Mentors needed to support Tennessee Promise students

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TNAchieves is recruiting mentors to help high school seniors - many the first in their families to attend college - navigate the admissions and financial aid process.

TNAchieves is a partnering organization with the state's Tennessee Promise scholarship program, which leverages lottery money to cover the "last dollar" cost of earning a two-year degree at any of the state's community and technical colleges.

Each student participating in Tennessee Promise is paired with a mentor through TNAchieves, and 402 are still needed in Hamilton County and 9,000 statewide.

Graham Thomas, deputy director of engagement and partnerships for TNAchieves, said mentors play a crucial role in the success of the scholarship program.

"Mentors provide the encouragement and support students need to be successful as they transition from high school and begin college," Thomas said in a statement. "Mentors remind students of important deadlines, answer students' questions, alleviate their concerns, and most importantly, encourage students to reach their full potential."

Tennessee Promise is a key piece of Gov. Bill Haslam's "Drive to 55" initiative, which aims to boost the rate of college graduates in Tennessee from about 32 to 55 percent by 2025.

In the first three years of the scholarship program, the state's college-going rate increased 4.6 percent, more than the previous seven years combined. Enrollment at the state's community and technical colleges increased more than 20 percent and also bumped up 10 percent at the state's public higher education institutions, according to state data.

Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of TNAchieves, said Tennessee Promise is helping eliminate barriers keeping some students from entering the post-secondary pipeline.

"It sends the message to Tennessee families that post-secondary education is within reach for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status or ZIP code," she said in a statement. "It also attracts business and industry to Tennessee because we can know this generation is getting the required skills to be successful in tomorrow's job market."