Obion County's partnering organization for TN Promise needs nearly 50 volunteer mentors locally to work with seniors in the Class of 2016. So far, about 30 have signed up, and almost 20 more are needed.
The time commitment is small, about one hour per month, but the impact is significant as volunteers assist students navigating the college going process and encourage them to reach their full potential.
TN Promise provides students the opportunity to attend one of the state's community or technical colleges tuition free for two years. The financial component is important, but many of the students in the program are the first person in their family to attend college, and the assistance and encouragement provided by the mentor can be the difference maker.
"The mentors are the critical piece of the program. They are the reason we are able to operate a program of this scale," Graham Thomas, tnAchieves Director of Community Partnerships, said. "Mentors provide the necessary support system and encouragement that TN Promise students need to be successful."
In its first year, 341 students in Obion County applied for TN Promise. Students who participate are required to complete at least eight hours of community service each semester of college. This creates a culture of giving back and allows the students to explore potential career opportunities within their communities. More than 700 hours of community service were performed by students locally.
The program does not have GPA or ACT requirements to participate. The universal acceptance policy allows tnAchieves to reach the student who lacks financial support via the state's lottery scholarship and/or other academic scholarships. This philosophy also ensures the program captures its target student, rather than serving as a supplemental program for students who planned to attend a post-secondary institution without its assistance.
More than 58,000 students in the Class of 2015 applied for TN Promise in its inaugural year, and the program is expecting more than 60,000 students to apply this year.