Pellissippi State partners with Knoxville Opera to highlight Black music

Three artists with Knoxville Opera pose with Pellissippi State Audio Production Engineering instructor and students on Feb. 10, 2021
Knoxville Opera baritone Michael Rodgers and soprano Adia Evans, front row, have partnered with Pellissippi State to present The Black American Musical Experience online at 7 p.m. Feb. 19. Helping with the event, which was recorded Feb. 10, are (from left, back row) Audio Production Engineering student Audrey Smith, Knoxville Opera Artistic Director and pianist Brian Salesky, Audio Production Engineering instructor Jonathan Manness and Audio Production Engineering student Caleb Dennis.

Pellissippi State Community College invites the community to celebrate Black History Month next week with a virtual concert featuring Knoxville Opera artists. 

Knoxville Opera soprano Adia Evans and baritone Michael Rodgers will present The Black American Musical Experience at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, on Pellissippi State’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. The vocalists will be accompanied by pianist Brian Salesky, who also is the artistic director of Knoxville Opera. 

The concert is free and open to the public. 

During the pandemic Knoxville Opera has had to find new ways to serve our community outside the theater through collaboration and innovation,” said Knoxville Opera Executive Director Jason Hardy. We are so happy to collaborate with Pellissippi State in producing this program for Black History Month. 

The concert is sponsored by Pellissippi State’s Blount County, Division Street, Magnolia Avenue and Strawberry Plains campuses. The deans of the four campuses wanted to host a virtual event to celebrate Black History Month. 

Knoxville Opera soprano Adia Evans
Knoxville Opera soprano Adia Evans performs as part of The Black American Musical Experience, a free online concert presented by Pellissippi State.

I originally asked Knoxville Opera for a performance about Harriet Tubman, but our discussion morphed into a richer, more informative presentation highlighting the history of African American music, spanning a number of genres, composers and performers,” explained Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman. 

Partnering with Knoxville Opera to record the concert so that it can be presented virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic also gave Pellissippi State students  in the Media Technologies/Audio Production Engineering program the opportunity to practice their skills on a real project, she added. 

Opera is storytelling through voice,” said Hardy. It is important for us, now more than ever, to listen to the stories that are told in this important genre of music. We are glad that Pellissippi State recognizes the healing power of music to uplift our weary hearts and bring people together. 

For more information about other Pellissippi State events celebrating Black History Month, visit www.pstcc.edu/events/black-history. 

### 

National report highlights Knoxville gluten-free bakery assisted by Tennessee Small Business Development Center

Lynette Casazza started a gluten free bakery from her home kitchen in 2015, after two of her children were diagnosed with a health condition requiring a gluten free diet.
Lynette Casazza of Mama C’s Gluten Free Goodies started a gluten-free bakery from her home kitchen in 2015, after two of her children were diagnosed with a health condition requiring a gluten-free diet. She now has a storefront in South Knoxville.

Mama C’s Gluten Free Goodies, a client of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center that is hosted by Pellissippi State, is highlighted in a new national report launched last week. 

“In these challenging times, America’s Small Business Development Centers play a critical role in assuring the health of small businesses: helping them access capital needed for growth, navigating the uncertainty of the market, providing advice on compliance with government regulations, and being first responders when natural disaster requires intensive and long-term consulting,” according to a press release announcing the new national report. 

Mama C’s is included as an example of a SBDC client that is helping an underserved community. You can find Mama C’s highlighted in the Tennessee section of the report. 

Lynette Casazza started a gluten-free bakery from her home kitchen in 2015, after two of her children were diagnosed with a health condition requiring a gluten-free diet. She began baking and selling her gluten-free goodies — including dairy-free and nut-free items — at local farmers’ markets and expanded to a storefront in South Knoxville in 2019. 

“Lynette has been a client of the center since the start of the bakery,” explained TSBDC Director Laura Overstreet. “TSBDC staff provided start-up assistance and continued to assist Lynnette, resulting in the expansion of Mama C’s to a storefront location. With this expansion, Lynette needed help navigating the process of hiring new employees and setting up payroll in Quickbooks.” 

TSBDC was able to provide that assistance. Casazza is now successfully processing payroll through QuickBooks and handling her own bookkeeping, and her bakery added four jobs as a result of the expansion. 

