Pellissippi State Community College has recognized Vrondelia “Ronni” Chandler as its Distinguished Alumni Award winner for 2016.
Chandler is the executive director and CEO of Project GRAD, which focuses on increasing academic achievement, high school graduation rates and college-going and success rates for students from 14 of Knoxville’s urban schools.
Pellissippi State’s Distinguished Alumni Award is given to an individual in recognition of significant professional achievement, service to the community and support of the College and the Pellissippi State Foundation.
Chandler is both a graduate and former employee of Pellissippi State.
She began working at Pellissippi State in 1978, just four years after the College opened its doors at Division Street as State Technical Institute at Knoxville.
“I served in a number of different positions while at Pellissippi State. I was administrative assistant to the president, then admissions coordinator, then minority student affairs coordinator and finally the director of community outreach and engagement at the Magnolia Avenue Campus,” Chandler said.
She went back to school at Pellissippi State in the early 1990s.
“My degree was unfinished business,” Chandler said. “I went to UT the year after I graduated from high school, but my mom got sick and I withdrew. I always wanted to complete my college education.”
Chandler graduated from Pellissippi State in 1994, earning a general associate’s degree before transferring to Tusculum College, where she earned her bachelor’s in business and organizational management.
“The time I had the opportunity to be at Pellissippi State laid a great foundation for me and has had a great influence on me as a leader,” Chandler said. “I’ll forever be part of the Pellissippi State family.”
She has worked at Project GRAD Knoxville since its inception in 2001, first as a program director and now as executive director. Pellissippi State partners with Project GRAD each summer to host a Summer Institute for students from Austin-East and Fulton high schools; more than 2,000 students have gone through the program.
“I’ve always had a love of leadership and coaching others, helping them to grow. I get that opportunity at Project GRAD. Who we are is in our name: Graduation Really Achieves Dreams,” Chandler said.
Since Project GRAD was founded in 2001, the graduation rate at Fulton and Austin-East high schools increased from about 50 percent to more than 80 percent. Approximately 57 percent of those students now go on to postsecondary education, and the completion rate for those students in higher education is 46 percent — far higher than the national average of 10 percent for students from low-income circumstances.
Chandler will speak at Pellissippi State’s December Commencement ceremony as the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award winner.
For more information about Pellissippi State Alumni, visit www.pstcc.edu/alumni or call 865-539-7275.
Download this press release: Distinguished Alum Ronni Chandler