A recent article by Jason Reynolds from the Shelbyville Times-Gazette reports “more than 25,000 Tennessee students are expected to apply for a free tuition program and mentors are needed to help them navigate the lengthy process.”
Beginning with the Class of 2015, the Tennessee Promise will provide Tennessee high school graduates the opportunity to attend a community or technical college free of tuition and fees. The program is both a scholarship and mentoring program that will launch this fall across the entire state. It will provide recently graduated high school students a last-dollar scholarship, meaning the scholarship will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship or Tennessee Student Assistance Award Program (TSAA).
While removing the financial burden is key, a critical component of Tennessee Promise is the individual guidance each participant will receive from a mentor who will provide support and assistance as the student enters higher education. In addition, students will be required to complete eight hours of community service per term enrolled, as well as maintain satisfactory academic progress (2.0).
tnAchieves is a nonprofit organization that supports TN Promise with a mission to increase higher education opportunities for Tennessee public high school students by providing the last dollar scholarships with mentor guidance. According to their website:
“tnAchieves mentors tell us that they spend less than ONE hour per month serving as a resource to our students. The role is simple but significant as our mentors help our students reach their potential. At its core, tnAchieves mentors complete an application, choose their preferred high school, complete a one-hour training session, attend two one-hour meetings, and communicate with students every two weeks via email, phone or text as they transition from high school to college. tnAchieves designed its mentoring program so even the busiest executive, parent, or young professional could make a meaningful impact.”
Who can become a tnAchieves mentor?
- Any individual who wants to invest 10-15 hours annually assisting five high school seniors with post-secondary success
- Must be 21 years or older
- Subject to a background check
In Hamilton County, you can select to mentor students from one of 18 area high schools, and a local advisory board is working to recruit mentors. The online mentor application is here.
“The mentors can make a huge difference for a small time commitment,” said Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of tnAchieves. “It’s a 10-to-15 hour commitment for the year … to make what could be a big impact on a student’s life,” she said.
The Tennessee Promise program is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative geared to increase the number of Tennessee residents with a post-secondary degree to 55 percent by the year 2025.