Alliance works to ensure Education Matters! in future

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The Roane Alliance last week kicked off a fund drive to keep its Education Matters! initiative continuing in the future.

Funding for the initiative  – a Best Practice program, according to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce – is being cut as of June 30, when the Knoxville Oak Ridge Innovation Valley ceases providing grant money to its county partners.

“The Education Matters! mission is that every child in Roane County gets some postsecondary education – and does well at it,” said Leslie Henderson, president/CEO of The Roane Alliance.

“Education Matters! is making remarkable progress towards that goal, but starting at the end of June this year, the program has lost its funding and we need the community’s help,” she added. “We owe it to our kids and our businesses – as their future employers – to keep this going.”

The program needs $75,000 annually to continue serving Roane County, its residents and businesses.

At the fundraising kick-off event, The Alliance was joined by representatives of several Education Matters! fund drive Founding Partners: Roane State Community College, Tennessee Technology Center at Harriman, Roane County United Way and Roane County Schools – all of whom committed to support the program.

Other supporting partners announced at the event included First Bank of Tennessee, a Gold Partner.

The levels of partnerships in the Education Matters! fund drive include Founding Partner, $5,000; Platinum Partner, $2,500; Gold Partner, $1,000; Silver Partner, $500; Community Partner, whatever the donor can afford.

“We must not let the momentum of our extremely effective education/workforce development program slow,” said Allen Lutz, education/workforce development specialist for The Roane Alliance and director of the Education Matters! initiative.

“There isn’t anything more important to the successful economic development of Roane County in today’s world than the effective, new-economy, postsecondary education of our future workforce,” he said.

“We need to start now to raise enough funding to make up for these cuts to keep this Education Matters! going.”

Education Matters! includes education awareness programs, Tennessee Scholars, the annual High School Career Day, RoaneAchieves (part of the tnAchieves program), the Internship Initiative, Educators in the Workplace Lunch & Learn program and Teachers Supply Closet.

“Our Education Matters! initiative at The Alliance has been amazingly effective,” said Henderson. “For example, the RoaneAchieves program alone, one of the many that we have created, fostered and grown as part of this initiative, resulted this past year in more than 100 high school students going to community college. And 60 percent of the students are the first in their family to attend college.”

Russell Jenkins, Roane
County Schools secondary education supervisor, recognizes the program as an asset to both the students and the community.

“Tennessee Scholars, Roane Achieves and TN Achieves programs are having a dramatic impact on student achievement, attendance and increased postsecondary enrollment rates,” he said. “These programs have bridged the gap between high school and college. Students are beginning to realize that a college degree is obtainable.

“The Roane County School system is extremely thankful for the efforts of The Roane Alliance and Roane County Chamber. These meaningful partnerships are an investment in our most valuable resource — our children.”

Because of the reputation and results of Education Matters!, The Roane Alliance was asked to make Best Practices presentations in Knoxville, Murfreesboro and Nashville in the past three months.

Additionally, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education invited Lutz to participate in an April panel roundtable discussion for East Tennessee.

“It is critical that students — our future leaders, entrepreneurs, employers and employees — obtain the education and skills needed to be competitive in the marketplace,” said Lutz. “To do any less will not prepare our next generation for our changing world and will not provide the educated skilled workforce that our business and industrial sector requires.”

To become an Education Matters! partner and read more about its programs, visit www.EducationMatters2Roane.org.

The Roane Alliance is Roane County's economic development organization and consists of both public and private organizations, including the Roane County Chamber of Commerce, the Roane County Industrial Development Board and the Roane County Visitors Bureau.