By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
More volunteers are needed to help students in the Tennessee Promise scholarship program navigate the process of enrolling in college. The organization which manages the state program …
More volunteers are needed to help students in the Tennessee Promise scholarship program navigate the process of enrolling in college.
The organization which manages the state program tnAchieves, is asking adults across the state to become mentors to current high school seniors.
Ben Sterling, assistant director of outreach for tnAchieves, told the Cleveland Rotary Club on Tuesday that roughly 40 more volunteers are needed before Dec. 1.
“We need people to help encourage students as they start college,” Sterling said. “This support is what makes tnAchieves and Tennessee Promise unique and ultimately helps students be successful.”
Tennessee Promise is a last-dollar scholarship which allows recent high school graduates to attend a state community college or technical school at no cost to them. In 84 Tennessee counties, this state-endowed scholarship is managed by tnAchieves.
Each high school senior receiving this scholarship must complete community service hours and meet several deadlines before they begin college. He or she is paired with a mentor to help remind them of important deadlines and get them ready for college.
Many of the students who have gone to college with the Tennessee Promise scholarships have been the first in their families to attend college. Because of this, they and their families may be unfamiliar with what it takes to go to succeed in college.
Though many people see going to college as a positive thing, Sterling said some students actually have families who are not supportive of their college ambitions. When problems arise, these students often cannot turn to their loved ones for help.
“Sometimes, when there’s an obstacle — even a small one — it becomes an insurmountable thing to them,” Sterling said. “The idea is that we can plant an encouragement piece in their college-going process.”
A mentor can serve as a listening ear, someone who can calmly help a stressed-out student navigate the process of starting college. Whether the student needs help understanding his or her financial aid status or simply needs reassurance that they can succeed in college, a mentor can help.
Sterling noted Bradley County is home to “one of the largest senior classes in the entire state” — Bradley Central High School’s future Class of 2018.
However, he said only about 75 percent of the mentors the county needs this year have applied. Mentors are needed to assist students at all three local high schools, as well as those who attend private school or are homeschooled.
“Every year, Bradley County has fallen a little bit short,” Sterling said. “We will improve that this year.”
More mentors are also needed in surrounding counties, such as Polk and McMinn.
With little time to spare until the Dec. 1 deadline, he urged would-be mentors to go ahead and apply. To become a mentor, one must be at least 21 years of age and be willing to undergo a background check.
Bradley County mentors will attend one of two training sessions offered at Cleveland State Community College in January 2018. Mentors will also take part in two meetings with their assigned students, the first being in March. Other counties will follow a similar schedule.
“As a mentor, you do not need to know everything about the college-going process,” Sterling said. “In fact, I do not care if you are a college graduate. What these students need are adults who will support them.”
He estimates mentors spend about an hour a month communicating with their students. Most of this communication is by email, text message or phone call. As simple as that may sound, he said this support “means the world” to students who do not have support at home.
Visit tnachieves.org for more information or to apply to be a mentor.
“We need people to help encourage students as they start college. This support is what makes tnAchieves and Tennessee Promise unique and ultimately helps students be successful.” — Ben Sterling
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