New academy hopes to change face of Brinkley Heights - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

New academy hopes to change face of Brinkley Heights

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By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis city leaders were on hand Friday for the ribbon cutting at a new school that may be changing an entire community.

The Brinkley Heights community has its challenges.

"We're literally talking about a war that's going on right now for the lives of these children," said Pastor Tim Cox.

Cox is the force behind the Brinkley Heights Urban Academy, a state of the art elementary school that celebrated its grand opening Friday.

"This is just a small example, I think, of what can happen when a community says we're not going to run from the problems," said Cox.

The school is in the heart of the neighborhood's most notable tragedy.  In 2002, three-year-old Jessica Borner was killed in the crossfire of a gang-related shooting.

"That day was so devastating," said Rhonda Becerra.  "It hit the heart of a lot of parents."

Today, Becerra's four children attend the Urban Academy.

"This is my home and they're not going to take it away from me," Becerra said.

The school enrolls some of the neighborhoods highest risk children.  Cox said 10 percent of the students are actually homeless and living in shelters.

Donetta Ginn came out of retirement to become principal.

"We don't want crime in the street and abuse to be what's normal," said Ginn.  "We want normal to be able to come here and feel safe."

Borner's home still remains unoccupied, but the landmark of a tragedy is no longer the face of Brinkley Heights.

The academy's corporate neighbors, Buckeye Technologies and Merck, were instrumental in getting the academy built.  The facility has enough space to expand to the 12th grade.  One class will be added each year.

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