Pellissippi State offers aviation training for teens this fall

Group of Tuskeegee NEXT and Pellissippi State officials who announced partnership on Monday, July 22, at Magnolia Avenue Campus
On hand at Pellissippi State to announce a new aviation training program Monday were, from left, Tuskegee NEXT Executive Director Sanura Young, Pellissippi State Economic and Workforce Development Executive Director Teri Brahams, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Tuskegee NEXT founder and chairman Stephen Davis, Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman and Pellissippi State Executive Director of Equity and Compliance Annazette Houston.

Teenagers and young adults who want to get a jumpstart on a pilot’s license have the opportunity this fall through a new class at Pellissippi State Community College.

Pellissippi State has partnered with Tuskegee NEXT to offer a 13-week introductory aviation training for students ages 16-20, Pellissippi State announced in a kickoff breakfast Monday.

Classes will meet on Tuesday nights on Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus, with one mandatory Saturday field trip. Professionals from the aviation industry will mentor students in the program, who will use a flight simulator to “fly.”

“It’s no secret that the aviation industry is facing a shortage of airline pilots, but that isn’t the only aviation career grappling with a labor shortage,” said Teri Brahams, executive director for Economic and Workforce Development for Pellissippi State. “Aircraft mechanics and flight simulator technicians are also in high demand. This course will introduce students to the opportunities available and provide options for training to pursue these careers.”

There is a global need of 754,000 new aircraft maintenance technicians and 790,000 pilots over the next 20 years, according to Boeing’s 2018 Pilot and Technical Outlook projections.

The nonprofit Tuskegee NEXT saw that need and created programs to help fill that void by offering aviation outreach programs to at-risk youth through Flight Training, Life Skills and Educational Assistance. The program is named in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the United States’ first black military airmen.

“As a historian, I am excited about the connection this program has with the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “As a community college president, I am pleased with the opportunities this program creates for young people in our community.”

Students who participate in the Introduction to Aviation class at Pellissippi State will gain the basic knowledge needed to sit for the Federal Aviation Administration private pilot written exam. Those who successfully complete the course and pass the written exam will be eligible to apply to the Tuskegee NEXT Cadet program in Chicago, which will run from mid-June to mid-August 2020.

Black and white photos of Tuskegee airmen and a certificate of proficiency for one of them, dated 1945
The Tuskegee NEXT program, which provides aviation outreach program to at-risk youth, is named for the Tuskegee Airmen, the United States’ first black military airmen.

“Students are often unaware of the many career possibilities available to them,” said Dean Rosalyn Tillman of Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus. “Exposure to this industry as an option may create interest for some that was never before imagined.”

There are aviation careers available right here in East Tennessee, Brahams noted.

“Local employers like Cirrus Aircraft, the Air National Guard, Pilot Flying J, Jet Aviation, Endeavor Air, STS Technical Services, Standard Aero and many others currently have openings and expect future openings for the next 10 years or more,” she said.

Students must be at least 16 years old and a sophomore in high school, hold a minimum grade point average of 2.75 and have no criminal record. Preference will be given to minority and female students.

For more information or to request an application, contact Pellissippi State Business and Community Services at 865-539-7167 or


Pellissippi State offers Tennessee’s first Water Quality Technology program for water, wastewater

Pellissippi State Community College has answered the call from industry partners to start offering associate degrees in Water Quality Technology.

Man at water tank.
Water Quality Technology is one of Pellissippi State’s newest programs.

The new program, approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents at the end of June, will start this fall and prepare students for careers in water and wastewater treatment plants. It is the first program of its kind in the state, said Program Coordinator Arthur Stewart, who was brought on board last year to design the curriculum with industry partners.

“This is real important to the industry,” said Drexel Heidel, general manager of West Knox Utility District. “Some 30 to 50 percent of our certified operators are slated to retire in the next 10 years. So we’re struggling to find people to run our plants.”

