Archive for the ‘College & Career’ Category

Chattanooga 2.0 launches

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Chattanooga 2.0, a community-wide effort for academic excellence in Hamilton County, launched a 100-day initiative to develop practical, hands-on action plans to provide quality education for all students in Hamilton County and connect them to jobs that pay a living wage. “2.0 is not just an issue of geography or ability; it’s an issue of support and expectation,” said Jared Bigham, project director for 2.0. “The report is out. The conversation has started. But the work has just begun.” Bigham said, “The 100 days is the start and not the end of achieving academic excellence for everyone in Hamilton County. This work will be generational, but there will be short-term wins such as the Manufacturing Excellence Program and Step-Up Chattanooga that show the community is willing to act now.”

Addressing Chattanooga Rotarians, he said, over the next 100 days, “we have the opportunity to create a path forward that will bring 8,000 adults out of poverty. We can do that by achieving the goal of 75 percent of our residents obtaining a post-secondary credential.”

According to the 2.0 report, Hamilton County is experiencing job growth, but 83 percent of those jobs that provide a livable wage require a postsecondary credential. Currently, only about 40 percent of residents have the education necessary to gain one of these positions and benefit from the improving local economy. “Our community is one of the best places to live,” said Bigham. Great things are happening here, but there is a difference in having opportunities and our high school graduates being in a position to benefit from those opportunities. The community challenge is to come together, set education improvement as a priority, and support our local talent in obtaining a good job.

The community outreach is underway, Bigham said. “We are in the process of bringing together educators, faith-based leaders, teachers, volunteers, professionals and students to start creating four work groups. Each team will focus on researching and developing bold strategies that emphasize innovation, as well as probably taking us a little out of our comfort zone,” he said. The initial work groups are early childhood, K-12, postsecondary and workforce, and faith-based outreach.

Bigham said. “Each work group has a charge to be creative, bold and set objectives that are aspirational. They will be looking at successful programs in other communities, things that may never have been tried, and asking what will work. We’re looking at anything and everything that can make a difference and change lives and outcomes for Hamilton County students,” he said.

Some of the primary areas of focus within 2.0 where measurable outcomes can be defined are: school readiness, third grade literacy, career exploration in middle school post-secondary readiness, post-secondary completion and workforce readiness.

STEP-UP program begins; students invited to apply

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

In collaboration with partners and funders, Public Education Foundation (PEF) today announced the launch of STEP-UP Chattanooga, a robust internship program for high school juniors and seniors in Hamilton County public schools designed to address the challenges faced by both businesses and students in a complex, changing global economy.

Read an article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation, Inc. has committed $300,000 and Benwood Foundation is contributing $200,000 for the first two years of the program which serves underrepresented students from low-income backgrounds, those most at risk for joblessness and lack of higher education.

STEP-UP Chattanooga will recruit local high school students and provide work readiness training designed to help them be successful in interviews and professional settings. Subsequently, 75 students will be hired by area businesses, nonprofit agencies, and public institutions where they will complete meaningful assignments over the summer of 2016. Throughout the experience, students will receive support and feedback from STEP-UP staff and supervisors at their place of employment.

Organizations hosting STEP-UP interns will build relationships with a pool of talented, diverse future employees while filling job vacancies and demonstrating a commitment to improving the lives of at-risk youth. Students will have opportunities to explore careers while developing work skills, as well as to network with adult professionals who can help them achieve educational and professional goals.

STEP-UP Chattanooga is modeled on the nationally-recognized STEP-UP Minneapolis program, which has served over 20,000 students since 2004. 96% of STEP-UP Minneapolis supervisors reported that interns made a valuable contribution to the workplace and the program was a success at their companies.

STEP-UP Chattanooga complements PEF’s other College Access & Success initiatives, including Camp College, Passport Scholars, support for Hamilton County’s College Access & Career Advisers, and community education.

For more information on applying for internships or becoming a business partner, visit

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.