Archive for the ‘College & Career’ Category

College Knowledge lunches resume; registration open

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

PEF is reaching out the community and businesses to provide important information on preparing for college & careers. One of the ways we’re doing this is by hosting, in partnership with businesses, the College Knowledge Lunch Breaks. Sessions run from noon to 1 p.m., providing a convenient time for parents, counselors, and other community members to quickly gain valuable knowledge they can share with young people in their lives.

The first “lunch and learn” will be Wednesday, September 24th at PEF on Resume Writing & Interviewing Skills. Larry Tong, Assistant Vice President of Benefits, and Shawnel Rogers, Director of Benefits, will be joining us from Unum to bring their unique employer perspectives.

As students complete their senior year in high school or college they’ve built a wealth of knowledge and skills.  An area that doesn’t get a lot of attention, until students seek employment, is fundamental resume writing and interviewing skills. We’ll discuss the resume and interview from the employer’s perspective during an interactive session:

1) What does an employer look for in a resume and interview?  A basic understanding will help students be strategic with their preparation and build their confidence.

2) Insight to be shared—do’s and don’ts in your resume / interview, cover letters, key business words, social media, elevator speech, professionalism, etc.

A buffet lunch is available for $5 or participants may bring their own lunch; sessions are FREE but online registration is requested.

Subsequent workshops will take place at businesses in the community. We are looking for businesses to provide space so that we bring in experts to talk about college & career related topics to its employees and the general public. For more information about hosting a College Knowledge Lunch Break, contact Janice Neal at 423.668.2423.

 - Stacy Lightfoot, Vice President, College & Career Success

PEF’s Stacy Lightfoot organizes GEAR UP conference

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Did you know PEF’s Vice President of College and Career Success, Stacy Lightfoot, organized the TN GEAR UP Youth Summit? Building on years of experience working with high school students, this conference focused on eight graders and their options for college. See Stacy at about 1:30 in the video below.

The Learning Lab: Summer 2014 Camp College

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Sewanee, how I love ya
It was way too late to be in Sewanee, and on a weeknight no less. The room was loud and filled with peoplepeople. Many of them had just met, yet they conversed like old friends. They were from many backgrounds, age brackets and universities, yet they ALL had the same kind of energy and vibe. We’ll call it “frenetic grace” for lack of a better descriptor. They gathered together in a home on the Sewanee campus to get their marching orders for the next three days. They were a collection of college admissions counselors, officers and similarly informed individuals, and they had agreed to serve as Camp College faculty to approximately 50 Hamilton County rising seniors from Thursday through Saturday. I was there as part of their orientation to go over some student data they would use later in the week. When I arrived at the orientation, I was wiped out by a long drive at the end of a long day. I left the orientation recharged and ready to take on the world. That’s the kind of energy these people have, the take-on-the-world kind, and they were going to expend and transfer every bit of it on students who will be heading off to college this time next summer.

Plan your work and work your plan
Research shows first-generation and low-income students often do not have support structures that go along with “next-level” knowledge, with no one to guide them through the postsecondary application, admissions, housing and financial aid processes. The Camp College experience provides this missing guidance and support for low-income students who have the drive and potential to succeed at college but who, because of their families’ economic conditions, are very likely to not attend postsecondary school, much less succeed with an eventual college diploma. Among the program’s key components are financial aid access, process sessions and college choice guidance designed to make sure students select the “best fit” for them academically and socially, both elements addressing key predictors of college access and success. In addition to Camp College participants’ high matriculation and retention rates, 98 percent of participants receive some form of scholarship or aid. In fact, the average total amount of aid awarded to participants each year is $2 million.

Matriculation and retention
Camp College participants, representing Hamilton County’s most economically disadvantaged students, attend and persist in college at higher rates than do national and local high-income comparison groups. Specifically, 84 percent of Camp College participants, all of whom complete and submit at least one college application, matriculate to a postsecondary school immediately following high school graduation. The national rate for students from similar economic conditions is approximately 51 percent. In fact, the Camp College participants’ 84 percent is 3 percentage points above the nation’s high-income student matriculation rate of 81 percent. Moreover, given postsecondary persistence trends, we expect less than half of low-income students to return to college for their sophomore year. Ninety-three percent of Camp College participants return for a second year of college, again bettering the nation’s 72 percent one-year persistence rate for high-income students. Camp College participants matriculate to college and persist. Finally, student participants regularly praise the experience for the fun and caring faculty and for providing opportunities to speak to actual admissions counselors in a one-on-one setting. Students realize what an opportunity it is to get pointers and feedback from people who make college admission decisions.