An advisory committee comprised of 11 utility representatives as well as staff from the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts and the state’s Fleming Training Center have been working with Pellissippi State to create a program that will meet the needs of water and wastewater treatment plants. Instructional materials align with those used for state-level certifications so that graduates will be prepared for what Heidel calls “pretty rigorous tests.”

Right now the pass rate for Class 3 and Class 4 operators in Tennessee is about 30 percent, he noted.

“There are just not enough people to go around,” Stewart added. “There is a real need here for classes that will help existing utility workers pass their state-level certifications, which will address the industry’s short-term need, and also to recruit new and younger students to the field, which will serve the long-term need.”

Men working with tanker truck
Water Quality Technology was created to help fill the demand for workers at Tennessee facilities.

Pellissippi State’s Water Quality Technology program provides both operational theory and a strong practical background in mathematics, chemistry and aquatic sciences through coursework, site visits and a capstone project conducted at a local water or wastewater treatment facility.

“We came to Pellissippi State and told them our dilemma and our need for the program because Pellissippi State is the best around,” Heidel said. “We are very excited to be able to prepare students to be our future operators.”

Joshua Johnson with Knoxville Utilities Board’s Plant Operations agreed.

“Water and wastewater treatment is a career path that is vital to all healthy communities, and the Water Quality Technology Program will allow for faster onboarding of new employees in this critical field,” he said. “KUB is excited to be a part of developing the next generations of treatment professionals.”

College and industry representatives are recruiting students now for the program’s first two classes, which start this fall: Orientation to Water Operations and Regulations & Compliance. Pellissippi State’s fall semester begins Aug. 26.

man working at computer
Classes will consist of many off-campus visits to local water treatment facilities.

“The program will follow a cohort structure, in that students will move through their classes as a group,” Stewart explained. “Regardless of their age or their experience, students will take the same classes at the same time.”

Sixty or 61 credit hours are needed to graduate with an Associate of Applied Science in Water Quality Technology. The program goals, typical job opportunities, courses and course sequence can be found in Pellissippi State’s online 2019-2020 College Catalog or on the program’s website at

“There will be multiple off-site visits, where students will be able to engage with plant operators and have face time with prospective employers,” Stewart noted. “And because this program is the only one like it in the state, we expect incredible growth.”

For more information about the new Water Quality Technology program, contact Program Coordinator Arthur Stewart at or 865-694-6427 or Natural and Behavioral Sciences Dean Kane Barker at or 865-694-6695.

To apply for Pellissippi State, visit


Pellissippi State Culinary Arts program coordinator feeds the masses at Cannes Film Festival

Chef Joseph Blauvelt helps a culinary student at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019
Chef Joseph Blauvelt, right, helps a culinary student in the American Pavilion at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Photo credit: Amirah Parker

When Americans at the Cannes Film Festival were looking for familiar food in France, it was Pellissippi State Community College’s own Chef Joseph Blauvelt who fed them.

Blauvelt, who has been Culinary Arts program coordinator for Pellissippi State since February, was one of the chef managers at the film festival’s American Pavilion, helping lead a 13-person team that fed just over 2,000 people in the first two days alone.

“It was a lot of work,” said Blauvelt, who lives in Maryville with his wife and two children. “I absolutely love Europe, and I would move there in a heartbeat if I could, but they also worked our tails off. There were days we worked 17-hour shifts.”

This was not Blauvelt’s first experience at the Cannes Film Festival, which was held May 14-25. He had worked there as a student in 1998, 1999 and 2000, after he graduated from culinary school at Sullivan University in Kentucky. This time he was invited back as a manager.

“It was just a treat, after 20 years, to experience it again,” Blauvelt said.

For Blauvelt, who spent 13 years in research and development for Custom Foods in Knoxville, it also was fun to get back into a restaurant setting – albeit one with limited resources.

“We had a small kitchen with two hot plates, a panini press and a griddle,” Blauvelt explained. “That actually had improved since I was last there, when all we had was a hot plate and a microwave.”

