Beginning with the graduating 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.
Costs will be covered through Tennessee lottery scholarship funds at an estimated cost of $34 million per year.
Last week, Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. made Cumberland County the first county in the state to sign a memorandum of understanding agreement with tnAchieves to administer the program locally.
The Tennessee Promise is a state scholarship and mentoring program that will begin in the fall of 2015. It will provide graduating students a scholarship that will cover tuition and fees not covered by Pell grants, the HOPE Scholarship or TSAA.
Each participant will also receive individual guidance from a mentor who will provide advice and assistance to the student as they enter higher education. The students will also be required to complete eight hours of community service per term enrolled and maintain a 2.0 GPA.
"This is a historic day in Cumberland County ... I want to make sure the program is a success here and available for anyone who wants to further their education," Carey said.
The scholarship component will be administered through the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC), while the mentoring and community service process will be coordinated by local non-profit partnering organizations.
In order to participate in the program, county mayors were charged to select a partnership organization to partner with to administer the program. The organization must be approved by the board of directors.
Carey chose tnAchieves and representatives from the group met with Carey last week, along with several educational leaders in the county.
"I've chosen tnAchieves because they have a proven track record in administering programs like this for several years," Carey said.
tnAchieves is a 501(c)3 company already operating in 27 Tennessee counties as a partnering organization.
Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director, said tnAchieves is ready to expand to counties in need of a partnering organization to administer Tennessee Promise. tnAchieves does not require any operational funds from the county, as it is self-funded through private donations.
The organization will also work with community leaders to establish Tennessee Promise Advisory Councils that will assist in recruiting volunteer mentors, educate students and parents about the program and advocate for post secondary education in their communities.
Carey also named and announced the members of the advisory council that will work in Cumberland County.
Carey said advisory council members will include Scot Shanks, community representative; Sara Flohr, community representative of the Fairfield Glade Ladies Club; Jerry Young, local higher education representative of Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT);
Wanda Reid, workforce representative Tennessee Career Center; Rebecca Wood, Cumberland County School System representative; and Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr., local government representative.
"I am proud to say that Cumberland County is in the forefront of this program and that we are the first county to sign with tnAchieves," Carey said.
DeAlejandro said she was thrilled to be serving the students in Cumberland County. She expects to sign similar agreements with roughly 80 counties in the state.
Dr. Chris Whaley of Roane State Community College also attended the ceremony and also gave his praise of the program.
"I am so thankful for the Tennessee Promise and I am so glad Mayor Carey chose tnAchieves. We have had great experiences with them and they have a great track record with Roane State. The mentorship is so critical in the program," Whaley said.
For more information about the program, or becoming a mentor, visit www.tnachieves.org.