Red Bank High School students listen as BlueCross BlueShield IT Operations Center first-shift supervisor Jared Ward, near right, explains the technical aspects of Information Technology at the health insurance giant atop Cameron Hill, Feb, 5, 2019, in Chattanooga. Hamilton County School Superintendent Bryan Johnson is seen, back right.
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Red Bank High School student Taylor Turner, right, gets an explanation to his technical question from IT Operations Center first-shift supervisor Jared Ward, center.. Hamilton County School Superintendent Bryan Johnson, left, and BCBS Senior Vice President and CIO Nick Coussoule listen. Turner's question was if they pull their system information from the Redundant Array of Independent Disc(RAID)program.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee officially announced Monday a $250,000 commitment to help prepare Hamilton County students for high-tech careers.

The company helped launch one of the school district's newest Future Ready Institutes — small, industry-themed career academies embedded in traditional high schools — at Red Bank High School this year, and with the new funding has officially branded it the BlueCross Technology Academy.

"We have a long history here at BlueCross BlueShield of supporting education across the state and here in Chattanooga," said Scott Wilson, director of community relations and health foundation. "We know how important public education is to the health of our community, and it demands our commitment here in Hamilton County."


Brainerd High

> Institute of Law, First Responders and Forensic Science

> Institute of Aviation

> Institute of Entrepreneurship

Central High

> Institute of Advanced Manufacturing and Mechatronics

> Institute of Architecture and Engineering Design

East Hamilton Middle/High

> Bryan College Institute of Leadership, Business, and Marketing

> Institute of Innovate Engineering

East Ridge High

> Institute of Engineering and Design

> Institute of Building Construction

> Institute of Leadership

Hixson High

> Institute of Integrative Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

> Institute of Health Careers and Medical Advancement

> Institute of Business Leaders and Owners

The Howard School

> Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation

> Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Management

> Institute of Robotics and Welding

> Institute of Architecture and Construction

Lookout Valley Middle/High

> Institute of Technology and Multimedia

> Institute of Automotive Maintenance and Manufacturing

Ooltewah High

> Institute of Architecture and Engineering Design

> Institute of Advanced Manufacturing and Mechatronics

> Institute of International Baccalaureate Studies

Red Bank High

> Institute of Engineering and Computer Science

Sequoyah High

> Institute of Industrial Manufacturing

Signal Mountain Middle/High

> Institute of International Baccalaureate Studies

Soddy-Daisy High

> Institute of Media and Entrepreneurship

Tyner Academy

> EPB Institute of Technology and Networking

> UTC Institute of Teaching and Learning

> Institute of Health Sciences


A health care giant, BlueCross BlueShield manages information technology systems and the data of more than 3.5 million clients nationwide, 219,000 providers and 11,000 employers in Tennessee, said Nick Coussoule, senior vice president and chief information officer at BlueCross.

The types of skills BlueCross's information technology employees have are some that school leaders hope students can gain while attending the new institute at Red Bank. They are skills that BlueCross is also looking for, Coussoule noted.

The institute is one of more than 20 across a wide range of industries launched last year in Hamilton County. Many of them are made possible by community businesses and organizations' commitment to their success, such as the Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation at The Howard School and the EPB Institute of Technology and Networking at Tyner Academy.

"A little over a year ago, we started with a hope and a prayer, an idea and a wish that our children, you guys, could get everything you need to make sure you were successful," Superintendent Bryan Johnson said at a news conference.

"I challenge you to learn as much as you can from these experts," he charged the students.

Not only will BlueCross provide funding to the institute, but the company will pair students with professional mentors and will work with school elders and teachers to think through curriculum that will provide the most engaging learning for students.

Elaine Harper, principal of Red Bank High, said the commitment allows the school and its institute coordinators to "truly dream big."

"The feeling you have today of being important, of being elected, of being special, will have a ripple effect and will help you excel in academics and your future endeavors," Harper told the students that gathered at BlueCross Monday for the announcement.

The institute, which began in August, launched with about 40 students in ninth grade. Each year, an additional cohort of 50 students will be added until the institute has 200 students, or about a quarter of the school, in grades 9 through 12 of the institute.

Olivia Conner, a science teacher at Red Bank, teaches physical science to the group of students. She said she was excited for the opportunities to enhance the equipment and the school's Volkswagen eLab for the students in the institute. She also noted that the cohort experience was a special one for her students.

"One of the biggest things is they are a cohort of students and they travel together through their core classes," she said. 'They've already created super-strong relationships among themselves. It gives them a sense of importance and purpose."

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.