While the daily menu was “simple fare” such as paninis, quesadillas and hamburgers, Blauvelt noted the team also was responsible for catering private dinners sponsored by American Airlines, British Airways and IMDb. Much like an episode of “Top Chef,” each sponsored dinner was a different menu – and the team was challenged to produce restaurant-caliber food out of “literally a circus tent,” he added.

Tuna tartare with julienned vegetables and cranberry foam
Chefs and culinary students at the American Pavilion created this tuna tartare with julienned vegetables and cranberry foam for a private dinner during the Cannes Film Festival.

But the less-than-ideal kitchen didn’t stop the American Pavilion team from turning out plate after plate of Instagram-worthy dishes, which they hashtagged #makeitsexy on social media.

“The biggest difference I saw between 20 years ago and now is the quality of the food,” Blauvelt said, scrolling through his photos of deconstructed lemon meringue pie, tuna tartare with julienned vegetables and a lamb chop with a lamb jus made by one of the managers who is a saucier. “I would’ve bathed in that sauce if I could have.”

The American Pavilion managers had to be on site at 5:30 a.m. to set up for breakfast for the culinary students, which was held at 6:30 a.m. The American Pavilion opened to the public at 9 a.m. daily and stopped serving at 10 p.m. On evenings that the team also catered private dinners for sponsors, however, the managers wouldn’t get out of the kitchen until 11:30 p.m. or midnight.

“There’s a certain kind of camaraderie that comes with shoving a bunch of people who don’t know each other into a small kitchen together,” Blauvelt said. “And there’s the rush of the restaurant. I’ve been out of a restaurant for 16 years. It was that rush after a shift that you miss.”

Culinary students from all over the world may apply to work at the American Pavilion, the chef explained, noting one of the 2019 students was from London. Those who are chosen pay American Pavilion $1,900 that covers their housing and meals for the entire Cannes Film Festival.

“This is the experience of a lifetime, and there needs to be Pellissippi State students there,” Blauvelt said, noting he plans to bring the American Pavilion recruiter to Pellissippi State this year. “A lot of our students here never get out of this area or have never been on a plane. I want our students to see it, to experience the chaos.”

For more information about Pellissippi State’s Culinary Arts program, visit There’s still time to apply for fall semester, which begins Aug. 26. For more information on how to apply, visit


Pellissippi State names new Blount County building in honor of Ruth and Steve West

Steve and Ruth West
Steve and Ruth West attend the Big Reveal on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus on Feb. 1, 2019. Pellissippi State announced at the event that it would build two new buildings, one of which is being named for the couple.

Pellissippi State Community College’s new building on its Blount County Campus will be christened the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center.

“Ruth and Steve West have been longtime supporters of Pellissippi State’s mission to educate and provide vital workforce development,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “Their generous spirit has made a lasting impact on the college and the Blount County community. We are honored that the new Workforce Development Center will bear their name.”

The Tennessee Board of Regents, which governs 13 community colleges and 27 technical colleges across the state, approved the name request at its quarterly meeting June 21.

“It is an honor,” Steve West said Thursday. “We’ve been involved with Pellissippi State for a long time here in Blount County, and Ruth served on the Pellissippi State Foundation board for some time.”

The Wests’ donation to The Campaign for Pellissippi State will help build the new Workforce Development Center, a $16.5 million project. The 53,000-square-foot building will be used by Pellissippi State and Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville to help fill the area’s need for highly skilled, college-educated employees.

“I was on the Blount County Industrial Board for 20 years, and we brought a lot of diverse companies in and continue to do so,” said West, who also served as mayor of Maryville from 1999 to 2003. “But it’s not like it was when I was young. A good attitude and willingness to learn is not enough. We need more specialized training to fill these jobs.”

Pellissippi State’s part of the new building is expected to house a Smart Factory MegaLab featuring Industry 4.0 curriculum and offer classes in Computer Information Technology, Culinary Arts, Electrical Engineering Technology and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Meanwhile, TCAT’s part of the new building is expected to include classes in Industrial Electrical Maintenance and Welding, Machine Tool Technology and Pipe Fitting.