Piggy bank blues
Despite these impressive results, last year was almost Camp College’s last year. Even when people donate their time, serving 40 to 60 students over three summer days is expensive. The required materials, space and consumables add up quickly. Throw in faculty travel and room and board, and you have pricey program potential. The budget was so tight, in fact, that camp college faculty paid a $100 registration fee, while student participants were required to pay a $25 registration fee (which was more about the student’s commitment than the dough). Some of those in the group I described in paragraph one refused to let it go, and they reached down deep, called in favors and did a series of gut-checks to keep the program up and running. The good folks at Sewanee, who have already served as hosts and hostesses for the past 15 years, in collaboration with PEF, the Community Foundation of Greater, the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling did what it took to make it happen one more time.

Camp on
When I asked Stacy Lightfoot, the heartbeat of the Camp College program and vice president of College and Career Success here at PEF, if there was any talk of a 17th year, she shared with me the following quote from Sewanee Vice Chancellor Dr. John McCardell, who said in a speech Friday of this year’s sessions, “As long as I am vice chancellor, Sewanee will support this program.” Moreover, she said the faculty members are already buzzing about next year, and she’s received participation commitments from almost all the people who just finished this year’s commitment a little over a week ago. Laura Sensenig, a senior admissions counselor fromVanderbilt University and Camp College faculty member, reflected: “It’s one of my favorite events of the year. It’s inspirational and reminds me why I do what I do and how and why college access is so important.” There’s that energy again. Maybe it wasn’t as late as I thought. Maybe I just needed to pause a minute to catch my second wind. Maybe the faculty members really did transfer their energy to me. Whatever it was, it worked. Whatever it is, it works and it works to the benefit of Hamilton County students who need a plan to match their potential.

Director of Research and Effectiveness Keith White tells the stories behind the data. Keith’s columns will be featured on every other week as part of “The Learning Lab” series.

The Learning Lab: Not-so-lazy days of summer

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

I don’t know if it’s because it was always the first assignment when returning to school in the fall or if the summer’s heat baked them into place, but I have many fond memories of “what I did over summer vacation.”

Growing up in the country, there was no shortage of work, and, luckily, I liked outdoor activities that required enduring heat, allergen exposure and heavy lifting. Whether it was picking strawberries, mowing yards, serving as a roofer’s assistant, hauling hay or helping out around any number of building sites, each job brought a whole new set of experiences and challenges. Of course, some jobs were better than others, but regardless of how much more fun painting is than weeding a garden, I was always happy to learn a new skill.

Now, as an officially old person, I am very grateful to have had such a menu of good memories to not only reminisce about, but also rely on when any number of fatherly duties arises. More important than the specific things I learned to do was the confidence I built. Every summer, every new job gave me another chance to prove to myself I could learn, overcome challenges, invent on-the-spot solutions and push myself past where I thought I could go. I didn’t know it, but I was developing deep and positive self-efficacy.

Grittiness, which we’ve heard more about of late, is, in my opinion, a byproduct of self-efficacy; and more and more evidence, both formal and anecdotal, is supporting the importance of providing learners with opportunities to try, fail, succeed, try again, etc. Whether through hands-on academic activities, sports, art or music, providing opportunities in which students are free to fail and try again is important. Hamilton County educators, in preparation for higher standards, are doing what they can to provide these kinds of opportunities in organic and integrated ways. Ideally, these kinds of opportunities would exist in other settings as well: at home, during the summer, after school, etc.

OTJ training
One of the most encouraging and inspiring parts about working at the Public Education Foundation is that you get to witness, firsthand, the power of “free to fail” experiences and how they help kids (and grownups) learn and grow. Last summer, we had the privilege of hosting an Eichenthal fellow. This summer, we are hosting two recent Hamilton County graduates as they serve as interns, readying themselves for postsecondary and career success. Speaking of college and career success, our College and Career Access and Success teams, a collaborative effort between the Hamilton County Department of Education and PEF, provide students with opportunities to learn more about college access and key career components, and which postsecondary options may be the best fit. Our STEM work promotes and develops the kinds of skills we are talking about. Finally, the new Pathways to Prosperity initiative is completely dedicated to providing students and teachers with career experiences we know are important to the Southeast Tennessee economy.

