Pellissippi State student meets President Obama, spreads message of hope

4 people standing in an office, smiling.
Ashley Albritton and her son, Mason, accept tickets to the Jan. 9 Presidential address on Friday, Jan. 9, from Pellissippi State Community College President L. Anthony Wise Jr., right, and Vice President of Student Affairs Rebecca Ashford, left.

Ashley Albritton sits down at her kitchen table each night to study with her 13-year-old son, Mason.

As an added incentive to succeed, they also compete with one another to get the highest grades—Ashley at Pellissippi State Community College and Mason at Farragut Middle School.

At the end of the semester, their report cards hang side by side on the refrigerator.

Ashley Albritton is busy knocking out the prerequisites to apply for nursing school. She enrolled at Pellissippi State in 2013, with strong encouragement from her sister.

“It was just Mason and I, and I had been working in hospice and home health, just getting by,” she said. “My younger sister told me that I needed to get back into the world.”

Her sister also helped her apply to Pellissippi State.

“When I first got here, I felt like it was a joke for me to be in college,” said Albritton, “like I wasn’t worthy to be here. But now I feel like this is all a dream. My son tells me that college has given me back the light in my smile, the light in my eyes.”

Female holding up a box.
Ashley Albritton, on stage for President Barack Obama’s address at Pellissippi State Community College on Friday, Jan. 9, holds up a small hope chest mentioned in Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr.’s opening remarks.

Albritton was seated on the stage when President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden visited Pellissippi State on Friday, Jan. 9. She shook President Obama’s hand from her place in the front row.

She had hoped to give the nation’s president a memento: a hope chest her father had given her when she was a child. Into this box, throughout her life, she has placed scraps of paper that represent all of her hopes and dreams.

“I want to give that box to someone else. The truth is, I can never say thank you enough to all the people who have helped me. I just hope to pass on my story so that it can help some other young woman follow her dreams.

“I don’t need my dream box anymore, because all of my dreams are coming true.”

Friday afternoon, Albritton gave the hope chest, instead, to Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., who had featured her in his introductory speech earlier that day.

“Ashley is truly an inspiration, both to other students and to me,” Wise said. “She has a sincere heart, and through her strength and compassion, she proves, each day, that everyone can follow their dreams.”

Albritton hopes to become a medical missionary. She believes that her purpose is to give back and to serve. When she graduates from Pellissippi State, she hopes to go on to earn her bachelor’s degree and then a master’s to be an advanced nurse practitioner.

For more information about Pellissippi State’s academic offerings or its 40th anniversary celebration, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State’s 40th anniversary: Former president remembers tenure

Male standing at a podium speaking with blue press background behind
J.L. Goins speaks during the kickoff ceremony for Pellissippi State Community College’s 40th anniversary celebrations in September.

“Overrun with success.” That’s how J.L. Goins remembers what’s now Pellissippi State Community College during his time as president of the institution.

This year, Pellissippi State celebrates four decades of service to the community, with the theme “Forty Years of Achieving Success, One Story at a Time.”

Goins was president from 1981 to 1993. Under his leadership, the school changed from State Technical Institute at Knoxville to Pellissippi State Technical Community College. During that time, the institution operated campuses on Division Street and Hardin Valley Road, and it offered classes in two different empty Blount County elementary schools and even a vacated building on the grounds of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute.

Goins recalls in particular the changes after the state legislature, in 1988, made State Tech a comprehensive community college. Enrollment promptly tripled, he says.
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“The Hardin Valley campus was finished in 18 months, which was a state record,” he said, “but still, we had to delay class a few weeks that fall so we could finish the buildings.
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“That first day, we watched for students nervously. By 8:15, students had filled every parking space we had—and still they came.”

Goins acknowledges the selfless contributions of faculty and staff in those years, when enrollment exceeded state funding and faculty members agreed to teach extra courses without pay to ensure no students were turned away.

He also recalls how the name “Pellissippi” was chosen. The name is said to come from a Cherokee word, “Pelisipi,” which means “winding waters” and refers to the nearby Clinch River.

“It wasn’t a typical name for a community college,” Goins said. “But it was a term that had a history in the community. We understood that we would be an anchor in the community, that we would be a leader in the growth of this area, and ‘Pellissippi’ fit that idea.”

It was during Goins’ term as president that the stage was set for Pellissippi State’s long history of workforce development.

“I spent a lot of time working to recruit businesses to the area,” he said, “because I understood that those businesses would be hiring our graduates.”
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Goins foresees that the next 40 years will bring continued growth to Pellissippi State. The college will “continue to change to meet the educational needs of our community, with programs like our culinary, music and art and with the much-needed advanced manufacturing training.”

Throughout the year, the college will host community events as well as other special occasions for students, faculty and staff. Students, alumni and community members are encouraged to share their positive stories and memories of Pellissippi State at On social media, use #PSCC40.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State recognizes Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

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Male in suit at table with paper on desk and pen in hand. 3 females are standing behind him.
Pellissippi State Community College President L. Anthony Wise Jr. signs a proclamation Thursday, Aug. 29, naming September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month on all Pellissippi State campuses. Joining him, from left, are College counselors Lisa Orient, Elizabeth Firestone and Kathleen Douthat.

Pellissippi State Community College has named September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month at all of its five campuses. President L. Anthony Wise Jr. signed the official proclamation on Thursday.

According to the Jed Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting emotional health and preventing suicide among college students, one in 10 college students has contemplated suicide at some point.

Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds and is the second leading cause among college-age students. Approximately 1,100 college students die by suicide each year.

“We want Pellissippi State students to be successful and hopeful,” said Wise. “Every student should know that our faculty and staff are here to help support them.”

As part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Pellissippi State counselors will offer programming designed to teach students how to recognize behaviors associated with vulnerability, depression and suicide contemplation.

In addition, counselors will visit classrooms by faculty request to facilitate question-persuade-refer training. QPR is designed to prevent suicide by providing support to the person in need.

“Mental illnesses are real, diagnosable and treatable,” said Elizabeth Firestone, director of Counseling at Pellissippi State. “More important, treatment of mental illnesses works—there is hope for recovery. Students who are feeling stressed, depressed or having suicidal thoughts can contact Counseling and find help.”

Pellissippi State joins the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network in its recognition of September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The network is a collaboration of Tennesseans and organizations working to eliminate the stigma of suicide, educate the community about the warning signs and ultimately reduce the rate of suicide in the state.

For more information about Pellissippi State’s Counseling Office, call (865) 694-6547 or visit

May 2013 graduates invited to celebration breakfast

posted in: Alumni, Graduation, President, Students | 0

All Pellissippi State students who are set to graduate next month are invited to celebrate their accomplishments by attending a Graduates’ Breakfast With the President.

Join other graduates and Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. for breakfast refreshments. All breakfasts are 9-10 a.m., and you can choose from the following dates and campus locations:

Wednesday, April 24, Magnolia Avenue Campus, Community Room

Tuesday, April 30, Hardin Valley Campus, Goins Building College Center

Wednesday, May 1, Blount County Campus, Dining Room

Friday, May 3, Division Street Campus, Dining Room

Graduates’ Breakfast With the President is sponsored by the Pellissippi State Alumni Association.

R.S.V.P. to Brooke Pannell, Alumni Relations coordinator, at (865) 539-7275 or

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