“It has been wonderful working with the TSBDC and (Senior Business Specialist) Teresa Sylvia,” Casazza said. “She has played a vital role in helping me put together a business plan and executing it to make my dreams come true. When situations have arrived that I’ve needed help with, the TSBDC have always been there to help me through it. Thanks to TSBDC Mama C’s Gluten Free Goodies has met a great need in South Knoxville.” 

TSBDC provides services at no cost for small business owners and potential entrepreneurs. The Knoxville office offers workshops and private consultations ranging from business plan development, government contracting, marketing assistance and financial planning for new and existing small businesses. 

Even as the pandemic engulfed East Tennessee, the TSBDC served 984 unique clients in 2020, delivering 1,134 hours of counseling and providing training to 1,147 participants. TSBDC also assisted clients in securing over $11 million in disaster loans. 

“TSBDC is a powerful resource for our local small businesses to grow and thrive, all at no cost,” said Teri Brahams, Pellissippi State’s executive director, Economic and Workforce Development. 

For more information on the TSBDC, visit www.tsbdc.org/pscc/.  For more information on Mama C’s, visit www.mamacsglutenfree.com

### 

Pellissippi State Nursing students administer COVID-19 vaccine to frontline medical workers

Pellissippi State students Megan Boyle, Keiara Tate and Yesenia Perez, from left, meet at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center on Saturday, Dec. 19, to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to hospital workers.
Pellissippi State students Megan Boyle, Keiara Tate and Yesenia Perez, from left, volunteer at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center on Saturday, Dec. 19, to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to hospital workers.

Nursing students at Pellissippi State Community College aren’t just watching history unfold as the COVID-19 pandemic continues – they’re taking action to end it. 

Pellissippi State Nursing students started administering the first rounds of a COVID-19 vaccine to frontline workers at Covenant Health hospitals on Saturday. Within five minutes of posting the sign-up sheet Wednesday night, 50 students had volunteered. 

“I immediately let all of the College administration team know what an amazing and wonderful group of young nurses we have in our program,” Nursing Dean Angela Lunsford told students in an email Thursday. “You are part of something historic that you will tell your grandchildren about. You should be very proud! 

Pellissippi State Nursing students Megan Boyle, Yesenia Perez and Keiara Tate administered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Saturday morning at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville while Stephanie Busby, Autumn Smith and Angela Worley administered the vaccine at LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville. 

“I knew I had to volunteer to be a part of this experience because I wanted to be part of the solution to this problem that has greatly affected not only my family, but the entire world,” said Tate, 27, a former Patient Care Technician in home health care who decided to become a Registered Nurse after her daughter was born. I have had two family members who have passed due to COVID and many others who have been ill due to this virus. I am looking forward to ushering in hope and a cure. 

A vial of COVID-19 vaccine
Pellissippi State Nursing students are administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is being administered to workers at Covenant Health hospitals.

Family experiences also influenced Perez’s decision to study Nursing. 

“Growing up, my mom was always in and out of the hospital, and I saw firsthand the way nurses took care of her – the good experiences and the bad,” said Perez, 20, who works 12 hours a week as a Student Nurse Associate at Parkwest Medical Center in addition to 30 hours a week as a manager at Taco Bell. “I want to be that person who gives back to the community – and being bilingual, I can help (Spanish speaking) people who come into the hospital because I can understand them.” 

Although Pellissippi State students were prepared to draw up the vaccine themselves, Covenant Health had pharmacists on hand at the hospitals Saturday to draw up the medication, which was then put into a cooler.  

Autumn Smith, Angela Worley, & Stephanie Busby at LeConte Medical Center
Pellissippi State Nursing students Stephanie Busby, Autumn Smith and Angela Worley, from left, volunteer to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to workers at LeConte Medical Center on Saturday, Dec. 19.

“They got six syringes (of vaccine) per vial, and we had to get every dose out of the cooler,” Perez explained. “We couldn’t have multiple doses out and lined up. They had to stay a certain temperature.” 

