated little girl that because her skin was dark there was no way her mother could be white. As a five-year-old little girl this encounter left Alexis feeling confused and she was constantly second-guessing why the color of her skin set her apart.

Hodge said, “If I could go back and give my younger self any piece of advice, I would encourage her to love the skin that she is in and that the discrimination would only get worse as she got older.” 

Moriyah Wimbley had a similar experience in the first grade, but she was discriminated against by her elementary school teacher. At six years old Moriyah, along with several of her African-American peers, was told that she would never make it anywhere in life. The same teacher would constantly make fun of Moriyah because of how big her lips were.

Wimbley said, “Hearing such derogatory things about yourself at six years old really has an impact on the way you view yourself in life.”

Unfortunately for both Moriyah and Alexis this would not be their first encounter with racism and discrimination. 

Wembley sail,“Being discriminated against made me feel like I had something to prove. I wanted to prove to my first grade teacher that regardless of the color of my skin I will be something great in life.” 

Although discrimination is something that these friends have experience most of their lives, The impact discrimination has had in both of their lives has resonated in a different way. 

(Written piece by Luke Dammann.)

Two life-long friends prove that no matter what you share in common, the uniqueness of one another is what truly strengthens friendships.

Hannah Dammann and Summer Ghaffari, a sophomore and junior in college respectively, have been friends for as long as they can remember, and both share a bond that truly exemplifies the word “friendship”.

Hannah and Summer first met when they were in elementary school, as they both attended the same church. 

By simply observing these two “peas in a pod,” you might conclude that they have everything in common, but that is far from the truth.“Our friendship makes no sense,” Hannah proclaims, “But differences make our friendship what it is. But it just feels like we really needed to be together and connected and we’ve stayed connected through everything. I couldn’t see it any other way”.

The difference in the backgrounds of these two young women alone is striking, with Hannah being raised in Tennessee her whole life, and Summer being from a different country entirely.

Summer is originally from Russia and was adopted when she was five years old, living in Memphis for a while, until finally ending up in Chattanooga.

“Everyone’s always wondering how that was for me, because I lived in Russia until I was five”, Summer says, explaining her experiences and the adoption process, “It’s still part of me you know, I still have memories of Russia. I remember a lot of snow and the orphanage I stayed at and friends I made there”.

Another big difference between the two are their hobbies and interests, with Summer being very athletic and Hannah being a more artistic type.

“I would call myself creative. I’d rather create things than do anything else really”, says Hannah, who is majoring in art education at Tennessee Tech University. 

Summer grew up as an incredibly athletic girl, playing soccer and basketball throughout middle and high school. While she majors in physical education at UTC, Summer still engages in sports with an intramural flag football team. 

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two young women is their unique experiences in school. 

Hannah was homeschooled until arriving at college, growing up with three other siblings who were all taught by their mother.

Summer attended Loftis Middle School and Soddy Daisy High School which is where she played most of her sports.

When asked why she thinks they make such good friends, Summer’s answer was almost identical to Hannah’s, saying, “You get to learn new things. The differences are what make you grow close and connect. We’ve connected through different life experiences and have supported each other through everything.”

Hannah and Summer’s relationship is a story of true friendship despite many differences in their lives. Their hobbies, passions, backgrounds, and schooling could not be more opposite of each other, but their willingness to learn, grow respect, and support one another is always on full display. 

Long(est) Tree Hug

Adrienne Long, a Chattanooga resident, raises $1,105 while hugging a walnut tree for 10 hours.

Story by: DeWayne Bingham, Haili Jackson, Nessa Parrish, and Sierra Wolfenbarger

How to raise over 1,000 dollars by hugging a tree?

Chattanooga resident Adrienne Long broke the Guiness World Record on September 19th for the longest consecutive tree hug and raised $1,105 for the Chattanooga Audubon Society. Adrienne said it was a New Year’s resolution and a way to honor her mother’s strength. The event took place at Heritage Park from 8 a.m to 6 p.m., where Adrienne wrapped her arms around a black walnut tree for 10 hours and 5 minutes, breaking the previous record of 8 hours and 15 minutes.

The Chattanooga Audubon Society is a nonprofit organization that helps preserve and protect various sanctuaries around Chattanooga. Long said the nonprofit had been “hit hard” without donations and volunteers because of COVID-19.  Long said that when she mentioned the world record to Sarah Medley, friend and owner of the all natural Chattanooga salon Studio 59, Medley suggested turning it into a fundraiser to benefit the Chattanooga Audubon Society.

