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Knox Promise program helps students soar

For two years, Knox Promise has worked with students who need more than just financial help as they begin college.
Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 6:29 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - People say education is transformational. For two years, Knox Promise has worked with students who need more than just financial help as they begin college.

“I’m just trying to push through this last semester,” said Timari Ray, a second-year student at Pellissippi State Community College, “It’s very hard.”

That’s because she’s worked two part-time jobs while going to school full-time.

“I like to try to stay ahead all the time when it comes to schoolwork but it’s so hard and it’s so frustrating when I’m not ahead because I want to be,” said Ray.

She’s impressed a lot of people along the way including her Completion Coach, Sumner Deason.

“This girl has big dreams. She does. She just has that, that type of personality that she can, she can literally do anything that she wants,” said Deason.

After Ray graduated from Hardin Valley Academy in 2019 she became a Knox Promise student. Knox Promise is a pilot program in Knox County that helps Tennessee Promise students beyond financial aid.

Timari and Sumner work together to keep up with deadlines and prepare for school. Knox Promise also has extra funds for school supplies and emergencies.

“What’s incredibly exciting about this program is while it is tackling these incredibly important barriers that many of our students face, we’re also seeing some incredible results,” said Krissy DeAlejandro, Executive Director of Tennessee Achieves.

DeAlejandro said students in the Knox Promise program have a first-year retention rate that is 25 percent higher than other Tennessee students who go to community college and don’t participate in the program.

DeAlejandro explained, “That’s like a transformative game-changing kind of jump and so we’re thrilled that we’re not only hearing from students that it’s working but we’re seeing the results based in the metrics.”

It’s shown how relationships can be rewarding.

“We’ve built a relationship because I kind of see her as a friend instead of a mentor now,” said Ray.

Deason said, “My heart’s a little sad that she’s going to be graduating soon but I’m just so very proud of her and so happy.”

In the fall, Ray will be off to The University of Tennessee to major in Communications.

“It’s like something I’ve been waiting to do since I got here,” said Ray, “So it’s kind of surreal.”

Students earn Associates Degrees and begin careers or move onto other universities like UT to get a Bachelors Degree.

The Haslam Family Foundation pays for the Knox Promise Program.

Knox Promise will be offered for for a third year to the Class of 2021.

The goal is to expand the program statewide. Students must remain Tennessee Promise eligible to be a Knox Promise student.

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