Ruth and Steve West seated in an auditorium, laughing
Ruth West, in red, and Steve West, beside her, laugh with others at the Big Reveal on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus on Feb. 1, 2019.

West said he expects “the depth and breadth” of the programs offered in the Workforce Development Center to help the community in more than one way.

“I look at people my age, and their kids had to move away for jobs, and now their grandkids are all over the country,” he said. “Plus, kids are coming out of college with $30,000 in debt and a nonstarter for a career, whereas the kids in our Pellissippi State welding program, for example, can get a job in any city in any state and be making good money. We need to be talking to our young people and letting them know that these two-year programs Pellissippi State offers are smart options.”

Pellissippi State expects to break ground on the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center later this year and open the building to students in fall 2021.

In the meantime, the Pellissippi State Foundation has raised $9.3 million of its $10 million goal to build not only the Workforce Development Center on the Blount County Campus, but also the Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus. The campaign also will expand Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program and support funds that help students and faculty.

For more information about The Campaign for Pellissippi State or to make a donation, visit


Pellissippi State alum reprises theatre role on New York City stage two weeks after graduation

Cast of "Soft Animals" in New York City
Pellissippi State graduate Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky, in red shirt, poses with her fellow cast members of “Soft Animals” in New York City, as well as playwright Erin Mallon, far left; Pellissippi State director Grechen Lynne Wingerter, fifth from left; and Farm Theater Artistic Director Padraic Lillis, second from right.

A recent Pellissippi State Community College graduate was the only student invited to participate in a staged reading of an original play in New York City.

Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky, who graduated Summa Cum Laude in May with her Associate of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts – Performance, reprised her role as Emily in “Soft Animals” in the May 20 reading. The reading with professional actors, a form of theatre without sets or full costumes, was the culmination of Pellissippi State’s 2018-19 collaboration with The Farm Theater in New York.

“I am incredibly grateful to have been offered the opportunity to share the stage with talented people who are currently living out my dream of leading successful lives in the New York theatre scene,” said Wilcox-Chelimsky, a native of Knoxville. “This being my first professionally produced show, I made sure to observe what I could about the interactions between the cast and artistic staff as well as processes and methods everyone used to bring the characters to life and pull the reading together in such a limited amount of time.”

“Kat was really holding her own with the New York City actors,” said Associate Professor Grechen Lynne Wingerter, who directed the world premiere of “Soft Animals” at Pellissippi State in November. “If you didn’t know she was a student, you wouldn’t know she was a student. She was great.”

As part of its College Collaboration Project, the Farm Theater commissioned playwright Erin Mallon to write “Soft Animals” for Pellissippi State. Based on those initial performances last fall, Mallon tweaked the play, a comedy that explores the perceptions we have about physical appearances and our relationship with our bodies, for the production of “Soft Animals” at Arkansas State University in the spring. She completed additional rewrites of the script before the public reading in New York City.

Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky rehearses "Soft Animals" in New York City
Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky, in red shirt, rehearses “Soft Animals” in New York City in May, the lone student among professional actors.

“Overall, the story didn’t change, as far as the plot, but there were character clarifications and relationship clarifications,” Wingerter explained. “With one character in particular, her connection to the story became much clearer. She was so much on the outside it was hard to have sympathy for her before, but we knew that we should. Her arc is stronger now.”

Wingerter and Wilcox-Chelimsky traveled to New York City for two days of rehearsal with the professional actors before the public reading, which was held in a small studio theatre near downtown. The reading, which was directed by Farm Theater Artistic Director Padraic Lillis, was followed by a post-show discussion with the playwright and the cast.

“Erin says it’s still not finished,” Wingerter said. “Some playwrights say a play is never finished. Who knows where it will go next? But this was the end of the road for us.”

And what a road it was.

Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky in costume in "Soft Animals" at Pellissippi State
Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky performs the role of Emily in “Soft Animals” at Pellissippi State in November 2018.

“This is unique for our students, to be the very first to bring a play to life,” Wingerter said before the November performances at Pellissippi State. “When you do the classics – say, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘Death of a Salesman’ – there are preconceived notions of how those plays are supposed to be done, and there always will be comparisons. With a new play, our actors are allowed to experiment, to explore character development, and they’re focusing on applying what they’re learning in the classroom to the stage.”

“Soft Animals” also was unique, Wingerter added after the New York City reading, because Mallon wrote the play with college students in mind.

“They were not asked to play 50 year olds, so they felt a little more ownership,” she explained. “This gave them the chance to develop their roles, and one of the reasons Kat was chosen is how she brought that character to life.”

Wilcox-Chelimsky said she felt an immediate connection with the character of Emily when she received the script last year.

“She has an innocence and this sense of naive bravery that reminds me of how I was feeling as I graduated high school and went on this brave new adventure that was college,” Wilcox-Chelimsky said. “An acting choice that I made in rehearsal ended up in the stage directions of the final draft we worked with in New York. The thought that that decision I made on Pellissippi State’s stage could potentially end up in a published script one day and maybe even influence future performances of this character just completely blows my mind.”

As a director, Wingerter also learned from Pellissippi State’s participation in the College Collaboration Project.

Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky in "Soft Animals" at Pellissippi State
Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky originates the role of Emily in the world premiere of the play “Soft Animals” at Pellissippi State.

“I went to see the Arkansas State production, and I’ve never done that before – directed a play and then went to see it somewhere else,” she said. “It was interesting to see the different interpretations, but it’s still the same story. And that validates the story of the play and helps the playwright figure out, ‘Is this the story I want to tell?’ because if all these different people get it, she’s on the right track.”

For more information about the degrees Pellissippi State offers in Theatre Arts, visit


Beyond the lecture: one-day workshop on ‘Teaching with your Mouth Shut’ focuses on active learning

College educators who want to explore active learning strategies and come away with lesson-planning ideas are invited to a one-day workshop at Pellissippi State Community College this fall.

“Teaching with your Mouth Shut: Keeping Students Active, Attentive and Engaged!” will be held 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville.

Capped at 75 participants, those who register by Aug. 16 will receive a $50 discount. Lunch is included in the price of the workshop.

Co-hosted by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) and Pellissippi State, this regional workshop is based on the popular book, “Teaching with Your Mouth Shut,” by Donald Finkel and will be led by Ericka Landry, director of Faculty Development at Lone Star College in Houston. Landry has worked and taught in K-12 and higher education for more than 20 years.

“This is the first time we’ve been asked to co-host a regional workshop with NISOD,” said Kellie Toon, director of the Pellissippi Academic Center for Excellence. “The topic – engagement and active learning strategies – was selected by Pellissippi State faculty, and I particularly like that participants will walk away with lesson-planning ideas they can incorporate into the classroom.”

Participants also will consider several classroom assessment techniques and explore at least three instructional technologies. All will receive a certificate of attendance upon completing the workshop.

Prices for the workshop vary by where educators are employed:

  • Pellissippi State: $129 for early registration, $179 after Aug. 16;
  • NISOD member college: $159 for early registration; $209 after Aug. 16; and
  • NISOD nonmember college: $209 for early registration; $259 after Aug. 16.

To learn more about the workshop or to register, visit For those driving in from out of town, contact information for nearby hotels is listed on the website as well.


Pellissippi State unveils improvements to Blount County Campus library

Ed Harmon unveils his name above the library on the Pellissippi State Blount County Campus
William “Ed” Harmon, right, unveils his name above the library on the Pellissippi State Blount County Campus on Wednesday, June 19, assisted by Blount County Campus Librarian Will Buck, left.

Panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains, natural light from a semicircle of nine large windows and shorter shelving accessible to those who use wheelchairs are among the changes students will discover when they visit the library on Pellissippi State Community College’s Blount County Campus.

