Obama plans to make Tennessee Promise national initiative

Mackenzie Lee, Staff Writer

Since a young age, only one thing has been on Bearden senior Taylor Jenkins’s mind – animals. Her love for animals inspires her aspirations to become a veterinarian.

Although helping animals is the only career path Jenkins could imagine herself pursuing, her dream seemed to be a long stretch away. With the help of Tennessee Promise, however, her dreams can become a reality.

Tennessee Promise is a last dollar scholarship that provides every Tennessee high school graduate access to two years of community college for free.

Part of what makes Tennessee Promise so unique is its mentorship aspect. More than 9,000 people across the state of Tennessee signed up to be mentors to help students with the college application process.

“I was originally going to start at Pellissippi (State) so I wouldn’t end up with as much to pay, but then I discovered Tennessee Promise, and it was a perfect opportunity (for me to go there for free),” Jenkins said.

Other students across the state are experiencing the same revelation as Jenkins. Of the roughly 65,000 high school graduates in Tennessee, around 57,000 signed up for Tennessee Promise according to Superintendent of Knox County Schools Dr. Jim McIntyre.

“I think there’s a group of students who really are thinking about what their aspirations might be a little differently because they know they have access to this opportunity where they might not have in the past,” Dr. McIntyre said.

Tennessee Promise began six years ago as Knox Achieves, a program that benefitted solely Knox County school students, and has grown to a statewide program with proposition by President Barack Obama to become a national initiative.

President Obama visited Knoxville on Friday and spoke at Pellissippi State regarding his aspirations to transform Tennessee Promise into a national policy.

“Today, I am announcing an ambitious new plan to bring down the cost of community college tuition in America,” President Obama said during his speech Friday. “I want to bring it down to zero.”

Among the audience witnessing President Obama’s spoken intentions were a principal and five students from the Career Magnet Academy. The Career Magnet Academy is partnered with Pellissippi with the intention of creating a seamless transition from high school to post-secondary education to careers.

“They were invited to come in part because of the partnership with Pellissippi, but I think also in part because in 2013 the President talked about making tighter, clearer, more seamless connections between high schools and post-secondary and career industry, and I think this is a good example of where we’re doing some of that,” McIntyre said.

In his speech, President Obama announced that he would be sending his plan for free community college to Congress in a few weeks.

“I hope that Congress will come together to support it because opening the doors of higher education shouldn’t be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue,” President Obama said. “This is an American issue.”