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Hope for a brighter future brings Barnett to Pellissippi State from Jamaica

Evaughn Barnett in cap and gown

Evaughn Barnett moved from his home country of Jamaica to attend Pellissippi State.

Evaughn Barnett was going to college in his home country of Jamaica, “but the future wasn’t looking too bright,” he says. The opportunity wasn’t there like it is in the United States, Evaughn explains, so he wanted to make a move. He contacted his godfather in Knoxville for some guidance.  

After an extensive search online, Evaughn decided on Pellissippi State.  

“There was something that stood out,” he remembers. “When I looked at the programs, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s actually what I’m into.’”  

With the help of former International Admissions specialist Patricia Higgins, Evaughn got his visa and all necessary documents in just a few weeks. By spring 2020, he was enrolled at Pellissippi State studying business.  

“It’s like a miracle that happened,” Evaughn says.  

The cultural differences between Jamaica and Knoxville made for a tremendous learning curve in the beginning, however.  

“I didn’t know anyone, didn’t have anyone to talk to, didn’t know what was normal,” Evaughn recalls.  

But after immersing himself in campus life, Evaughn learned to navigate both his classwork and American culture. 

With support from Higgins as well as Access & Diversity Specialist Nicole Cain, Assistant Professor Deborah Szwarc, Associate Professor Allison Stein, Start Strong Center Director Berry Shumpert III, Pellissippi State’s Black Men of Merit and others, Evaughn was able to get everything in place for graduation Dec. 9.  

Degree in hand, he plans to stay in Knoxville, at least for a little while. Evaughn is transferring to the University of Tennessee this spring to study business. He’s still deciding what he wants to do after graduation, but he knows that he wants to one day start his own business.  

“Being here has opened up my mind to new opportunities … to thinking out of the box,” Evaughn says. “Pellissippi State is a great starter for someone not from here.” 

Congratulations, Evaughn!

— Interview and photo by Jessie Tipton, visual media coordinator for Pellissippi State; story by Sam Comer, writer for Pellissippi State