Chattanooga’s Rising Rock

Billy Weeks and Marielle Echavez

By Shawn Ryan | Photos by Angela Foster

Even before she came to college, Marielle Echavez enjoyed making videos. Nothing too serious, though. “They were more silly videos,” she says.

“I liked playing with the camera. “When I came to college, I didn’t really know what I was pursuing, but I knew I liked creating and using the camera.”

It only took one semester in the Rising Rock course to cement her career decision: videographer.

“By the time I was done with my first semester with Rising Rock, I was proud enough to say that I could call myself a videographer,” says Echavez, who graduated in May with a degree in communications and minor in psychology.

In Rising Rock, students are journalists, developing video stories about the Chattanooga area. Working as a team, students develop skills in writing, videography, photography and graphic design. Basically, they make short documentaries about subjects that interest them. Their work can be found at

For Echavez, her love of making videos nestled perfectly with Rising Rock. While honing her videography skills, though, she also improved her skills at writing and photography, both of which she had already done as a writer and photographer for the Echo, UTC’s student-run newspaper.

“I like video the most because I can encompass all of those skills into one piece. I resonate with that the most,” she says.

Billy Weeks, left, and Marielle Echavez

Billy Weeks, UTC lecturer and Rising Rock advisor, describes Echavez as quiet with a power in her presence.

“In my opinion, she is a great editor and a born leader. I have found that other students will follow her just by seeing her example.

“Marielle also is a strong storyteller,” he says. “I tell the students of Rising Rock: If you want to do well in this class, you should work hard, always meet deadlines and, above all, care about your subjects. If you read or watch one of Marielle’s stories, above all she cares. I love seeing this in her work.”

Among the subjects Echavez tackled in her three semesters in Rising Rock were pieces on aerial dancers—those who twirl on silk “ropes” far above the floor—and Chattanoogans who helped in the design of the new coin minted for the space program.

“I was able to learn a lot more on my own and get comfortable on my own and be more independent on what I wanted to create,” Echavez says.

Weeks has no doubt that she will excel in journalism.

“I truly believe she will have a great career telling important stories. It would not surprise me if her work gets national attention someday.”

Echavez understands there may not be jobs standing there and waiting for her now that she’s graduated, but she knows the skills she learned at UTC will be involved in whatever direction her career takes.

It’s a pretty simple equation for her, she says. She likes talking to people and hearing their stories.

“One thing I guess I noticed about myself is I like conversation,” she explains. “I really enjoy just having conversations and learning more about whoever I’m interviewing.”