The improvements were unveiled Wednesday during a ceremony naming the library in honor of Pellissippi State donor William “Ed” Harmon, who has committed $100,000 to help build the Blount County Workforce Development Center on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus.

“The space is just transformed,” said Dean of Library Services Mary Ellen Spencer. “It looks so much larger.”

Blount County Campus Dean Holly Burkett agreed.

“The library is, by far, the most open, most naturally lit and most inviting area on this campus,” she said.

Three large shelves previously dominated the library, blocking not only the light from the room’s soaring windows, but also the line of sight from the service desk to the library’s computers, which were located around the perimeter of the room.

“When a person was struggling or needed help, we couldn’t see them,” Spencer said, adding that the library’s glass display cases also were hidden from view by the large shelves.

Removing the tall shelving and replacing it with shorter stacks that fit beneath the windows along the wall not only flooded the room with natural light, but also made the library collections accessible to those who use wheelchairs.

Meanwhile, the library’s computers were moved to a different area of the room, closer to the printer and to the service desk, and existing furniture was rearranged to make the library “much more student-friendly” and conducive for collaboration. Students who don’t want to use one of the library’s desktop computers can check out laptops or tablets and use them at four-top tables located throughout the library.

“The space looks twice as big; it’s night and day,” Spencer said. “We’re very excited to show off this inviting, welcoming atmosphere.”

William "Ed" Harmon and Blount County Campus Dean Holly Burkett pose inside the newly improved Blount County Campus library.
Ed Harmon and Blount County Campus Dean Holly Burkett pose inside the newly improved Blount County Campus library on Wednesday, July 19. In the background you can see the shorter shelving, which not only allows natural light to flood the room from the massive windows, but also is accessible to those who use wheelchairs.

Naming the library in honor of Harmon was a natural fit, as the Maryville native has been supporting Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus since 2004, when the college was located in the old Bungalow School. In fact, much of the framed artwork located throughout the Blount County Campus was donated by Harmon, said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr.

“It means a lot to me,” Harmon said at the unveiling ceremony Wednesday. “I have been blessed with so many friends, and I appreciate you all coming.”

Harmon’s most recent gift to the college –  $100,000 to build the Blount County Workforce Development Center – will benefit not only Pellissippi State, Wise noted, but also the community.

“Our students who graduate from here stay here,” Wise said, noting the Blount County Workforce Development Center will include alignment with Alcoa City, Maryville City and Blount County schools; Tennessee College of Applied Technology; and the college’s industry partners. “We are all in this together to create great jobs and careers for the people who want to live and work here.”

For more information on the Blount County Workforce Development Center or to make a donation in support of the project, which Pellissippi State hopes to break ground on by the end of this year, visit

For more photos of the event, check out Pellissippi State on Facebook.


Pellissippi State gives high school students hands-on experiences at summer camps

High school students from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley work on the SimMan at Nursing Camp
YouthForce students from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley listen to the lungs of SimMan during Nursing camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.

Something is happening.

The nurses check the patient’s pupils. “They’re asymmetrical,” one reports. Stethoscopes out, they listen to his chest, where they hear an asthmatic wheeze. A few minutes later, they’re administering CPR, taking turns counting and doing chest compressions.

It’s not a real patient, and it’s not an emergency. It’s just a typical day at Nursing camp at Pellissippi State Community College.

YouthForce, the workforce development program of the Boys & Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley, will bring 60 high school students to Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus this summer to experience week-long Technical Training Camps.

Nursing and Welding camps were held June 4-7 while Cybersecurity and Manufacturing camps will take place June 18-21.

“We like to make everything hands-on applications of the theory,” explained Andy Polnicki, director of the MegaLab on the Strawberry Plains Campus. “I went to a traditional (four-year) school, and when I graduated and got out into the real world, I realized I only knew a lot of theory. Here at Pellissippi State we spend a lot of time actually applying that theory.”

