College Bound! students boosted

College Bound! students boosted

August 17th, 2012 by Rachel Bunn in News

Red Bank High School graduate Kaitlyn Curtis, right, stands next to a photo of herself while she and Stacy Lightfoot, left, director of college and career success for the Public Education Foundation, listen during a news conference Thursday at the Red Bank Bi-Lo to launch the "College Bound!" program. The program features a graduate from each Hamilton County public school that is pictured on billboards and life-size displays in stores and schools, telling where the student will attend college this fall in an effort to encourage high school students to continue their educations.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Christina Johnson did not plan to go to college.

She spent three years at Central High School before transferring to Hamilton County High School, where she met her college counselor who helped guide her through the college application process. She will leave Wednesday for her freshman year at East Tennessee State University where she plans to study forensics.

"I'm excited, but a little nervous," Johnson said. "It's going to be weird making new friends -- that's what everyone keeps telling me. It's going to be a whole new adventure."

Johnson is one of 19 students who are the face of the College Bound! campaign, a joint program of the Public Education Foundation, Hamilton County Department of Education and Bi-Lo supermarkets. The program's goal is to provide support and encouragement to students to attend college.

Each high school in Hamilton County has a representative student in the program, except East Ridge High School, which has two.

The campaign -- which had its official launch at Bi-Lo on Dayton Boulevard in Red Bank on Thursday -- features billboards, life-size cutouts and posters of each student along with information about where the students went to high school and where they're going to college.

The campaign also has a Facebook page where high school students will be able ask college students questions about the college application process. Bi-Lo Charities donated $26,900 to help finance the campaign.

The College Bound! campaign is in its fourth year, but "this is the first year we've been able to have all four components," said Christa Payne, director of development and external relations for PEF. "The community and kids love it. People ask us, 'When are we going to see our kids?' I think that shows people in the community really care about these kids."

Zachary Calhoun, the Central High representative who will attend Wesleyan University as a pre-medicine major, said he was surprised and honored to be chosen as his school's representative.

"There were really good candidates; I was shocked," he said. "I wouldn't think I would ever be chosen."

Both Calhoun and Johnson hope the posters inspire other students to apply to colleges and pursue higher education.

"I just hope that they realize that they can do it," Calhoun said. "I hope they realize that the whole college thing isn't big and scary."

Johnson added that students should not be intimidated by the application process.

"It's not the boogeyman hiding under their beds," she said.

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