What did YOU do over your summer vacation?
What roles or jobs could young people experience at your company? How could you provide opportunities for students to make positive summer job memories? If you are a parent, how could you promote grit and build self-efficacy in your kids? Finally, I would love to hear about summer job memories. What summer jobs do you remember, and what did you learn that you still use today?

Director of Research and Effectiveness Keith White tells the stories behind the data. Keith’s columns will be featured on every other week as part of “The Learning Lab” series.

Service learning for students subject of next College Knowledge lunch workshop

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Join us for the next College Knowledge lunch break on Thursday, April 24 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm. PEF Volunteer Coordinator Kate Skonberg will help participants learn how strategic volunteering can help students set themselves apart from the crowd.  It’s a competitive world, but through volunteering, students can gain valuable job skills, become eligible for scholarships, build career networks, and grow as a person.  Attendees will learn specific ways to find service learning and volunteer opportunities in Chattanooga and techniques toward maximizing each opportunity.

Register online today; a buffet lunch is available for $5 with advance registration only.

Applications open for Camp College 2014

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

There’s nothing quite like spending time on a college campus to jump start your plans for life after high school. For rising seniors, our Camp College initiative provides insight, guidance, support, and information for students and their families.

Camp College starts with a planning retreat on the beautiful Sewanee: The University of the South campus from July 17-19, 2014.  Admissions officers and college advisors from across the southeast work with students in small groups and one-on-one to cover all aspects of the college application and financial aid processes. Sessions include scholarship essay writing, college searches, and a mini-college fair, as well as opportunities to meet other students and preview campus life. Parents/guardians are invited to attend a financial aid workshop during the weekend – transportation is available for those planning to attend.

Students and volunteer group leaders will be housed in a dorm on Sewanee’s campus, just 45 minutes from Chattanooga. Transportation, rooms, meals, and materials are all paid by PEF, Sewanee, and other generous sponsors. For accepted students, there will be a $25 non-refundable enrollment fee.

Camp College will host up to 40 rising seniors who meet the following criteria:

  • Be on track to graduate in 2015;
  • Have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher; and
  • Have financial need and/or be the first in your family to attend college.

Applications are due by April 4 and participants will be selected by a committee of PEF staff members, community volunteers, and business leaders. Email us for more information – and apply today!

- Janice Neal, Program Associate

Spring College Knowledge series continues

Friday, January 31st, 2014

For many, the road to college seems confusing, intimidating, overwhelming and costly. Have no fear! PEF is here to help with our College Knowledge Lunch Breaks.

These FREE monthly sessions from noon to 1 pm offer knowledge about college to adults who work with or advise students on their journey to post-secondary education (parents, guardians, mentors, coaches, counselors, etc.).

Topics include:

  • Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - Resume Writing & Interviewing Skills
  • Thursday, March 13, 2014 - ACT/SAT: That is the Question
  • Thursday, April 24, 2014 - The Importance of Volunteering
  • Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - Support Students with Disabilities
  • Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - Parents, You Are Now A Passenger

Register online for these sessions – we can provide lunch for $5 or you may bring your own.  For more information, contact Stacy Lightfoot, Vice President of College & Career Success by email or 423-648-4443.

We’d love your help advertising these events; download a copy of the College Knowledge Flyer to distribute. 

College Knowledge workshop series continues with Financial Aid 101

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

A new year means new opportunities to learn! Our FREE College Knowledge lunch breaks resume at noon on Thursday, January 16 with Financial Aid 101.

Applying for financial aid is a very important step for many students. There is no escaping the fact that college costs are rising. Financial aid is intended to make up the difference between what your family can afford to pay and what college costs. More than half of the students currently enrolled in college receive some sort of financial aid to help pay college costs.

At this hour-long workshop, you’ll learn how the financial aid system works and how it can bridge the gap between what families can afford and the rising costs of college.

Rebecca Smith from the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga is the guest presenter and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this session for parents, advisors, counselors, and anyone wishing to support students as they plan for post-secondary education.

As always, you can reserve a lunch for $5 or bring your own.  Register online today to reserve your space!

- Stacy Lightfoot, Vice President of College and Career Success

Free conference on Jan 25: College Goal Tennessee 2014

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Join us for a FREE conference - “College Goal Tennessee 2014: Engineering Your Success

January 25th from 9:00am-1:00pm (registration opens at 8:30)
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga - University Center
E. 5th Street    Chattanooga, TN 37403

Register at

College Goal Tennessee 2014: Engineering Your Success is a free half-day conference (lunch provided), providing beneficial topics on financial literacy, choosing the right major, managing anxiety in college, social and emotional barriers to academic success, trends in college admissions and others. This conference is geared for high school students, college students, parents and educators (teachers, school counselors and advisors) and will confront real topics that affect the persistence of students in college.

