Education Matters!

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Initiative cited across state as ‘best practice’ for careers

The Roane Alliance’s Education Matters! initiative has been recognized by the state and Aligning Education and Business for a Better Tennessee conference as a best practice to help improve students’ access to postsecondary education and careers.


“Our Education Matters! program at the Alliance has been amazingly effective,” said Leslie Henderson, president/CEO of The Roane Alliance. “For example, one program alone out of the many that we have created, fostered and grown as part of this initiative, has resulted just this year in more than 100 high school students to go on to community college beginning last fall. Sixty percent of the students are the first in their family to attend college.”

The program, RoaneAchieves, is a partnership with tnAchieves that offers public high school graduates a last-dollar scholarship to attend community college.

“In the fall of 2012, 104 RoaneAchieves students began classes at a community college — almost 25 percent of our Roane County Schools’ 2012 graduating senior class,” said Allen Lutz, education and workforce development specialist for The Roane Alliance.

“The total percentage of students going on to postsecondary education is even higher than that, because this program does not include those going on to four-year colleges or to Tennessee Technology Centers,” he added.

Students who enroll in RoaneAchieves may receive up to $3,000 annually for community college.

They also have a volunteer mentor to help with the transition from high school to college.

Lutz presented details about the initiative during the conference in Murfreesboro.

“That was an excellent presentation” said Ruth Woodall, associate vice president of education and workforce development, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Roane County exhibits best practices, and that’s what we want to share with other communities,” she added.

Lutz said he spreads the word about Education Matters! through booths at various community festivals and football games at all five high schools in the county.

 “At each event, we’ve also focused on our youngest children by enrolling them in the Imagination Library program to receive free books,” he said. “We rely heavily upon community volunteers to work at these events.”

The intent of this community outreach is to emphasize the importance of education.

“Through education, our workforce gains access to more career opportunities,” he noted. “An educated workforce allows our county and region to compete in the challenging, global economy, where now more than ever a postsecondary education is the key to opportunity and success.”

Education Matters! goes beyond awareness by engaging students through multiple programs and partnerships.

The Tennessee Scholars program goal is to increase the number of students graduating from high school with a rigorous, defined academic course of study that prepares them for higher education, the workforce, or the military.

“Beginning this year, our Tennessee Scholars program began recognizing our students’ achievement during each year of high school to reinforce the importance of their maintaining program standards,” said Lutz.

The annual high school career day, attended by about 500 juniors in Roane County high schools, is the result of efforts by the Chamber, Roane County Schools, Roane State Community College, Tennessee Technology Center and participating area businesses. This year’s event will be on April 5.

The Chamber’s Internship Initiative, started in 2012, provides high school students opportunities to learn about careers and gives employers a chance to educate, train and encourage the future workforce.

A Chamber-sponsored partnership with the Boy Scouts’ Explorers program, The Bridge at Rockwood and Rockwood High School has resulted in a health-care internship program and Explorers group. About 40 students are participating.

“Internships help individuals learn about what they want to do and what they don’t want to do,” said Lutz. “Internships help employers evaluate how an individual would fare in the actual workplace and trains future employees. Next, we are looking to establish a technology and manufacturing intern program for our Roane County high school students.”

The Educators in the Workplace Lunch & Learn program was initiated by the  Knoxville/Oak Ridge Innovation Valley and five Chamber partners in the summer of 2009.

Through the program, educators visit area businesses. Teachers are taught ways to show students the relevance of what they teach in the classroom to workplace expectations and requirements. It helps businesses develop a skilled future workforce and connect with teachers to further support the education of that workforce.

During the past four years, 27 businesses have hosted 39 visits for educators. Roane County businesses set the example, with almost 30 percent participating businesses and hosting almost half the visits.

The Chamber partners with others in the county to emphasize the importance of education. They include Roane County Schools, Roane United Way, Roane State Community College, Tennessee Technology Center at Harriman, Roane Imagination Library, Roane Writers Group, The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Tennessee Valley, Roane County and city governments and more than 100 Roane businesses and individuals.