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Pellissippi State allows Commencement speaker to pursue her passions

Anika Schultz with "Done!" shirt at Mini-Graduation Fair on April 28

Commencement speaker Anika Schultz celebrates with Pellissippi State faculty and staff at the College’s Mini-Graduation Fair on April 28.

Anika Schultz will speak at Pellissippi State’s spring 2022 Commencement ceremonies this weekend, but even though Schultz is only 19, it won’t be her first time addressing a crowd.

From testifying in front of the Tennessee General Assembly on behalf of a bill she wrote to bringing home a gold medal for Prepared Speech at the state’s SkillsUSA leadership conference, Schultz has spent her one year as a full-time student at Pellissippi State pursuing her passions of debate, government and public speaking. 

“I enjoyed everything I did so it rarely felt that I had overcommitted myself,” laughs Schultz, who is transferring to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, this fall to double major in communications and political science with a focus on public administration. “I always told myself that an opportunity not taken is a good opportunity lost. You never know what may come of it.” 

Originally from Chicago, Schultz moved to Knoxville when she was 13 and graduated from high school last year with a slew of college credits, thanks to dual enrollment courses. While Schultz knew coming into Pellissippi State last fall that she would only be at the community college for one academic year, she made the most of her time on campus, joining the Debate Team and serving as secretary for the Student Government Association. 

“You will never get anywhere in life if you don’t go out and make something of yourself, and that’s why I decided to get so involved in the first place,” says Schultz, who brought home the championship trophy at the Tennessee Valley Invitational Tournament in February with her debate partner Dylan Bass. “I would tell other students, ‘Take every opportunity that comes your way.’ For me, it taught me what I’m passionate about — specific things, like writing a bill showed me that I love policy and legislation. These are things I would not have known if I hadn’t got involved.” 

Getting involved can also help students make connections, she adds. 

“Connections in college are very important,” Schultz says. “Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know. Connections can get you internships and maybe even a job down the road.”  

Schultz considers Pellissippi State to have been “a tremendous launch pad” for her, and she especially thanked three faculty and staff members who influenced her this year: political science Instructor Jesse Cragwall, communications Assistant Professor Shaquille Marsh and Student Engagement and Leadership Director Matt Spraker. 

“Pellissippi State is a wonderful place because it puts students into an environment of faculty who truly care about the success of their students,” Schultz notes. “To me, the best part of Pellissippi State is the relationships I’ve made with faculty and all the ways in which they’ve helped me to grow. In fact, I’ve loved my time here so much that I am not ready to move on.”  

This is a marked difference from the high school senior who would have preferred to go straight to a four-year university, she admits. 

“I initially did not plan to go to Pellissippi State, but it has ended up being one of the best years of my life,” says Schultz, who calls testifying before the Tennessee General Assembly the “coolest” experience she’s ever had. “I have had so many amazing opportunities that I never imagined would happen, and all these things have pushed me to be the best student I could possibly be. I’ve grown through these opportunities, begun to prepare for my future career and have loved every single thing I’ve gotten to experience.”