Submitted Virginia Hughes (at left), a first-generation college student, was paired with Laura Harrill in 2011 in Blount County. Harrill helped Hughes navigate the college process and has attended three of Hughes’ college graduations.

Submitted

Virginia Hughes (at left), a first-generation college student, was paired with Laura Harrill in 2011 in Blount County. Harrill helped Hughes navigate the college process and has attended three of Hughes’ college graduations.

Submitted

While thousands of students across the state are applying for TN Promise, tnAchieves -- the organization that operates the program in 83 counties -- is recruiting 9,000 volunteers to serve as mentors.

Although TN Promise is a financial aid program, one critical component often overlooked is the volunteer mentor program. Mentors work with a small group of between three and seven students as they transition from high school to college.

Mentors send reminders of important deadlines, serve as a trusted college resource and, most importantly, encourage students to reach their full potential. All mentors complete a one-hour training in person or online, and attend two, one-hour meetings with their students over the course of the year.

Macon County needs 39 mentors, and currently, only two have applied.

"While TN Promise funding is important, our mentors represent the heart of our program," said tnAchieves Executive Director Krissy DeAlejandro. "Providing a complete wraparound support system for our students, both financially and emotionally, is the key to their success. It is also part of the broader culture change that we are working on in Tennessee."

Current tnAchieves mentors indicate that they only spend about one hour per month in their volunteer role.

"It is a small time commitment, but we know the impact mentors are having on their students is significant," said tnAchieves Deputy Director of Partnerships Graham Thomas. "Anyone in the community that has one hour a month, thinks education is important and wants to work with students can make a lasting impact both locally and for our state with this program."

TN Promise provides every high school senior the opportunity to attend a community or technical college free of tuition. The scholarship application is available for students beginning their senior year of high school at www.tnpromise.gov.

To learn more about the tnAchieves mentor program or to apply, visit www.tnachieves.org. Individuals can also contact Graham Thomas by calling 615-604-1306 or via e-mail at graham@tnachieves.org.