Students celebrate new partnership with Berea

By Frank Shelton

For the mountain Advocate

A high school pep rally isn’t typically news in Knox County, but the rallies held at Knox Central High School and Lynn Camp Middle/High School on April 2, 2015 were like none other.

There was no mention of sports, and the only cheering to be heard had nothing to do with athletics. It had everything to do with college and career readiness and helping students set and reach their dreams.

With a blood-pumping music and a spirit line of upperclassmen, cheerleaders, and Berea College staff, and PartnerCorps volunteers giving high fives to students as they entered the gym via a literal red carpet, the stage was set for an entertaining and enthusiastic start to one of Berea College’s newest grant programs through Partners for Education: the Berea College/Knox County Full-Service Community Schools Program.

“We had two primary purposes with these pep rallies: to introduce the Berea College Partners for Education Programs as well as recognizing seniors who are going on to college and military after graduation,” said Kelli Moore, project director for the Full-Service Community Schools Program.

Over the past four years, Berea College Partners for Education has brought five grant programs to Knox County Schools:

  • GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), which prepares and encourages students to pursue post-secondary education and training.
  • Investing In Innovation (i3), which encourages students to take the more rigorous Advanced Placement courses to help prepare them for college.
  • PartnerCorps, which is an AmeriCorps programs that provides mentoring to all students at Knox Central High School through 22 volunteers.
  • AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) which provides parent and community engagement services.
  • Full-Service Community Schools Program, a multi-faceted program that links community resources and services to schools.

“Our partnerships with Berea College are a key component of our plan to ensure that all students are college and career ready upon graduation,” said Kelly Sprinkles, Superintendent of the Knox County Public Schools.

“The mentor type services allow for all of our high school students to not just be known by an adult, but to build a relationship where conversations about struggles in school and plans for the future can freely be shared.”

Sprinkles added that the school district is already seeing positive results of several Berea programs including increased enrollment in Advanced Placement courses and an increase in the number of students pursuing higher education after graduation.

During the rally on Thursday, students learned more about the newest program being offered by Berea College, the FSCS Program .

“The Full-Service Community Schools Program seeks to build connections and partnerships among schools and community organizations,” said Moore. “Through these partnerships, we seek to improve the well being of the community and the lives of students and their families through academic, health, career, and social services. Our overarching goal is to develop students into successful members of a thriving community.”

The FSCS Program seeks to guide students to make decisions throughout their school years that put them in a place where they have many positive choices after they graduate. The program include a broad array of services, such as tutoring, financial literacy for families, job training, community service and leadership development, career counseling, youth work programs, mentoring, health and wellness, summer programming, and referrals to social services.

Additional photos of the Knox Central and Lynn Camp launch pep rally are available in the KCPS Photo Gallery.