Archive for the ‘College & Career’ Category

Passport Scholars share experiences on October 22; public invited

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Our Passport Scholars initiative helps high school girls set and achieve goals for their academic and life journeys. The girls enter the program with little exposure to the larger world, and after participating in a rigorous summer enrichment program they return more confident, capable and open-minded. With the opportunity to travel, meet new people and see new worlds, program participants are better equipped to make a difference in their own lives and communities. The summer experience lays a foundation upon which to build for college and for life.

This summer eleven Passport Scholars completed summer enrichment programs. Kalli Hall, who went to the Summer Scholars Academy at Texas Lutheran University, wrote, “I never thought I could learn so much in so little time! I’m having so much fun here and am so thankful for the opportunity!”

Stacy Lightfoot, program coordinator and Vice President of College & Career Success, said our girls represented themselves, their families, and PEF well at their programs.  Stacy recently received an email from Jessie Young, drawing teacher at the Putney School Summer Program, about Passport Scholar Hannah Kelley: “I’m going to miss you so much. You were so enjoyable to work with this summer both because you worked so hard and because your work was consistently so strong. Also, you were always so enjoyable to talk to, and I loved hearing all about your home and your family. I’m honored that you were willing to share so many personal stories, and I felt like I really got to know you over the past three weeks.”

As part of their ongoing Passport experience, Scholars present their summer learning expeditions during a poster showcase each fall. The public is encouraged to attend on Thursday, October 22 at 6 pm in the lobby of PEF, 100 E. 10th Street, in downtown Chattanooga. Refreshments will be served. For more information, email Stacy Lightfoot or call 423.648.4443.

Applications for the 2015-2016 class of Passport Scholars are due October 29.

2015 Camp College recap

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Fifty high school seniors from 16 different Hamilton County public high schools attended the 16th annual Camp College experience this summer. One summed up her thoughts this way: “Camp College is the greatest academic experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

2015 Camp College

Thanks to the generosity of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, this year students were able to experience a career exploration day before traveling to Sewanee: The University of the South. With some concrete career paths in mind, the two-and-a-half day on-campus retreat began with college essay writing workshops, continued as students experienced dorm and dining hall life, and ended with as much concentration on financial aid forms as the ever-popular talent show. Camp College relies on the generosity of faculty members from across the country who volunteer their time and expertise, as well as significant support from Sewanee.

While the retreat experience of Camp College is only for a few days, it has a lifelong impact: 93% of participants attend college (most are the first in their family to do so!), and even better, 98% return for their sophomore year – far exceeding peers with a family history of college attendance.

Watch this highlight video for a glimpse inside the Camp College program. Then, consider a gift in support of this vital program.

Stacy Lightfoot to testify before Senate committee on May 6; video available

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

PEF Vice President of College & Career Success Stacy Lightfoot will travel to Washington on Wednesday, May 6 to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in a hearing titled, “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: The Role of Consumer Information in College Choice.”

The HELP committee will have live coverage on their website beginning at 10:00 am Eastern and video will be archived there as well.

From the National College Access Network:

Ms. Lightfoot knows the importance of education. As an African American female, she grew up in a low-income, single parent home. Statistics suggested that she would continue to live in poverty, work a low-wage job and not obtain a college degree. However, her mother made sure that throughout her life she was surrounded by trusted adults and positive role models. Her college counselor helped her research DePauw University in the cornfields of Greencastle, IN. It was the perfect college for Ms. Lightfoot because it matched her personality and learning style in addition to be meeting her family’s financial need.

Using her personal experience, and the examples of two students – one who graduated from college and one who has debt and no degree – Ms. Lightfoot will suggest to Congress what information and type of guidance first-generation and low-income students need to successfully complete a college degree.

For more on Stacy’s work to empower students to achieve their dreams, visit the College & Career Success section of our website. We are so proud to work with Stacy!

Investor Spotlight: Hacker & Kitty Caldwell

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

PEF is delighted to announce an investment of $50,000 in Passport Scholars from Hacker and Kitty Caldwell!

Ms. Caldwell is a PEF Board Member and explains, “Hacker and I support Passport Scholars because we want bright futures for our public school girls. The summer opportunities available through Passport Scholars build confidence in young women, and in turn, they set – and achieve – high goals for college and careers.” See photos of the 2015 Passport Scholars

Stacy Lightfoot, Vice President of College and Career Success, says, “Passport Scholars represents the incredible potential of Hamilton County high school students. The growth you see between the application interview and the fall showcase where girls share their experiences with the public is inspiring. It’s not surprising that 95% of Passport Scholars attend college!”

We deeply appreciate our investors and their support of PEF.

Read about our college success initiatives and see how your donation can make a difference in the lives of students.

2014 Passport Scholars

2014 Passport Scholars

Register now for College Goal Tennessee

Monday, December 15th, 2014

PEF is proud to sponsor the upcoming College Goal Tennessee conference on Saturday, January 31 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.  at the UTC University Center. Download a flyer

This free, half-day conference will help students and their supporters learn from experts and each other how students can be successful in college.

Sessions include financial planning for college, what employers are looking for, navigating the college application for the student athlete, and much more. Sessions will be led by business leaders, college admissions and financial aid experts—experts in their fields.

At this conference, College Goal Tennessee will provide free on-site assistance to for high school seniors and current college students filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). All students are encouraged to complete this application to increase their chances of receiving financial support to attend college. Here’s a list of materials to bring in order to fill out the form.

To register for this free event, visit

PEF is partnering with UTC, YoungandWiser Inc, SACAC (Southern Association for College Admission Counseling) & College Goal Sunday to present this event.

– Stacy Lightfoot, Vice President, College & Career Success

Boys Summit inspired, motivated nearly 200

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

summit groupMayor Andy Berke poses with the Boys Leadership Summit organizers Temus Terry, Chris Ramsey, and Stacy Lightfoot.

The 5th Annual Boys’ Leadership Summit (BLS) was held on November 15, 2014. BLS targeted males in grades 6-12 and served as an opportunity for males to learn with and from each other. Keynote presenters included community leaders as well as a young man who has attended all BLS summits. Breakout sessions included warm-up icebreakers where the co facilitators (college men and seasoned men) created atmospheres for open dialogue and in-depth discussions on how to become successful and productive adults. The Summit was designed to help attendees learn to cope with issues and problems facing youth today.

boys summit slider

The young men – almost 200! – were pleased with how the day went: comments included, “I loved everything,” “I plan on attending yearly,” and “I found the togetherness most valuable.”

PEF was proud to be a partner in this effort!

– Janice Neal, Program Associate, College & Career Success








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.