Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How well do you play in the sandbox?

tnAchieves recently hosted career panels at some community colleges across the state.  We invited tnAchieves Scholars to hear from professionals working in fields related to their academic programs. Panelists shared personal experiences entering and navigating the workforce.  Students received tips for the job search how to prepare for an interview.

tnAchieves students with career panelists from Cleveland State Community College.

Some of our favorite advice for the interview process include:
  • Apply and interview somewhere that you might not have intentions of accepting the job. You still gain interviewing experience.
  • Body language accounts for over 60% of first impressions. This means a firm handshake, eye contact, and good posture are key.
  • Research the organization you are interviewing. Be prepared to ask questions to them – not just answer about yourself.
  • Clean social media is vital. You would be surprised how many people can access your personal information. Google yourself to see!

Panelists agree that simply having a degree will not guarantee you a job. Employers look for other soft-skills that include:
  •          “Be a self-starter.” The means asking for help and not waiting for someone to solve a problem for you.
  •       “How well do you play in the sandbox?” This tests how well you work on a team.
  •       “Not many jobs are 9am-5pm nowadays.” Be prepared to work until the job is complete.
  •       “A dose of PMA will go a long way: Positive Mental Attitude!"
  •       “Communication, communication, communication.” Use your time in college to develop both written and verbal communication skills. These are necessary for any and all jobs!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

College > Work

As you near high school graduation you might be wondering, why go to college when I can begin working and earning money now? I can assure you that you are among many other students asking themselves the same question. To some, 2 years or even 4 years may sound like an eternity, but look back on your high school years— how fast did they fly by? Acquiring a post-secondary credential will open up a whole new world of opportunities and create a much brighter future for you.

So, why college > work?

1.       Better opportunities:   

In this today’s workforce there are not nearly as many opportunities for high school graduates as there are for people with a post-secondary education. College provides opportunity for students to further their knowledge in all subjects and helps them to grow as professionals, giving them an edge as they enter the working world. Having a college degree increases the number of job opportunities for which a person might be qualified. In addition, once a student lands a job they will also have the knowledge and experience to receive promotions and grow quickly within the company.

2.       Higher salary:

People work to earn money and provide a living for themselves. It is a statistical fact that college graduates have a higher earning potential than individuals without a college degree.


As you can see, having a college degree will significantly increase the amount of money you can earn. In general, college graduates earn more money and receive better benefits.

3.       Networking:

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” In college there are countless opportunities to meet new people, and the relationships you build can create opportunities for you as you enter the working world. Having a connection in an organization may be the difference between getting an interview.
Many employers would prefer to interview someone that was referred to them by someone that they know.

 While in college you can join clubs or associations that are related to your major, another great way to network. People who you speak to daily, like classmates and professors, can even be connections that may lead to a potential job. These are connections you otherwise may not have made if you did not attend college. Using college to grow your professional network will be an invaluable tool to help you in your future.

College is not always easy, but you can be rest assured that the hard work will pay off and you will have a brighter future because of it! 


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How to be a Good College Student #tnAchieves Style!

Your grades will suffer if you skip class in college. If you must a miss class, tell your instructor beforehand and then make sure you get the notes and assignments from a classmate. You will not have time during class hours to do homework or study – you are expected to do that on your own time! Plan to study or do homework for 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour you are in the classroom.

Instructors are more likely to help you if they know you! Taking good notes, listening, and engaging with your instructors will increase your chances of getting a good grade in the class. No one will know you are struggling unless you speak up. Talk to your instructor if you need help. Call tnAchieves!

A syllabus includes test dates. Mark these on your calendar! It will include the attendance policy, materials you might need, and the grading scale. The syllabus also includes your professor’s contact information and office hours in case you need extra help outside of class.

Your college is full of resources to help you succeed in college. Most campuses have math labs, writing centers, tutoring centers, advisors and counselors that are free for college students! Familiarize yourself with these resources and use them often.

As you are already learning, college is very different from high school. Now is the time to live and learn independently. Keep a planner with all assignments, test dates, and important things to remember. Your instructors will expect you to act like an adult, so organize yourself like one! It will pay off in the long run!


   Read your Monday Email! This is where you will find information about community service opportunities, the ambassador program, etc.

  Contact us if you are struggling, have questions, or are doing well. We love to hear from you!

   Follow @tnAchieves on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on #tnAchieves deadlines and tips for college success.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Blindfolds, rock walls, some questionable poison ivy, & ROCKSTARS!

The transition from high school to college can often be a confusing journey. Remembering deadlines, turning in all required documents, creating a class schedule - it can all seem overwhelming at times. 

However, tnAchieves students have a certain advantage. High school counselors, and college personnel, and tnAchieves staff and mentors all share a mission of helping students navigate this process. 

Another resource? tnAchieves Ambassadors! tnAchieves Ambassadors are scholarship recipients who represent the program through leadership, team building, and mentoring.
Earlier this month, tnAchieves hosted several "kick-off" events for our newest Ambassadors. The first group got to experience the Marvyille College Mountain Challenge. Students explored the woods in teams with other Ambassadors from their college. 

They were tasked with completing activities that tested their patience and creativity - such as the "human seesaw," the "spider web," and the WALL.

