Tyner High Academy college advisor Sarah Broadnax will help 10 students go to college this fall with help from a $1 million grant awarded this month to the Public Education Foundation by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
The Student Opportunities, Access and Retention program is for 75 Hamilton County students who'd be the first generation in their families to attend college, have ACT scores of 19 or lower and fit a low-income credential.
"Some kids are able to move out on their own, make friends, whatever. There are some kids that need that extra attention," Broadnax said. "A lot of kids need it but don't know where to get it. Knowing where they can go to get what they need will make a world of difference."
SOAR students attend Chattanooga State Technical Community College for two years and then transition to UTC to graduate with a bachelor's degree. Every step of the way they'll be under the caring eye of a college advisor, PEF representative or a peer mentor.
The grant supplements Broadnax's part-time salary by five hours a week so she can select the students and shepherd them through enrollment.
Broadnax, who lives in the Harrison area, has been a PEF college advisor at Tyner for seven years and is a retired Hamilton County guidance counselor.
"If I had a 24, 25 on the ACT I'm pretty much college-ready and I would do well in college without any perks, without any assistance," she said. "These kids need guidance. I've seen kids go to college with a 15 on the ACT and a 2.3 GPA and end up on the dean's list in college. It's what happens between getting there and once you're there."
Broadnax said most of her students' tuition will be paid by federal Pell grants. SOAR will pay Chattanooga State and UTC application fees, a book stipend and for Camp Tiger, a summer college prep program at Chattanooga State.
"They'll say, 'I didn't know I could go to college,' and I'll say, 'Yeah you can go to college. Anybody can go to college.'"
The SOAR program will also benefit students at Brainerd High School, Central High School, Red Bank High School and Soddy-Daisy High School.