Knox Education Station News | March 2024 – June 2024

June 24, 2024

Issue 8: March 2024 – June 2024

The mission of the Knox Education Foundation is to be a catalyst for the transformation of public education by investing in and advocating for innovative programs, partnerships, and initiatives to achieve excellent outcomes for all students.

Knox Education Foundation continues to support collaborative efforts to overcome barriers, advance opportunities, and empower all students. We hope you enjoy the updates highlighted in this issue of Knox Education Station.

A Message from the CEO

It is hard to believe another school year has come and gone. Now that summer is here, it is the perfect time to reflect on our accomplishments and plan for what’s ahead. KEF continues to grow, advancing innovative and impactful initiatives that strengthen Knox County Schools and increase outcomes for students.

I would like to invite you to KEF’s inaugural Back-to-School Breakfast on July 31. This free event will celebrate our successes and highlight the importance of navigating beyond expectations to ensure continued success for our schools. Superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk and I will share insights and updates on the upcoming school year and emphasize the critical role of community and business partnerships in fostering educational excellence.

I hope you will join us at the Back-to-School Breakfast as we embark on another academic year with renewed commitment and enthusiasm for the future of education in Knox County.

With gratitude

Mike Taylor

Knox Education Foundation announced their first Back-To-School Breakfast!

Join us to learn how Knox Education Foundation is pointing the way to excellence to support Knox County Schools this year. Registration is required, RSVP here!

One Book Read City: Three Years Strong

Knox Education Foundation proudly supports this initiative to promote community-wide literacy awareness!

In May, the Knox Education Foundation (KEF), in collaboration with Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, School Board Chair Betsy Henderson, Knox County Schools, and the Knox County Public Library, launched the third annual One Book Read City Initiative. This community-wide literacy program provided every KCS student from kindergarten through fifth grade with a copy of “Shelby & Watts Tide Pool Troubles” by Ashlyn Anstee. The graphic novel follows Shelby, a fox, and Watts, a badger, as they solve an environmentally themed mystery.

Students engaged in various reading activities centered around the book. In partnership with East TN PBS, they explored career videos themed around environmental science and conservation, featuring professions such as marine biologist, park ranger, and recycling supervisor. Additionally, students learned about Knox County Parks and Recreation initiatives to boost conservation efforts locally.

A community-wide scavenger hunt encouraged students to visit local businesses like Barnes and Noble, Food City, and Home Depot. Participants who completed the scavenger hunt were entered into a drawing for a chance to attend a pizza party with Mayor Glenn Jacobs, hosted by Zoo Knoxville, Weigel’s, and Cruze Farm.

The initiative concluded on May 18 with the Knox County Public Library’s Children’s Festival of Reading. At the event, the Read City tent hosted author Ashlyn Anstee, where over 250 students had their books signed and met the author. Anstee also visited five schools across Knox County to discuss her work as an author and illustrator with the students.

KEF is already preparing for next year’s One Book Read City!

To learn more about this year’s sponsors, visit KEF One Book Read City. For more information and to view the career exploration videos, visit Knox County Library One Book Read City.

The Launch of KEF’s 2nd Round of Priority Based Grants

The Knox Education Foundation (KEF) is excited to announce the funding of a second round of Priority Based Grants, focusing on innovative educational initiatives and pilots that support foundational literacy, college and career readiness, and STEM education. These grants are designed to back proposals that are outcomes-based and data-driven, aligning with one of the four district priorities: excellence in foundational skills, career empowerment and preparation, great educators in every school, and success for every student.

Example of Funded Initiatives Include:

  • ACT Prep Pilot at Karns High School: Aiming to increase ACT scores for juniors, enhancing college access and attainment.
  • Reading and RTI Curriculum Continuity: A joint initiative at Inskip Elementary, South Knox Elementary, and West Hills Elementary to maintain curriculum continuity within intervention groups.
  • STEM Clubs in Region 3 Elementary Schools: Through South Doyle High School’s FIRST robotics league, students in five elementary schools will learn about coding, robotics, and math applications.
  • ReadShare Program for Pre-K: Library Media Services will create and implement a ReadShare program, providing equitable access to authentic texts aligned with the curriculum for all KCS standalone Pre-Ks.
  • Expansion of Decodable Reader Pilot in Region 5: Utilizing specific reading materials to support foundational literacy instruction.

KEF funded 12 projects, amounting to $155,415, benefitting educators, schools, regions, and KCS departments.

For a complete list of funded grants, please visit KEF Priority Based Grants.

