Reconnect Now at Pellissippi State allows spouses a path to better selves

Melody and Thomas Smith
Melody and Thomas Smith

In Blount County, Thomas and Melody Smith raised two children and emphasized the importance of a college education to them — although they did not have a college degree themselves.

After their children graduated, the opportunity for Thomas or Melody to enroll in college seemed like a pipe dream. They both had jobs, children and then grandchildren, and they had already worked hard to afford college for their children. It seemed that financial and time constraints would always keep them from a college degree.

Then, earlier this year, they began to see billboards for Reconnect Now at Pellissippi State Community College. Thomas and Melody jumped at the chance.

“When we heard about Reconnect Now, I researched it and told my husband that we would be crazy to pass this up,” Melody said. “It’s our chance to better ourselves as people and at our jobs.”

“We could not have afforded college for ourselves without Reconnect Now,” Thomas said.

Reconnect Now is Pellissippi State’s last-dollar scholarship that covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for qualified adults for the 2017-18 academic year. Participating, qualified students will roll into Tennessee Reconnect when it launches in fall 2018.

Melody, who is a receptionist at Helen Ross McNabb Center Outpatient Services, is studying Administrative Professional Technology with a Medical Office concentration. Thomas, who works for DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, is studying Engineering Technology with a concentration in Automated Industrial Systems.

“I work at DENSO in manufacturing, and a lot of the stuff they’re doing now I am still training on. There are people on my line who do engineering work, and that’s what I’d like to do. I can learn at Pellissippi the technology skills needed to use these new machines,” Thomas said. “I’ve gone as far as I can without a degree, and I’d like to do something different.

“I wish I had come back to college sooner, though I have had a learning curve when it comes to computers and all of that. The last time I was in school, we had spiral notebooks and pencils. The teachers have been wonderful to answer questions and offer tutoring. It’s been really good,” he added.

“It has been tough sometimes to be back in school after 35 years, but it feels good; it feels like an accomplishment,” Melody said. “I think the first few weeks we were both wondering what we had gotten ourselves into! Now we’re into a routine. We know we can do it.”

Both have learned new computer skills as they progressed through their classes, and have found help through resources like tutoring and mentoring in the Educational Resources Center at Pellissippi State. They have also found support from their son and daughter — and even their grandchildren. The couple, married for 31 years, returned to school at the same time their granddaughters, both six years old, entered kindergarten and first grade.

“They were so nervous to start school, so we were able to tell them that we were starting school, too. The only difference is that we don’t take a big yellow school bus to school,” Melody said. “When they have quizzes the same week I do, they will call to ask me how I did on my test. They ask me how many answers I missed and tell me what they missed. I tell them that we can both study and work harder and do better next time.

“Our children, family and friends are so encouraging. They call to check on us, support us and ask if we need help with homework. They are very proud of us and recognize what a huge step this is for us.”

For Melody and Thomas, Reconnect Now has opened the door to a life they did not think was possible for them, though they spent years ensuring it was available for their children. They do not take the opportunity lightly.

“It feels good to take a chance. We can do this. We’re not going to give up,” Melody said.

For more information about Reconnect Now at Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu/reconnect or call 865-694-6400.

Pellissippi State invites Blount County community to ‘Take Back the Night’

Pellissippi State Community College invites the community to “Take Back the Night” at a rally, speak out and vigil from 5:30-8:30 p.m., Oct. 19, at the Blount County Public Library.

Take Back the Night is an international campaign to raise awareness of domestic, relationship and sexual violence. The Blount County event will feature a rally and walk that will start at the Blount County Public Library and process up and down Broadway Avenue. Also at the library, the Maryville Police Department will demonstrate safety and self-defense techniques, and community agencies will present resources for victims of domestic, relationship and sexual violence. The event’s main speaker is from the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee. The event is not suggested for those under age 18.

“Take Back the Night can be empowering and healing,” said Kim Thomas-LaRue, director of Student Life at Pellissippi State and planner of the event. “We hope to bring about awareness of domestic violence — and if we can help even one person, then this night will be a success.”

The Blount County Public Library is located at 508 N. Cusick Street in Maryville.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. For more information about the Blount County Public Library, visit www.blountlibrary.org or call 865-982-0981.

Pursue lifelong learning at Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus

Explore Appalachian history, learn more about investing or even master basic digital photography skills through lifelong learning classes at Pellissippi State Community College’s Blount County Campus throughout the month of September.

Two classes in the “Our Appalachia” series will explore the history and biology of East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Each class will grant attendees 1.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs), which may count towards teacher continuing education requirements.

  • Critters in the Coves and on the Crags — Wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains, 6:15-8:15 p.m., Tuesdays, Sept. 12-Oct. 24. Cost is $89 plus a $15 materials fee. Learn the lore and legends regarding wildlife in the Smokies.
  • Family, Faith & Freedom — The Scots-Irish in the Southern Mountains, 6:15-8:15 p.m., Mondays, Sept. 11-Oct.23. Cost is $89 plus a $15 materials fee. Explore the heritage of the Scots-Irish in Appalachia.

Other non-credit courses offered beginning in September:

  • Basic Digital Photography, 6:15-8:15 p.m., Thursdays, Sept. 14-Oct. 12. Cost is $119. Learn the basics of exposure, composition, lighting and color theory. Bring your own digital SLR or point-and-shoot camera with manual mode.
  • Demystifying Investing, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 28. Cost is $39. Explore the investment tools and strategies that can help you reach your financial goals.

For more information about lifelong learning at Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs or call 865-539-7167.  To request accommodations for a disability for one of these classes, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or accommodations@pstcc.edu.

Pellissippi State has record enrollment in fall 2017

Students in Courtyard

Pellissippi State Community College will see record enrollment this fall.

When classes begin August 28, approximately 11,571 students will walk onto Pellissippi State’s five campuses — which reflects an increase in enrollment of about 10.4 percent over the same day last year.

This fall, the college launched Reconnect Now, a last-dollar scholarship for qualified adult students that covers tuition and mandatory fees. About 2,706 students are eligible for Reconnect Now funding.

The college’s previous record high enrollment was 11,260 in 2011. Pellissippi State has been the largest community college in Tennessee since 2015.

“Our pilot of Reconnect Now has proven that adults in Tennessee have waited for an opportunity like this,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “Pellissippi State is proud to open the doors of education to everyone.”

Headcount enrollment is up at all five of Pellissippi State’s campuses in Knox and Blount counties, and is up almost 50 percent online.

“Covering the cost of tuition and fees does not meet all of the needs of adults with jobs, families and lives outside of school,” Wise said. “We have expanded the classes and programs we offer online, in the evenings and on weekends to fit adults’ schedules, and we’re pairing adult learners with support services like free child care for qualified single parents, credit for prior learning and even an academic fresh start if they’ve tried college before unsuccessfully.”

Pellissippi State’s Reconnect Now program will last through summer 2018. Next fall, qualified Reconnect Now students at Pellissippi State will transfer into the state’s Tennessee Reconnect scholarship program.

The official enrollment numbers for the semester will be determined and released on September 11.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

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