Adrienne Long attempts to break the Guinness World Record for the longest time consecutively hugging a tree. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)

Adrienne said tree hugging was a way to honor her mother because they were always outside and  active together. Long’s final message to everyone was to “get outside and enjoy Chattanooga,” because that was something she and her mother loved doing together. Following the event, Adrienne said, “I feel grateful because it was a goal of mine that many people helped me achieve. I feel equally happy because it was something I wanted to do in a small way for my mom, and I think she would be happy.”

Adrienne has plans to break her own record in the future.

Missy Crutchfield (left) leads guided meditation and yoga as Adrienne Long (right) attempts to break the Guinness World Record for longest time consecutively hugging a tree. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
Adrienne Long wraps her arms around a black walnut tree. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
A podcast setting the scene of Heritage Park on September 19, 2020. ( Audio by Sierra Wolfenbarger)

Reading Together

Kelsey Butler, Founder of Homebound Books prepares bookshelf for delivery. The bookshelves designed and painted were distributed this summer. June 24, 2020. Photo by Charles Bledsoe.

Kelsey Butler, a UTC graduate and the owner of Homebound Books, specializes in bookshelves and giving back to schools in Chattanooga. Butler first decided to do a book drive for Christmas almost four years ago. After doing her student-teaching at an inner-city elementary school, she saw the need for books since the students were not able to take them home. The book drive was such a success that she decided to start doing it for many inner-city elementary schools in Chattanooga.

Kelsey began researching how to create a nonprofit and what all it entails. She decided to begin the process. The schools had many regulations regarding what kind of books students were allowed to read so Kelsey had to keep that in mind when preparing to bring the books to the schools. 

The first part of the process starts with gathering gently used books by placing plastic bins in locally-owned restaurants and coffee shops in downtown Chattanooga. The bins come with a Homebound Books sign and pamphlets of information regarding the nonprofit and its goals for the elementary schools. She leaves the bins for a few weeks and then returns to collect the donations.

The steadiness handwork from Kelsey Butler as she paints the bookshelves made for distribution to the local inner city schools. The process of painting the shelf took over hours. June 23, 2020. Photo by Charles Bledsoe.

Eventually, after gathering enough books, Butler decided to build bookshelves. Each bookshelf has three white shelves with a three-dot logo on the side. She fills each shelf full of books and delivers them to the schools. Along with the bookshelves is a teacher’s guide to Homebound Books. This guide states the goal of Homebound Books – to improve each student’s reading level. The students are free to use the bookshelf as a library where they can rent and even keep the books that they enjoy. The schools’ feedback on Homebound Books was so positive that she knew this was something she wanted to continue for the kids. She now has seven bookshelves installed at seven different inner-city elementary schools and will celebrate four years of Homebound Books this September. After receiving her Master’s in teaching in July 2021, Butler will not only run Homebound Books full time, she will also be teaching a third-grade class at Red Bank Elementary. Her work for the inner-city elementary schools in Chattanooga will continue to be appreciated as Homebound Books expands within the community.

Homebound Books Founder, Kelsey Butler reads to local inner city student. All the books on this bookshelf were donated by the local community in Chattanooga. Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Photo by Charles Bledsoe)
Evi Mauonis enjoys time with conversating while reading a book. This book was provided by Homebound Books. June 23, 2020. Photo by Charles Bledsoe.

A New Normal: A Quarantine Commentary

Two to fourteen days. That is all the virus is supposed to live for, but the inability to stop our fast pace capitalist society from going keeps the COVID-19 going. Small businesses hurting, stock market crashing, unemployment rate increasing, people social-distancing, colleges closing. Not just the nation, but the world is having to learn new ways to live their day to day lives. The digital age has taken a whole new level of meaning. Every person is affected by the coronavirus in different ways. Rising Rock, a group of students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga seek to tell their stories on how this pandemic shapes their experience, and what this extraordinary moment in history looks like from their perspectives. A New Normal: A Quarantine Commentary is a creative and documentative project by the students of Rising Rock. Step foot into the perspective of college students as they share what their world now looks like in this rapidly changing society because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Scroll to the bottom of this page to click on individual stories.
By clicking one of the names below, you’ll see a glimpse of how this global pandemic has now shaped each of our lives.

This week’s featured story:  A New Normal by Elian Richter

Waverly Hunter poses for a photo from her back yard in Hendersonville, Tenn. on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Photo by Elian Richter)
“As the days blur together and the heavy weight of isolation builds, it’s easy to dwell on the negative emotions brought out by the current situation: boredom, loneliness, depression. These emotions are certainly overwhelming at times but there’s also a brighter side to this too. … I’ve recently realized that the pandemic has also brought at least one positive outcome during this strange time; the opportunity to spend time with one of my favorite people in the world, my little sister Waverly.” To continue viewing more of this post, visit A New Normal by Elian Richter.
Produced By Rising Rock Media