John Snope drives an hour and a half each way to take classes in Paralegal Studies at Pellissippi State Community College’s Division Street Campus.
“I pass other places with paralegal programs, but after doing the research, I believe that Pellissippi State has the best one in the area,” said the Monterey resident.
The drive is paying off for Snope, the 59-year-old father of three grown children, as it is for his classmate Karen Yearwood, who lives in Clinton. Both recently were awarded a $500 Smoky Mountain Paralegal Association scholarship, given each year to only two students statewide.
Like many of his peers, Snope has experienced his share of layoffs in the past couple of decades. So when he returned to college, he thought carefully about what career he would pursue.
“I worked for many years selling pharmaceuticals to veterinarians, and as a veterinarian’s assistant. I recognized the need for legal advice, even for a veterinarian,” he said. “I’m young enough that I need a career and old enough to make a wise choice in what it will be.”
Paralegal Studies is a two-year program that prepares graduates to work in a law office under the direct supervision of an attorney, doing legal work such as drafting legal documents, organizing files, conducting legal research and investigations, and managing the office.
Until recently Paralegal Studies student Karen Yearwood was a stay-at-home mom.
“My husband ended up on disability,” said the mother of an 8- and 11-year-old. “I could either sit home and feel sorry for myself or go back to school and get a job,” she said. “I took a Myers-Briggs survey and found out I was perfectly suited for the paralegal field.
“My great-grandfather, James Sterling Inklebarger, was a self-taught judge in Union County, so it made me look back to him. I thought, ‘If he’s a self-taught judge, I can go back to school and do this.’
“I’m thrilled with the Paralegal program. I’m new to the legal field, so I’m learning vocabulary as well as the law. The instructors in the program are very supportive and at the same time pushing us to give our very best.”
Now Yearwood’s husband is in school full time at the University of Tennessee, and the couple takes turns doing laundry and picking up the kids.
“I never dreamed I’d have to go back to school,” she said, “but it’s a family thing. Everybody supports everybody else.”
To be eligible for the SMPA scholarship, students must be enrolled full time in a Sustaining Member educational institute or be an SMPA student member. They also must have completed 6 hours of study in their major and be in good academic standing.
“We are proud of these students for their hard work and commitment to the profession,” said Arlene Cleveland, professor and program coordinator of Paralegal Studies at Pellissippi State.
SMPA is affiliated with the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. Although its focus is on the paralegals in the East Tennessee area, from the Cumberland Plateau to the eastern, northeastern and southeastern borders of the state, the organization welcomes members from anywhere in Tennessee and the surrounding states.
Paralegal Studies offers a core of general education and a core of legal specialty courses designed for paralegals. Pellissippi State’s program is approved by the American Bar Association, and it culminates in an Associate of Applied Science degree.
For more information about the program, contact Cleveland at (865) 971-5225 or email@example.com.