Motlow employees lead the way becoming Mentors for Tennessee Promise students

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Charles Whiting, communications instructor at Motlow State Community College, knows the value of being a mentor for a Tennessee Promise college student. As one of many Motlow employees who volunteer to mentor through the tnAchieves organization, his experiences speak to the life-changing impact an adult mentor can have on a young college student.

John C. Maxwell, noted author and leadership expert, said, “One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”

Tennessee Promise mentors, with direction from tnAchieves, help guide students to the completion of their college degree or certificate. With the road to this destination filled with academic, financial, and personal challenges, mentors provide invaluable direction and support to mentees, helping them successfully navigate life as a college student.

The call has gone out for Motlow employees to step forward to be a mentor to help sustain the College’s mission. While 39 employees have already signed up, the need for more is substantial.

I am asking all members of the Motlow team to consider becoming a mentor with tnAchieves and provide support to Tennessee Promise students that will be on our campus in less than a year.
— Dr. Michael Torrence, Motlow president

“I am asking all members of the Motlow team to consider becoming a mentor with tnAchieves and provide support to Tennessee Promise students that will be on our campus in less than a year,” said Dr. Michael Torrence, Motlow president. “tnAchieves mentors spend about one hour per month reminding students of important deadlines, serving as a trusted college resource and, most importantly, encouraging students to reach their full potential.”

With the mission of eliminating the barriers associated with entering the post-secondary pipeline, tnAchieves launched as a universal last-dollar community and technical college scholarship that paired students with volunteer mentors and required its students to complete at least eight hours of community service each semester.

Modeled after tnAchieves, TN Promise launched under the Drive to 55 umbrella to ensure no student would be limited from the pursuit of a post-secondary degree because of socio-economic status, zip code or background.

“Since the inception of Tennessee Promise more than 5,000 additional low-income students than were previously projected have entered college and Tennessee’s economically disadvantaged students are 17 percent more likely to go to college,” added Torrence. “Promise students are also retaining, graduating and transferring at rates higher than their peers attending our college without Promise.”

Data from the Tennessee Board of Regents supports that Promise students are more likely to be retained and to graduate compared to non-Promise students. The statewide results are impressive for the 2015 Tennessee Promise inaugural class:

· Its 21.5 percent graduation rate through five semesters was up from the 13.8 percent of the 2014 group after the same period of time.

· The number of students who earned a degree or technical certificate through five semesters increased from 1,790 in the 2014 cohort to 2,857 in the 2015 TN Promise group, a 60 percent increase.

· The “success rate” for the first TN Promise class through five semesters was 52.2 percent, compared to 49.9 percent of the 2014 group. The success rate is defined as students who graduated, transferred, or were still enrolled in community college through the five semesters.

“We believe that much of the success of the Tennessee Promise program is due to the amazing volunteer mentors who are critical to a student’s transition from high school to college,” said Jonathan Graham, Motlow Tennessee Promise director. “Mentors encourage students, direct them to important college resources, remind them of important deadlines necessary to enroll and receive financial aid, and hold them accountable in their pursuit of a better future.”

Whiting began his mentoring experience with seven students that were in their senior year at Smyrna High School. First by email, then in person, he developed relationships with each student as they began their journey to post-secondary education.

“As I began the process of mentoring, it brought back great memories I have of my very first day of college and the anticipation of the life-changing experiences to come,” said Whiting. “When I learned about the (mentoring) program and the opportunity to volunteer, that’s the first thing that crossed my mind; it would be a wonderful way to help incoming students with big dreams have a smooth transition to college, while reliving a few of my own unforgettable memories.”

According to Whiting, the leadership at tnAchieves has been outstanding, starting with a well-organized and encouraging orientation to the program. Mentors begin by selecting a high school for their mentees and attending a one-hour training session with overview, instruction, and question and answers. A wide range of dates, times and locations are available, making the process quite easy.

“With so many ‘to-dos’ with stringent deadlines,” said Whiting, “you can see how valuable a mentor can be in helping secure bright futures for Tennessee Promise students…and it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of our time. I’m happy to know there are a host of other Motlow faculty and staff members who have volunteered, and even happier to know that our mentees are attending college at Motlow.”

The administration of Motlow is grateful to all employees who have volunteered as mentors, as expressed by Dr. Torrence, “Thank you to all Motlow employees who make time to personalize this mission.”

The following Motlow employees have currently volunteered to serve as a mentor:

Malek Abunaemeh, Ashley Bradley-Roland, Josh Caldwell, LaTanya Collins, Grace Comp, Angela Cox, Robert Davenport, Karla Diggs, Nancy Dodson, Stacy Dowd, Peter Dowd, Melody Edmonds, Lori Fisher, Elizabeth Fitch, Gregg Garrison, Shawn Gilbreath, Jonathan Graham, Andrea Green, Misty Griffith, Janice Harder, Paige Hendrickson, Lisa Herring Mayo, Sidney Hill, Winifred Howell, Emily Hughes, Cindy Jackson, Megan Johnson, Maged Joseph, Mary Leinard, Roger Merritt, Natalie Miller, Laura Monks, Kirsten Moss-Frye, Rebecca Richey, Charoline Simmons, Debra Smith, Chatney Spencer, Debbie Stockdale, Beth Swallows, Steven Thompson, Angelique Troelstrup, Hilda Tunstill, Jerry Tunstill, David Vaughan, Charles Whiting, Tammy Wiseman, and Lane Yoder.

Anyone interested in becoming a tnAchieves mentor should go to tnachieves.org/mentors/apply, or contact Jonathan Graham at jgraham@mscc.edu or 615-220-7839.