The goal of YouthForce, which is open to any high school student in Knox and Blount counties, is to expose high school students to skilled trades and to gain first-job skills, explained YouthForce Director Rebecca McDonough. This is the third year YouthForce has held the camps at Pellissippi State.

Decked out in matching scrubs with fully equipped nurse’s kits, the 16 students in Nursing camp rattled off all the things they learned during the week, from the medical (how to stop a bleed, how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, how to administer CPR to a baby) to the practical (how to change hospital beds, how to wash their hands, how to put a pillowcase on a pillow without getting it contaminated).

“We got to experience real nurses, and they shared their stories with us,” explained Callie Anderson, a rising senior at Fulton High School. “Them giving us that extra background of what it’s like to be in the nursing field and then all the hands-on skills labs was just beyond my expectations. I’m so appreciative of this program.”

As nursing instructor Jennifer Priano started to walk a group of students through how to deliver a baby on the SimMom, an advanced full-body birthing simulator, Auna Campbell could not contain her excitement.

“I watch labor videos all the time! People think I’m weird, but it’s really interesting,” said Campbell, a rising junior at West High School. “I want to be a nurse, and I know what I need to do, but I need guidance to know what classes to take and to keep me on the right path because labor and delivery takes a whole lot of schooling. This camp this week helps a lot.”

A high school student from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley works on a project during Welding camp
A YouthForce student from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley works on a project during Welding camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.

Downstairs, the 14 students in Welding camp showed off what they’d learned how to make this week.

“This was my first experience with welding, but it’s really cool,” said Tashaun Patrick, a rising junior at South Doyle High School. “I love the plasma cutter. It’s just the most amazing thing. I made my football number and put it on a post. Today I took these random parts and made an eagle. We’re making a lot of cool stuff that you wouldn’t make in a typical high school class.”

Patrick noted he enjoyed Welding camp so much that he plans to make welding his back-up plan if a sports career doesn’t work out.

“This has been all you want in a summer camp,” Patrick added. “We’ve been learning and having a lot of fun doing it.”

For more information about YouthForce, visit For more information on Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.



YouthForce students at Nursing camp, lined up to practice the Heimlich maneuver
YouthForce students line up to practice the Heimlich maneuver during Nursing camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.
YouthForce student learns to take a manual blood pressure at Nursing camp
A YouthForce student learns to take blood pressure manually at Nursing camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.
YouthForce students perform CPR on SimMan
YouthForce students perform CPR on SimMan, a patient simulator, during Nursing camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.
YouthForce students check SimMan's pupils
YouthForce students check SimMan’s pupils during Nursing camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.
Female YouthForce welding student with work she made at camp
A YouthForce student from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley shows off the artwork she made during Welding camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.
YouthForce student welding
YouthForce student Tashaun Patrick practices welding during Welding camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.
YouthForce male student with project he made at welding camp
Teshaun Patrick, a rising junior at South Doyle High School, shows off how his football number he made with a plasma cutter during Welding camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.
YouthForce students in full welding gear
YouthForce students from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley watch as Pellissippi State Welding Technology Program Coordinator Adam Streich (not pictured) shows them what they’ll be learning next at Welding camp on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus.

Pellissippi State vice president selected for leadership institute

Audrey Williams
Audrey Williams

Audrey Williams, vice president of Information Services and chief information officer for Pellissippi State Community College, has been selected to participate in the 2019 Leading Change Institute in Washington, D.C.

Williams, who has worked for Pellissippi State for 20 years, is one of only 38 individuals chosen for the conference, which is jointly sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources and EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association that helps higher education elevate the impact of information technology.

“Throughout my career in educational and information technology, I have had the mindset of being a problem-solver, serving as a support function within the work of others,” Williams said. “To increase our capacity to serve our students, we have a growing number of new and existing technologies and data platforms. This brings change, not only to the technical staff, but to faculty, students and staff. I am now asked to provide leadership before, during and after these projects to ensure their purposes are understood, all voices (both positive and negative) are heard, risks are evaluated and impacts are anticipated.”

