Austin-East alumni supporting students after fifth student lost to gun violence

Alumni featured in virtual town hall on Friday
Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 7:08 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Austin-East Magnet High School Class President of 1973, Vivian Shipe, and Class President of 2005, Reverend Sam Brown, are looking back on their days at Austin-East High School with pride. Now ,they and other alumni are working to encourage more students to feel proud of their abilities and potential accomplishments.

Shipe said a large group of alumni who have been gathering every five years for a reunion are now looking to more formally organize as a nonprofit, to be able to put even more strength behind effort to support young people at the East Knoxville school. “Which will allow us then to really help the school,” explained Shipe. “We’re talking about that electronic sign that we need and things that we need for scholarships and things the students might need that we the body who came from that school, we want to support.”

Attorney George Underwood is President of the Alumni Association, saying a gathering on April 24 will give alumni members the chance to discuss incorporating the sign. To participate in that, you can contact

Underwood said students need to realize that academics are their primary means of achieving success later in life, with sports and other activities as an added bonus. Underwood is hoping continued support through scholarships will continue a proud tradition of building future leaders.

“There have been doctors, engineers, people who have excelled in the military, people who have excelled in other jobs. And so, that’s what we want to communicate.”

Reverend Brown is one of several men who graduated from Austin-East who will be leading a virtual town hall meeting on Friday, April 16 via the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. Beck President, Reverend Renee Kesler said the virtual gatherings will continue a discussion about racial justice and encourage community-based solutions to issues such as violence.

Last month, Rev. Kesler invited women from Austin-East to engage in a conversation about this.

“I think it’s important that when there’s challenges in a community that we look inside the community and say give us the answers. And that’s what they did. It was a very amazing conversation. So, it was fitting that right after we finished that conversation in March, Women’s History Month so specifically, while we focused and targeted on the ladies of Austin-East, that Janae Anderson Easterly , who was one of the ladies on the panel last month, said ‘Rev Kesler, we need the men now.’”

Beck Cultural Exchange Center is hosting the virtual town hall meeting on racial justice, featuring men of Austin-East, on Friday, April 16 at 4:00 pm. You can connect to the town hall via this link to the Beck website.

Reverend Brown said, “I hope that people can see what actually is produced out of Austin-East Magnet High School amid all of the strife and the mischaracterization, I would say, of our community and of our school.”

“We want to recognize that Austin-East has produced some amazing young men and women,” said Kesler.

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