tnAchieves holds orientation for TN Promise mentors

Volunteers assembled on March 1 for tnAchieves’ breakfast orientation at the Nabors gym to hear information on mentoring TN Promise high school seniors as they transition to higher education.

Chasity Roberson and Jacqueline Faulkner

Chasity Roberson and Jacqueline Faulkner

Dr. Tracy D. Hall, Southwest president, welcomed the volunteers and thanked them for becoming mentors to the students, many of whom are first generation college students.  “Thank you for your commitment to help students navigate the enrollment process from high school into higher education,” said Dr. Hall who is in her third year as a TN Promise mentor. “You will be the calming presence in their lives.”

Southwest joined the Achieve the Dream network of over 200 colleges to transform institutions to make them better and to close the achievement gap between students of color and students of non-color three years ago.  Since focusing on closing the gap in retention and graduation, the College has increased enrollment by 10 percent, doubled the graduation rate and increased the number of associate degrees awarded by more than 20 percent. “We are working even harder to move the needle further and we credit our tnAchieves mentors for the success we’ve had,” said Dr. Hall.

tnAchieves Completion Coach Chasity Roberson announced the good news that Shelby County met its mentoring goal for the first time with the class of 2019 with more than 1,200 mentors.  “On behalf of the tnAchieves staff, thank you to our volunteers – we could not have done this without you,” said Roberson.

tnAchieves achieved distinction this year across the state with a record breaking 9,465 volunteers, surpassing its mentor recruitment goal for the TN Promise Class of 2019.  According to tnAchieves, Tennessee appears to be leading the country in the FAFSA completion rate for the 2019-2020 academic year, with over 74 percent of current high school seniors completing a FAFSA as of March 8.

John Knight, one of the TN Promise students at the breakfast session, credited his mentor with helping him make it through college. “I could not have made it without my mentor,” said Knight. “As a TN Promise student I had to fulfill several requirements to keep my scholarship and out of all the requirements, my mentor was the most valuable.” Knight said his mentor, who is “retired” from mentoring, made sure he attended every TN Promise meeting and kept in contact on a regular basis. “She made me feel special and truly cared about seeing me succeed. For all of you to take the same commitment, I applaud you.” Knight will graduate in 2020 with an Associate of Applied Science in nursing.

Several senior staff from financial aid, admissions, career services, recruitment, retention and student success, and student development provided the volunteers with an overview of their processes and services and addressed their questions.

Vice President of Student Affairs Jacqueline Faulkner said she understands how critical a mentor can be. “As a first generation college graduate, I know how it is for our students to navigate unchartered terrain – they can’t ask questions without knowing what to ask,” said Faulkner. “Your role will be key in demystifying their experience, directing them where to go, and holding them accountable.” Our students enjoy a rich and robust high impact education and we want them to succeed.

Several first-time mentors said they joined the mentorship program this year out of sense of community service and because they know how daunting higher education can be, having had no support system when they went to college.

To learn how you can become a tnAchieves mentor, click here.

Associate Director of K-12 and Community Partnership Shawn Boyd (at the podium) and the admissions team provide an overview of their department

Associate Director of K-12 and Community Partnerships Shawn Boyd (at the podium) and the admissions team provide an overview of their department's services.

tnAchieves recruits ready to meet their mentees.

tnAchieves recruits ready to meet their mentees.

President Tracy D. Hall addresses mentors at the tnAchieves orientation breakfast.

President Tracy D. Hall addresses mentors at the tnAchieves orientation breakfast.