The Leading Change Institute, which takes place this week, brings together leaders in higher education who want to work collaboratively to promote and initiate change on critical issues, including new sources of competition, use of technology to support effective teaching and learning, distance learning, changing modes of scholarly communications and the qualities necessary for leadership.

“Participation in LCI will provide me with tools, networks and information to help me lead my division, my college and the statewide college system at a critical time as we approach several upcoming large changes in operations, as well as whatever the future may bring our way,” Williams said. “By attending LCI, I hope to create strong, professional relationships with peers around the world and to take advantage of what I can learn from the presenters and institute faculty to build my understanding of how to lead positive change on campus and beyond.”

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.


Pellissippi State names Kevin Fillers Alumnus of the Year

Kevin Fillers
Kevin Fillers

Pellissippi State Community College has recognized Kevin Fillers as its Distinguished Alumni Award winner for 2019.

Fillers, Business Manager at Innovative Design Inc., graduated from Pellissippi State in 2011 with an Associate of Science degree in Management. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee in 2013.

College wasn’t always Fillers’ plan, however.

“I decided when I was 13 years old that it was going to be my dream to become a professional paintball player,” Fillers told Pellissippi State Alumni for a #WhereAreTheyNowWednesday post on social media. “When I graduated high school, I told my parents I wasn’t going to college and put all my energy into pursuing a paintball career, where I ended up going pro.”

It took Fillers only a couple of years on the paintball circuit, however, to realize professional paintball was not going to be a sustainable future, he said. Fillers started taking classes part time at Pellissippi State in 2006, when he was 21 years old.

Going to school part time didn’t deter Fillers from giving it his all. In fact, Fillers was the recipient of multiple academic awards at Pellissippi State, including the 2011 ACBSP Student Leadership Award, which is given to the top business graduate each year.

After graduating from Pellissippi State, Fillers continued to receive academic recognition at UT, where he was named the Haslam College of Business’ Top Graduate in 2013 after completing his degree with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Innovative Design Inc. CEO Cindy Hollander noted this in nominating Fillers for Pellissippi State’s Distinguished Alumni Award this year.

“I think Kevin’s unconventional journey to get where he is today would be an excellent motivator for current students while clearly illustrating the transformative power of education, regardless of the path you took to get there or how long it takes you to finish,” Hollander wrote in her nomination of Fillers.

Fillers was recognized with the Pellissippi State’s Distinguished Alumni Award at the college’s annual Alumni Luncheon. The award is given to an individual in recognition of significant professional achievement, service to the community and support of the college and the Pellissippi State Foundation.

On top of his job at Innovative Design Inc., Fillers has spent the last seven years helping local businesses through his firm, Fillers Consulting, which specializes in business process consulting and fractional chief financial officer services. Although he keeps a busy work schedule, Fillers still has found the time to serve as a tnAchieves mentor, a member of Pellissippi State’s Alumni Steering Committee, a guest speaker and judge for UT’s Vol Court Entrepreneurship Competition, and a Knoxville Chamber Ambassador.

Fillers also has spearheaded the development of Innovative Design Inc.’s outreach programs, including creating a partnership with Knox County Schools to develop a computer-aided design and 3D printing curriculum that will be rolled out across the county next year, as well as a STEM enrichment program specifically for Green Magnet Academy. Innovative Design Inc.’s other major outreach program focuses on Knoxville’s entrepreneurship community, with the firm donating engineering and design services for startup companies.

“Receiving this award has been an extremely humbling moment for me because I look back at Pellissippi State as the place that really changed the trajectory of my adult life,” Fillers said. “The education and support I received from the faculty gave me the foundation and confidence I needed to advance my academic and professional careers. Making the decision to take that first class at Pellissippi State is a decision I would make 100 out of 100 times again.”

For more information about Pellissippi State Alumni, visit or call 865-539-7275.