A program helping thousands of high school seniors in Tennessee navigate the college preparation and admissions process is in need of volunteers.
The tnAchieves mentoring program pairs volunteers with high school seniors in their community who have applied for the Tennessee Promise scholarship and provides support during their journey to furthering their education.
“Tennessee Promise is the state’s last-dollar scholarship that gives every high school senior the chance to go to community or technical college tuition and mandatory fee free,” Tyler Ford, senior director of mentors at tnAchieves, said.
According to Ford, Tennessee has a declining trend of high school seniors who went to college the past two years. That’s led to 7,000 fewer students entering the college pipeline each year.
“We’ve got 9,000 volunteer mentors every year, so if we can get all of those volunteers to get just one student into college in the fall of 2023 we could really start reversing that trend next year,” Ford said.
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Across the state, tnAchieves is recruiting 4,500 volunteer mentors to apply by the Oct. 21 deadline. In Sullivan County, 125 more mentors are needed, 88 are needed in Washington County and 38 in Carter County. Mentors must be at least 21 years old, but Ford said they don’t necessarily need a college degree.
“Our mentors just need to be willing to commit that one hour per month to supporting students and ultimately just need to be positive for students and need to really lift them up,” Ford said. “Many of our students just haven’t had a whole lot of college going positivity at home, or they just don’t necessarily see themselves as college material, so our mentors help to reverse that mindset and help to get them into the door of a technical school or a community college, so if you can lift a student up, if you can be positive and an encourager, our staff is going to take care of the rest.”
Mentor-student pairings will be assigned in November before they first meet in the winter, Ford said. After that, mentors check in with students on a biweekly basis, but only need to commit an hour a month to the effort, which Ford said is simplified by tnAchieves staff providing a handbook, training and support. Mentors will stick with their students throughout their senior year, into the summer and up to the point of starting college.
“It’s taking a student who might not have otherwise ever seen themselves in a college classroom and pairing them with someone who says I think you can do that, and I’m going to help you get there,” Ford said. “It’s not a huge time commitment, but the power of the mentoring role and the impact it can have on a student is pretty significant.”
For more, visit www.tnachieves.org.