Category Archives: CreateAthon

The things you learn from 30+ sleepless hours

Thank you notes from Dalewood students on display. Credit: UTC Department of Art, CreateAthonCHA 2011

CreateAthon onCampus was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve been through in quite a while. The creative output was intended for Dalewood Middle School, but I think I might have gotten as much as Dalewood out of the whole experience…maybe more. After ruminating on the weekend for a day or two (and getting back on a regular sleep schedule) I’ve come to some fabulous realizations from the event:

Our city is full of extremely talented professionals
CreateAthon had over 40 mentors involved and many of them stayed the entire 24 hours. They were as committed to the cause as the students were. They gave sound advice, insight into the working world, leadership, and encouraging words to everyone. Meeting these mentors makes me even more excited to get out into the working world because I know Chattanooga has a great camp of professionals to work with.

The place you want to be isn’t always the place you need to be.
I was assigned to the documentation team, and I will admit, it wasn’t my first choice. I thought it would be sort of a bummer that I wouldn’t actually be designing anything (at least in the literal sense). I don’t have much film or video experience and wasn’t really sure what I could contribute to the team. But as the 24 hours unfolded, I began to realize the unique position of the documentation team: we had the fortunate position to see all the other teams to create and interact. It was fascinating to see the groups evolve over the 24 hours! I also had the great fortune of conducting some one-on-one interviews. All I can say is wow! I had goosebumps multiple times and I think an “Amen” or “Hallelujah” might have slipped in there once or twice. The nuggets of goodness they were offering and listening to how these people had been touched by the whole event was inspiring and heartwarming. I felt I was in the right place at the right time in my position on the doc team.

Being apart of the doc team also sparked a desire to learn more about film and cultivate my love of photography. I never thought I would be as interested as I am now about video production and editing, but the day after CreateAthon, I was online searching for editing software and new a camera to purchase. So while it might not have been my first choice, my position on the doc team was exactly where I needed to be.

Others successes can be as fulfilling as your own
There were so many proud “big sister” moments for me during CreateAthon. Watching a few classmates embrace and flourish in their leadership roles, seeing others display focus and drive to finish projects, and watching them learn new skills and interact like true professionals instead of merely students made me feel so proud to be in their company. Watching my classmates grow professionally and as individuals might be my favorite part of the whole event.

3:00 A.M. is when you really know a person
I had the pleasure of working with some teammates who I didn’t know as well, especially the seniors in my group. Getting to know them through this project was a crash course in classmate bonding. When you are on hour Number 19 without sleep, the conversations can get crazy good. When all is said and done and we can laugh about toothpaste conversations and throwing things at each other…well, that’s bonding. Every one of my teammates has a special place in my heart after CreateAthon, even if their dancing skills may not. (I kid, I kid)

Making change starts with a small step
There were a few naysayers we came in contact with, mostly questioning what can we really do in just 24 hours. Change has to start somewhere and why not start with a powerhouse 24-hour marathon? When you add the amount of people involved in CreateAthon times 24 hours each, that’s a lot of brainpower working for one cause. There is some sort of magic that happens when you’re working on no sleep and pure adrenaline.

I love Chattanooga more now than ever
When I moved from Indiana to Chattanooga about two and a half years ago, I immediately fell in love with the city. The beauty of the environment, the bustling and promising downtown, the people, the energy and the potential all make Chattanooga a great place to live. All of these elements were highlighted this weekend by the overwhelmingly positive response to the unique opportunity CreateAthon provided for our area. The people of this city have made Chattanooga what it is today and that makes it an even greater place to be.

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Chattanooga has only one option?

“Chattanooga has only one option, and it is private.” This anonymous opinion was referring to good schools in the Tennessee, specifically the Chattanooga area. In doing a little research on public schools in Tennessee, I came across a message board with many opinions that echoed that line of thought…if you want your kids to get into college, the only place to send them in Chattanooga is a private school. I did not grow up or attend public school in TN and didn’t move to the Chattanooga area until about 2 years ago, so I really didn’t know any reputations of school districts or specific schools of the area. But with the recent visit from eduction reformer Geoffrey Canada to UTC and our upcoming class project relating to public education, I wanted to know more.

The more I read from this message board (about TN schools in general, not just Chattanooga), the more angry I became. There was another comment stating as a parent in TN, you should do all you can to send your children to private schools. Let me pose a hypothetical here: what if, instead of focusing energy and finances on sending children to private schools, the energy was focused on bettering public school education for all children in the area? Wouldn’t it be great if not just a handful, but all of the children in your community received a good education? What would the future of that community look like if all of today’s children received a better education than yesterday? Instead of fleeing from the failing public schools, shouldn’t we as a collective city be helping those schools? My hope is that even a few people will say yes.

Stay tuned to my blog for more posts relating to our upcoming CreatAthon and more on public school education in Tennessee.



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How are design and public education related?

Tuesday was quite an emotional roller coaster, but it ended on a high note. My professional practices class has a large project planned for later in the semester dealing with local public education. We watched The Lottery in class, and if you haven’t seen this documentary, I highly recommend you add it to your DVD queue. I can say this is the first time I’ve cried in class from watching a documentary (but I wasn’t the only one). The movie chronicles the public education system in Harlem and follows a few families as they await lottery day for several charter schools in their area. The film highlighted what I think is often a myth about lower income families: just because parents don’t have money doesn’t mean they don’t want better for their own children. Almost all of the the parents interviewed in the film said they wanted better experiences for their children than they had. In the end, only 2 of the children highlighted were selected for a charter school. I was so disheartening to see the sad faces of the children, who didn’t quite understand fully what was going on, but knew they hadn’t been picked.

I did say that the day ended on a high note, so now for the more enlightening part of the day. Our class was fortunate enough to hear the very inspiring Geoffrey Canada speak at our school. If you don’t know who Geoffrey Canada is or what he stands for, research him now! He is the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, where he promises to increase the graduation rates of children in Harlem, not only from high school, but graduation from college. One of the first things he said in his presentation was that if our nation doesn’t change our education, we will no longer continue to be a super power. He called for less blame on situational circumstances of kids and more accountability from teachers. He noted teachers should hold the same expectations for a child that a parent would hold; after all, they are getting paid to teach.

Conversations about tax dollars can be a hot topic, especially from community members who don’t have children and feel their tax dollars are better spent on areas other than education. Canada said, “Tax dollars are a decision we’ve made about our children.” I thought that was a good question to pose to our community: what are your tax dollars saying about the children in your community? Are you standing up for their future, and the future of your community? A question at the end of his presentation prompted Canada to call for business and community involvement in education. Uneducated children affect an entire community, not just parents and teachers. And this is where I got really excited because I feel this is where design can greatly impact education and community.

You might think college design students are far from a target audience who cares about public education, but most of us will someday have children of our own. What is most exciting to me working to make changes now that will affect our future children. I am beyond thrilled to see what the rest of this semester project has in store for our class, so stay tuned to this blog to follow what we are doing in the Chattanooga community.

Check out this TED Talks presentation from designer Emily Pilloton and how her designs are making an impact in her community:

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