tnAchieves, the partnering organization for Governor Bill Haslam’s TN Promise in 84 counties, is currently seeking volunteers to serve as mentors for its fourth class of TN Promise applicants. TN Promise offers every high school senior the opportunity to attend one of the state’s 13 community colleges or 27 colleges of applied technology tuition free with a last dollar scholarship.
The program also pairs each applicant with a volunteer mentor to ease the transition from high school to college. The mentoring program requires a one hour per month commitment following a mandatory training and background check.
The program needs 9,000 volunteers across the state to ensure students that apply are provided a local support system. Johnson County needs 20 mentors by the December 1st deadline.
tnAchieves Executive Director Krissy DeAlejandro has been with the program since its inception in 2008. “With the idea of eliminating the barriers keeping Tennessee students from entering the post-secondary pipeline, Tennessee Promise provides a last-dollar scholarship with mentor support to our state’s high school seniors,” said DeAlejandro. “It sends the message to Tennessee families that post-secondary education is within reach for everyone, regardless of socio-economic status or zip code. It also attracts business and industry to Tennessee because we can know this generation is getting the required skills to be successful in tomorrow’s job market.”
The scholarship dollars are important, and often create excitement around going to college, but the support of the mentor can be critical to student success. Most of the students participating in the program are first generation college attendees who find navigating the admissions and financial aid processes overwhelming.
tnAchieves Deputy Director of Engagement and Partnerships Graham Thomas explained the importance of the role of the mentors. “Mentors provide the encouragement and support students need to be successful as they transition from high school and begin college.” Thomas continued, “Mentors remind students of important deadlines, answer students’ questions, alleviate their concerns, and most importantly, encourage students to reach their full potential.”
In the first three years of the program nearly 180,000 students have applied. In the first year, 16,291 students began college TN Promise eligible. The state’s college going rate increased 4.6 percent, more than the previous seven years combined. Enrollment at the state’s community and technical colleges increased more than 20 percent and enrollment at all of the state’s public higher education institutions increased 10 percent. This translates into approximately 4,000 new students entering the college pipeline. Students participating in the program are also retaining at rates higher than their peers that entered college without TN Promise.