Project GRAD’s Summer Institute hones urban high school students’ academic skills in preparation for demanding college level courses, and exposes them to career paths they can pursue through post-secondary education. This Institute is part of a larger effort, Project GRAD, or Graduation Really Achieves Dreams, a K-12 program based on the recognition that early intervention can keep economically and academically disadvantaged kids motivated and focused on their academic future. The project started in 2001. In the most recent year, the Institute involved 11 graduate teaching assistants, eight faculty members from multiple disciplines, six educators representing three different school districts, 145 high school students, and 12 pre-college mentors.
Community partners include Knox County Schools, Project GRAD Knoxville, SEEED, Cansler YMCA, Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, Knoxville College, Skatetown, Brandon’s Awards, Camp Koinonia Foundation, Threds, McDonald’s. University of Tennessee, Knoxville partners include the colleges of Education, Health, and Human Science, Law, Business Administration, Communications, Architecture and Design; Academic Enrichment Upward Bound, UT Housing, Parking Service, Office of Information Technology, RecSports, Athletics and the Carolyn Brown University Center.
Participating student team leaders from UT, many of them former Project GRAD participants themselves, continue to benefit from the program by way of leadership training they are required to take through a four-week program at Pellissippi State Community College. In addition, many summer institute participants enroll in colleges, including UT, with most remaining in college until they graduate, thus meeting UT’s institutional goal of increased recruiting and retention of historically underrepresented students.
Impact on Community
More than 2,100 children have participated thus far in the Summer Institute, learning strategies to be successful in college or workplace. All participants receive a certificate and $150 stipend upon completing a single session. Upon successful completion of two Summer Institutes, all students with at least a 2.5 GPA are awarded a $4,000 scholarship to any institution of higher learning they choose. Summer institute participants are tracked over time, with more than 100 former participants enrolled at UT, 57 of them earned academic scholarships.
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