At this conference, as part of College Goal Tennessee, free on-site assistance to file the Free Application For Student Aid (or FAFSA, required for all federal and state aid recipients) for high school seniors and current college students will be available (conference attendance is not required for FAFSA assistance).

Download a copy of the conference schedule

Sponsored by PEF, UTC, Young and Wiser, Inc., & SACAC

Download a PDF copy of the flyer below to share

College Going Saturday 2014 flyer

Meet Erin Jones, College Bound! at Lee University

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Editor’s note: this post is part of our College Bound! students series.  Throughout the year, you’ll hear about their experiences and catch a glimpse of college life through their updates.

Erin is in the striped dress, standing with girls from her dorm.

I have to say that there is far too much to just pick one thing that I like the best about Lee University. However, I think one of my top answers would be the community. I live in a dorm with community-style bathrooms, which means I have to walk down the hallway to shower or go to the bathroom that I share with about 20 other girls. I thought I was going to absolutely hate that, but in fact living in a dorm where you share everything with a group of girls is the best part! We have such a good community on our hall, our doors are always open, we are always sharing clothes, and it’s like having a sleep over every single night. I highly recommend staying in a community-style dorm as a freshman. But it’s not only in the dorms, everywhere on campus there is this feeling of community and home. There is always some event going on or even just studying in the Student Union, that allows you to interact with more and more people. I met so many people just sitting and studying out on the lawn. Even the professors are welcoming and encourage us to build relationships with them. I stop by my adviser’s office quite a bit, just to chat and talk about how I like things here at Lee.

However, my least favorite things would have to be the curfew and the cost of laundry. As a freshman here at Lee, I have a curfew of 12 am on weekdays and 1 am on the weekends that I stay in the dorm. I understand why it is necessary, but sometimes time can slip away from you when you’re out having fun with friends and you find yourself sprinting back to the dorm to make curfew check. Also, having to pay for my laundry is something that I do not enjoy at all. I mean, I’m a broke college student after all!

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss home at all, because after your fourth cafeteria meal during the week I really start to miss a nice home-cooked meal! However, I don’t miss home as much as I thought I would. I enjoy the freedoms that I have living on my own. It is an invigorating feeling, knowing that everything that you do is entirely left up to you! I decide if I want to go out one night or stay in, I no longer need to ask permission.

I am pretty much in love with everything here at Lee University. I love the community. I absolutely adore my roommate, she is practically my best friend now. However, I do have lots of friends where that is not the case and they still love it here as well. I have made so many friends and gotten so close to people in the span of about 3 months, that I feel like I have known these people my whole life. I also love the opportunities that we have here at Lee. There is literally a club for everything here from service, to one of the many choirs, or even to the film society, where all they do is put on movie showings with free food and discuss them afterwards. There is a graduation requirement here of having completed 80 hours of community service and it is truly amazing how fast you can get that done. There are always service projects going on, I myself have already been on 3 and have a total of 25 hours already. I traveled to Nashville one weekend to work with Feed the Children and we helped send out over 2,000 packages of food, toiletries, and emergency supplies to families in the South in need of these things. I also joined an intramural doubles tennis team and took second place in the tournament. I’m sure it’s true with any campus that there are always activities going on, but here at Lee there seems to be something to do every night.

The classes are also incredible. I am part of the Kairos Honors program here at Lee and so I have the opportunity to be in small, discussion based classes with around 12 other students. However, my regular classes don’t usually exceed around 50 students and I always feel like my professors have a good idea of who everyone is and they are always willing to answer your questions and let you voice your opinions.

I guess if there was one piece of advice that I would give to high school seniors, it’s that don’t slack off that last year. I feel like I didn’t study as much as I could have senior year and so it was hard for me to get into a good study routine in the first few weeks of college. It only took one bad test grade though for me to realize that unlike high school, whether or not I get an education is entirely up to me. I had to remember that one of the most important parts of college was the education and knowledge I would gain from class. So while it is easy to get carried away with all the social activities that are out there on campus every night, I have to make the tough choice to stay in and study on some nights.

- Erin Jones