January 12, 2009 - This month, volunteer mentors will begin to meet with the 496 high school seniors who are part of the new Knox Achieves program. Knox Achieves was launched in October 2008 by Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, and fellow Knox Achieves Board of Directors members Randy Boyd, CEO of Radio Systems Corporation; Rich Ray, CFO and Tim Williams, CEO of 21st Mortgage Corporation; and Chris Woodhull, Knoxville City Councilman and Executive Director of TRIBE ONE.
Knox Achieves has two objectives: to enhance the local workforce and to pique local students’ interest both in graduating high school and in attending college. The privately-funded program will pay the last dollar in community college tuition for these Knox County high school seniors enrolling in either Pellissippi, Roane or Walters State community colleges in the fall of 2009. Each student will work through the college application process, including financial aid, college application and enrollment, and course registration with an assigned mentor.
The students who are participating represent every eligible Knox County public high school and the adult education and alternative schools. Of the 496 applicants, more than 70% come from families making less than $50,000 per year and 58% are first generation college students. On their applications, only 75 applicants indicated that both of their parents attended college, though they may not have completed it.
Knowing that these first generation college students and their families would have limited, if any, familiarity with the steps necessary to apply for college, knoxAchieves recruited nearly 180 volunteer mentors to guide and encourage the students. By January 16th, all mentors will meet with their students to begin building relationships and developing timelines to ensure that each student successfully meets the critical college entrance milestones, including taking the ACT and completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
According to Mayor Ragsdale, "Knox Achieves has all of the pieces we need to move education and workforce development to the next level. It provides the opportunity for more of our students to get college training, puts them in contact with dedicated community volunteers, and encourages them to give back to the community."
Haslam agreed, saying that "Providing our students with an opportunity to obtain a college degree or enhance their skills not only changes their lives but makes our community a better place for all."
Recognizing the potential of Knox Achieves, Governor Phil Bredesen endorsed the program calling it "a powerful economic and workforce development tool."
Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents Charles Manning echoed that support saying that the program "could make a real difference in Tennessee’s future."
Knox Achieves board member Randy Boyd said, "We are thrilled with the outcome of the application process this pilot year. Seeing the program be so successful this first year, we are excited to grow the program next year."
Board member Chris Woodhull agreed saying, "It feels great to be making such a positive impact on the lives of Knox County's students, who will hopefully, in the future, make a positive impact on the economy of this community."
For more information about Knox Achieves, visit www.knoxachieves.org or call 865-214-4754. Knox Achieves is a special program of the East Tennessee Foundation.