KNOXVILLE, TN, (May 16, 2020) On Saturday, Project GRAD Knoxville celebrated its 2020 college graduates with a socially distanced auto parade. It was a great way to celebrate the graduates in a safe way during a time when many colleges have canceled or postponed traditional graduation ceremonies.
Local businesses contributed to the event. For the protection of attendees, Marc Nelson Denim donated face masks made at his business, and Old Forge Distillery donated gallons of hand sanitizer. A restricted number of family members celebrated 2020 college graduates with a festive “social-distanced” car parade in the back parking lot of Pellissippi State Community College Magnolia Avenue campus.
“Graduating from higher education is a big deal and we wanted our scholars to know that even a global pandemic wouldn’t suppress how very proud we are of each one,” said Ronni Chandler, Project GRAD Knoxville Executive Director.
The students are all former Project GRAD scholars that . Now its two-four years later and they are graduating from colleges, universities and technical schools this May.
Thirty-five ProjGRAD scholars, who graduated from Austin-East and Fulton high schools, will receive their post-secondary diplomas this month, 20 were available to participate in the parade.
From Austin-East and Fulton high schools in Knoxville, the scholars ventured out to successfully earn degrees from colleges across the Eastern United States. Those institutions of higher learning include Pellissippi State, Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay, Berea, Carson Newman, East Tennessee State, Johnson University, Lincoln Memorial, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Knoxville, Tennessee State University, University of Indianapolis, the University of Tennessee, UT-Martin Pharmacy School, Lee University, and Barry University.
“The car parade was a great way for us to come together to celebrate our scholars’ post-secondary accomplishments and adhere to all the important COVID-19 safety guidelines,” said Chandler.
The idea for the parade was presented by the Project GRAD Knoxville College Advisory Board, a team of postsecondary scholars who advise GRAD’s postsecondary success coaches.
Pellissippi State was an ideal setting for the celebration because all of the scholars actually got their first taste of the college experience by attending Project GRAD’s Summer Institute at Pellissippi while they were sophomores or juniors in high school. Pellissippi State started its Summer Institute experience for Project GRAD scholars in 2002, the first summer after GRAD started in Knoxville in 2001. The University of Tennessee joined Pellissippi State in offering the Summer Institute college
experience in 2003 and TCAT Knoxville in 2016.
“These students and their families are celebrating a great accomplishment, one that deserves to be recognized,” said Pellissippi State President Anthony Wise. “Education is a lifelong process. These Project GRAD scholars have a jump start on a promising future because they have finished a college degree.”
Many GRAD scholars are first-generation students. Project GRAD Success Coaches support GRAD scholars from the point of high school graduation to postsecondary completion and career launch. Services include laptop distribution, an Undergrad 101 seminar, annual FAFSA application support, GRAD scholar/alumni events, GPA monitoring, academic intervention, resume and interviewing workshops, connections to campus services, check-in visits to campus, “scholars bucket” (care packages from home), multiple social media platforms, GRAD Scholar Ambassadors at campuses
with several GRAD scholars, crisis support and referral, and a custom Project GRAD Knoxville stole for completers that reads “DON’T JUST GO, FINISH!”
Project GRAD Knoxville was established in 2001 and is a nationally recognized K-16 (elementary through post-secondary) education program known for helping to improve high school completion and postsecondary degree attainment among students from disadvantaged circumstances. ProjectGRAD Knoxville is supported by the Knox Education Foundation, a 501c3 organization that strengthens public education through advocacy, investment, community resources and programs that
empower every student to excel. To learn more about Project GRAD, click here to visit the website.
“We see a world of hope—where there are no limits on potential, the greatness in every child is inspired and celebrated, and dreams are realized through opportunities and education.” – Project GRAD Knoxville is a 501(c)3 non-profit.