865 Academies Year 2 Implementation: Success and Celebration

As the 2023-2024 school year concludes, the 865 Academies have much to celebrate. Expanding to include all fourteen traditional Knox County Schools (KCS) high schools is a notable achievement, offering numerous career pathways for students across the district. Starting in fall 2024, Cohort 1 schools will support 9th-11th grade students, Cohort 2 will focus on 9th-10th grade students, and Cohort 3 will serve 9th grade students in Freshman Academy.

The CEO Champions and Steering Committee heard firsthand from students about how the 865 Academies are preparing them for life after graduation. At the CEO Champions meeting at Farragut High School, student ambassador Jane Davanzo shared how Farragut’s Academy of Engineering and Technology sparked her interest and boosted her confidence to pursue a career in a male-dominated field like construction. “I was too scared to take construction freshman year, but the program helped me gain confidence and embrace my passion,” Davanzo said.

Other students also spoke about the opportunities the 865 Academies have provided, allowing them to explore careers and make informed decisions about their futures. The impact of the 865 Academies on students’ lives was evident through their stories, showcasing students are now better equipped to craft their plans and next steps for the day after they graduate.

Knox Education Foundation added a partner engagement data platform to significantly enhance the management of partner contacts, student experiences, and volunteer hours. Aiming for at least one partner per pathway by the end of May, the 865 Academies reached just over 95% and are on track to achieve 100% before school resumes in August. Additionally, nearly 2,500 volunteer hours for freshman and sophomore experiences were contributed this year, thanks to the dedication of community partners, business, and industry leaders. KEF will continue its commitment to support the 865 Academies by recruiting, onboarding, and engaging innovative and diverse partners to support community- connected learning for all students across all pathways.

The 865 Academies are making a significant impact on students’ academic and career journeys, thanks to the dedication and support of the entire community. KEF is actively seeking more partners to share their time and talent. Engagement levels range from one-time speaking engagements to supporting job shadowing. If you are interested in partnership opportunities, please email Windy Clayton at wclayton@knoxed.org or visit 865 Academies Partnership Opportunities.

Seventh Annual WATE TV Project GRAD Telethon Exceeds Fundraising Goal

The seventh annual WATE TV Project GRAD Telethon, held on April 12th, successfully raised $66,129, surpassing the initial goal of $65,000. This achievement was bolstered by a generous match of up to $30,000 from a longtime supporter of GRAD.

The telethon, conceived by WATE TV News Anchor Lori Tucker, underscores her commitment to investing in young people’s post-secondary journeys. Staff and volunteers, including some of the students benefiting from this support, manned the phones during the 12-hour event.

Over the years, the telethon’s focus has shifted from providing laptops to a broader “tools for success” initiative. This now includes support for various essential items that GRAD Scholars may need, such as licensure exam fees, barber tools, steel toe work boots, nursing scrubs/shoes, and graphing calculators.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to all returning and new donors for their investment in supporting students’ completion of their post-secondary education. Your generosity makes a significant difference in their lives and futures.

2024 GRAD Legacy Scholars Celebrated at Annual Celebration Dinner

In April, 84 GRAD Legacy Scholarship recipients from Austin-East and Fulton High Schools were celebrated at the annual Celebration Dinner. These students, comprising the 20th class of scholars, are set to embark on their postsecondary journeys this fall.

The event not only recognized the scholars but also honored Mrs. Blenza Davis, a retired educator and longtime supporter of GRAD, with the Ronni Chandler Award. The Macebearer for the evening was Ms. Carly Hammonds from the Knox Area Urban League, herself a former GRAD scholar and supporter.

Some of the brightest and most determined students are among this year’s GRAD Legacy Scholar recipients, showcasing notable achievements:

  • Austin-East High School: This year’s cohort includes the school’s first Questbridge Scholar, who will be attending Emory University on a full-ride scholarship that covers living and travel expenses. Additionally, both the valedictorian and salutatorian are male, which is the first ever history making occurrence.
  • Fulton High School: The school celebrates its third Bank of America Student Leader, who will intern with the Knoxville Area Urban League and travel to Washington, D.C., to connect with elected officials and fellow interns nationwide. Remarkably, both the valedictorian and salutatorian at Fulton are Hispanic making this a first ever history making occurrence as well.

We congratulate all the GRAD Legacy Scholars for their remarkable achievements and wish them success in their future endeavors.

Achieving the Dream

Project GRAD post-secondary scholars are staying true to the goal of “Don’t just go, Finish!” This inspiring message is stitched on the handmade Kente cloth stoles awarded to each GRAD scholar who completes their postsecondary pathway. From August 2023 to June 2024, we proudly recognize the 34 scholars who have reached this significant milestone.

It’s especially gratifying to celebrate these scholars who persevered through the challenges of the pandemic to achieve academic excellence. Their determination and hard work exemplify the spirit of Project GRAD.

Thank you for the continuous support!