The Student Opportunity Fund in Action

Chelsey Weaver was a single mom taking business classes at Pellissippi State when she totaled her car. Without reliable transportation, Weaver could not get to school.

Fortunately for Weaver, Pellissippi State has a new way to help students make ends meet when an emergency situation arises: the Student Opportunity Fund.

Established by Tom and Diane Ballard with support by Marty Adler-Jasny and Norm and Ann Naylor in January 2018, the Student Opportunity Fund helps fill the gaps left by financial aid and scholarships when crisis or trauma occurs.

“A study done in 2017 of 177 community colleges showed that nearly 60 percent of students would have trouble getting $500 or less to meet an unexpected need,” explained David Harrell, director of Annual Giving and Scholarship for the Pellissippi State Foundation. “And 47 percent of students said that lack of finances could cause them to drop out.”

In just one year, the Student Opportunity Fund provided $35,711 to 95 students to help with everything from purchasing textbooks and securing child care to addressing hunger and homelessness. In Weaver’s case, the contribution helped tide her over while she found alternative transportation, which kept her from missing classes and dropping out.

“There are many resources to help people who need it and so many outlets that I can turn to that I never thought existed,” said Weaver, who plans to transfer to a four-year university to finish a bachelor’s degree in Advertising. “My professors have gone above and beyond to help me stay in school.”