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 No. 4 in nation for study abroad

Coby Wester
Pellissippi State student Coby Wester in Street Art Alley, also called “Graffiti Alley” in Hackescher Markt in Berlin during a study abroad trip.

Pellissippi State Community College is ranked number four in the nation among community colleges for study abroad, according to the 2017 Open Doors Report.

This is the sixth year in a row that the college has appeared in the top five for the number of students who studied abroad. It is the only community college in the southeast to be recognized in the Open Doors Report.

Pellissippi State student Coby Wester studied photography and videography in Germany through a study abroad trip with the college and the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies. He created a portfolio of photos as well as a video of the trip, in which he interviewed residents of Munich and Bavaria about their lives.

“What I took away most from the trip were the connections I made with the people I traveled with — people who went to Pellissippi but I never knew. We’re all still connected,” Wester said. “It’s this unifying moment of being part of this new, shared unexplored territory in our lives.”

Wester related a story of visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp with a friend who is Jewish. “There’s a noticeable atmospheric change there. Being part of that with her, and being there for her, was a humbling experience.

“I think going on study abroad programs pushes people’s limits to explore who they can fully be. It’s amazing to be part of that with the people around you,” Wester said. “I love studying abroad; I’d love to go back.”

Pellissippi State sent 166 students to study abroad in summer 2016 to sites across Europe and Asia as well as South Africa, Cuba, Peru and Brazil.

According to the Open Doors Report, the college led the state in international student enrollment among community colleges, with 101 students in 2015-16. Only two other community colleges were recognized for international enrollment in Tennessee.

Study abroad programs at Pellissippi State are organized through the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies, which is housed at the college. TnCIS serves all community colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system, organizing study abroad opportunities as part of its mission of boosting international experience and culture in higher education across the state.

For more information about TnCIS, visit www.tncis.org or call 865-539-7279. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

Castle Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, photographed by Coby Wester while studying abroad.

 

 

Pellissippi State students win regional debate competition

posted in: Academics, Awards, Students, TBR | 0
Pellissippi State Community College Debate Team with faculty adviser Shaquille Marsh, center.

Pellissippi State Community College’s student Debate Team won Berea College’s John G. Fee Memorial Forensics Tournament, a novice National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) Competition, earlier this month.

The competition is hosted by Berea College and included teams not only from Berea, but from Berry College, Butler University, Carson-Newman University, Cedarville University, Cleveland State Community College, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Walters State Community College and the University of Kentucky.

Dustin Paul
Dustin Paul

Debater Dustin Paul won the debate even though he competed alone in a team competition. His debate record throughout the competition was 7-0, with a 4-0 in the preliminary rounds. He beat a team from Berea College in the quarterfinals, semi-finals and finals. In the final round, the judges voted for him 3-0.

Pellissippi State also took home the Top Community College Award for NPDA Debate. The team of Robert Taylor and Preston Waggoner took turns debating in favor of, or against, a given topic related to current events. The students were given only 15 minutes to prepare for the debate, which lasted 40 minutes. Each student delivered a series of speeches based upon persuasive fact, persuasive value or persuasive policy topics.

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

Pellissippi State launches Weekend College

Pellissippi State Community College — extending its outreach to adult and nontraditional college students — will launch a Weekend College starting with the spring 2018 semester.

Weekend College will include credit courses and free non-credit classes. Registration for spring credit classes opens Oct. 30.

“This semester, Pellissippi State paved the way for adult students to come to college free of tuition, but we understand that finances are not the only hindrance to adults enrolling in college,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “For adults and working students, traditional class times simply do not fit the bill.”

Weekend College is part of Pellissippi State’s ongoing outreach to adult students, which includes the launch of Reconnect Now this fall. Reconnect Now is a last-dollar scholarship that covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for qualified adults. Students who participate in the program at Pellissippi State this year may roll into the Tennessee Reconnect program when it launches in fall 2018.

“Weekend College opens the doors to more adult and nontraditional students. Saturday classes will make earning a college degree from Pellissippi State easier than ever,” Wise said.

All Weekend College classes will be offered at the college’s Magnolia Avenue Campus, 1610 E. Magnolia Ave.

Weekend College will launch with general education and other courses, from English Composition and Survey of Math Principles to General Psychology, Introduction to Electronic Health Records and Social Welfare. Through weekend-only classes, students can earn a general transfer degree or an associate degree in Early Childhood Education, Accounting, Business Administration or Social Work.

This semester, Pellissippi State piloted free lifelong learning (non-credit) classes at its Magnolia Avenue Campus, including options from Women’s Self Defense to Smart Cycling Traffic Skills, presented with the Jeff Roth Cycling Foundation. This spring, the college will offer more free non-credit classes each Saturday.

For more information about Weekend College at Pellissippi State, call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability for one of these classes, call 865-539-7401 or email accommodations@pstcc.edu.

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