The most successful groups were those who worked as a team. Check out this rather humorous video of one group attempting a "balancing act" - aka Human Seesaw!

One student said she enjoyed the Mountain Challenge because "we were forced out of our groups and had to get to know complete strangers and learn along the way."

Another group came to Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, TN for a clean-up event. These students volunteered to sift through rotten wood, an old barn, and some questionable poison ivy. Ijams staff members nicknamed these students the "Special Ops of tnAchieves!"

Shelby County Ambassadors spent the day with Team BRIDGES in Memphis, TN. BRIDGES "unites and inspires diverse young people to become confident and courageous young leaders committed to community transformation." Students learned more about how to be a leader on campus and worked together to complete some rather difficult tasks, including lifting each other to the top of the Memphis Grizzlies Climbing Wall. 

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell kicked off the event with some encouraging words!

Congratulations to the 189 ROCKSTAR students serving as 2014 tnAchieves Ambassadors. These students will continue to assist tnAchieves with special events, including attending and giving advice to new college freshmen during this summer's New Student Orientations. We are so proud of you!

View more photos from Ambassador Retreats here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Editorial from tnAchieves Executive Director, Krissy DeAlejandro

Commercial Appeal Guest column: tnAchieves helps forge pathway to higher education

By Krissy DeAlejandro, Special to The Commercial Appeal
Sunday, December 1, 2013

I am a first-generation college graduate. In fact, I am one of very few from my mother’s family to complete high school. I am from rural Tennessee. My parents still live in the small town where I grew up. With my mom completing only her sophomore year and my daddy only graduating from high school, we lived a simple life.
The opportunity to receive a postsecondary credential changed my life. As a low-income first-generation student, I am proof that pursuing and achieving a degree can end a family’s cycle of discounting the value of higher education. Because the opportunity was given to me, my children will never face the obstacles of college access that so many students across our state confront. 
With students like me in mind, the founders of the tnAchieves scholarship program made a bold decision one August afternoon in 2008. Against outside expert advice, they unanimously decided that a program seeking to “change lives and transform communities” must not place parameters around acceptance. Thus, the initial program in Knoxville, known as knoxAchieves, launched with the mission of giving every student the opportunity to pursue an education beyond high school with both financial and mentor support. 
In only three years, knoxAchieves supported nearly 1,300 students into enrollment in a community college. More than 65 percent were the first in their families to attend college. The program’s first class has an impressive 52-percent persistence rate in college, with a graduation rate higher than the state and national averages. 
Recognizing this early success, the tnAchieves board, with encouragement from Gov. Bill Haslam and support from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, expanded into 22 additional Tennessee counties in 2011. This new phase of college access and success launched tnAchieves, a program that has sent nearly 6,500 students to a postsecondary institution — including more than 1,000 in Shelby County. 
With the addition of Metro Nashville Public Schools, tnAchieves offers last-dollar scholarships with mentor guidance in 27 counties to nearly 50 percent of Tennessee’s graduating high school seniors. This means tuition cost should no longer be an obstacle when a student is deciding to attend a community or technical college. 
The scholarship funding is obviously critical. I believe it is the incentive that sparks a student’s thought of pursuing a postsecondary credential; however, we believe the mentoring component is the reason behind the success of tnAchieves. Each applicant is assigned a mentor who assists in eliminating the barriers associated with access to a postsecondary education. The mentor supports the student through admission and financial aid paperwork, motivates the student to meet deadlines, and perhaps most important, encourages the student to reach his or her potential. 

Without the guidance from our volunteer mentors, many of the students would slip through the cracks associated with the transition from high school to a postsecondary institution.

Too often, our students are not assured that college is within their reach. There is no incentive to persist with their education after high school because they cannot envision the possibility of walking onto that college campus, assuming the life of a college student, and being the first in their family to graduate from college. These are lofty and far-fetched goals. 

In a short time, however, tnAchieves mentors positively influence students’ perception about postsecondary life and ultimately about themselves. 

Since launching in 2011, nearly 1,050 Memphis and Shelby County students have entered either Southwest Tennessee Community College or the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Memphis with financial and mentor support from tnAchieves. With donations from Memphis businesses, foundations and individuals, the program is working to pair nearly, 4,500 applicants with a volunteer mentor. 

To accomplish the governor’s goal of reaching a 55-percent postsecondary attainment rate, however, tnAchieves needs support from communities in all 95 of Tennessee’s counties. 

Leading tnAchieves is a gift. Since 2008, I have spent the greater part of each day promoting this bold idea that every student, regardless of family income, ZIP code and even academic preparedness, deserves the opportunity to receive a college credential. I read all the reports and appreciate all the statistics surrounding the success of specific student demographics; however, multiple times a day, I witness the power of intervention, the influence of encouragement, and the impact of support. 

My vision is to eliminate the predetermined destiny of our state’s students based on their socioeconomic status. I want to promise them a better quality of life and the ability to make a lasting impact in their communities by providing the resources necessary for success. 

All Tennessee students deserve the support that tnAchieves offers. It changed my life. It will change our students’ lives and transform our state. 

Krissy DeAlejandro is executive director of tnAchieves.