Tennessee Promise Program Fosters Community Engagement

Tennessee Promise students are required to perform at least eight hours of community service each semester. (Jorge Quinteros/Flickr)

The free community college scholarships available through the state’s Tennessee Promise program are helping more than just the students.
As part of the scholarship, students are required to perform eight hours of community service for every semester they’re in the program.
Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, says the result is tens of thousands of hours of free help for the state’s nonprofit groups, with the possibility of more.
“We’re able to help a lot of organizations across the state accomplish their mission with these hours of volunteer work,” he states. “But second, we hope that we’re really creating that culture of being an involved citizen with the students – and that ultimately doesn’t just make them a better student, it makes them a better Tennessean.”
This month, data released by the state shows Tennessee Promise students are more likely to succeed in college and less likely to drop out.
In 2015, 56 percent of Tennessee Promise students who entered college remained in school through graduation or continued on for more education. Only 39 percent of high school graduates outside the program had done the same.
In addition to benefiting communities and fostering a spirit of community engagement, Krause says students are often able to volunteer at nonprofits that relate to their career goals and interests.
“One of our goals for Tennessee Promise students is that they’re able to pair their community service opportunities within some of their interest areas,” he explains. “And there’s certain types of job shadowing even that absolutely qualify for community service.”
As part of the program, students also work with mentors who are already working in their field of study.