Nursing students injected the vaccine into the deltoid muscle – upper arm – of hospital frontline workers and other staff, including those who work in the cafeteria, housekeeping and maintenance 

“It was very intimidating at first because we were giving the injections to a lot of health care workers who have been doing this for years, and we are just Nursing students,” Perez said, noting the vaccinations moved at a fast pace and they exhausted their supply by 8:15 a.m. Saturday. “But everyone was really nice, and I am amazed we even got the opportunity to help with this historical thing.” 

“The staff at LeConte said they couldn’t thank the students enough, that it would have taken double the time without them there to help,” Lunsford added. 

Pellissippi State Nursing students will continue to help administer the vaccine at Covenant Health facilities daily until Dec. 29, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when no vaccination clinics are scheduled. 

Pellissippi State Nursing student Yesenia Perez administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a Fort Sanders employee on Saturday, Dec. 19.
Pellissippi State Nursing student Yesenia Perez administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a Fort Sanders employee on Saturday, Dec. 19.

“The excitement for this vaccine is greater than I expected – so many frontline workers were elated and relieved to be able to get this vaccine,” Tate said. “Having to face COVID every day with just a mask and prayers has left a lot of people just feeling blessed to be here for this opportunity and to see this day. I look forward to my future career as a nurse.” 

Pellissippi State’s Nursing classes are held on the College’s Blount County, Magnolia Avenue and Strawberry Plains campuses. For more information about Pellissippi State’s Nursing program, visit www.pstcc.edu/nursing, email Nursing@pstcc.edu or call 865.225.2330 

### 

‘We crushed it!’ Pellissippi State wins statewide food drive for similarly sized community colleges

Pellissippi State volunteers pack and sort donations from Faith Promise to the Pellissippi Pantry on Nov. 20.
Pellissippi State volunteers pack and sort donations from Faith Promise to the Pellissippi Pantry on Nov. 20. This was a socially distanced outdoor event, with volunteers limited to two per hour for safety reasons.

Pellissippi State Community College crushed the (friendly) competition this semester, collecting the equivalent of 31,412 items in College System of Tennessee’s 22nd Annual Food Drive Challenge. 

Pellissippi State was the top institution in its tier during the month-long food drive that ended Dec. 8. 

Students, faculty and staff at Tennessee’s community and technical colleges collected nearly 76,000 food items, including almost $28,000 in cash donations, for food pantries on their campuses and food banks and organizations in their communities. 

This is the second year in a row that Pellissippi State has collected the most food items in its tier, but this years 31,412 items more than doubled last year’s 15,411. 

“COVID-19 obviously has been a big factor,” said Drema Bowers, director of Student Care and Advocacy for Pellissippi State. “We are home more and on social media all the time. People can’t escape seeing food lines. It’s made people more aware of food insecurity.” 

Pellissippi State was helped this year by the Pellissippi State Foundation’s Giving Tuesday campaign. Thanks to matching donors, gifts made to the Foundation and earmarked for the Pellissippi Pantry before and on Dec. 1 were doubled. Because TBR counts each $1 donation as the equivalent of two cans of food, during that time period, $1 equaled four cans of food, Bowers noted. 

“I also think that now that many of us are working from home, we don’t have the cost of our commutes and that $7 or $8 lunch some of us were buying each day,” she added. “Those of us who are still fortunate to have our jobs may have had a little more to give this season.” 

Pellissippi State was further helped by community partners including Church of the Savior, Faith Promise Hardin Valley Church of Christ and the Scarecrow Foundation. These partners not only gave monetary donations to the Pellissippi Pantry, but also contributed boxed and canned items. 

“We are very, very appreciative of all our community partners,” Bowers said. “We crushed it!” 

The Pellissippi Pantry, like other College services, had to adjust its processes this year due to COVID-19, but still has served 70 participants in fall 2020. Participants were able to pick up a five-day supply of groceries once a month during the semester, and those who were unable to come to campus for food distribution were mailed gift cards to grocery stores. 

While all the food collected by Pellissippi State stays with the college to serve Pellissippi Pantry participants, Bowers and her Student Care and Advocacy team also keep students apprised of resources in the community and teach students how to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. 

For more information about the Pellissippi Pantry, including how you can donate, visit www.pstcc.edu/advocacy/pantry. 

### 

Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus celebrates 20 years of changing lives

Students gather in the Magnolia Avenue Campus courtyard in pre-pandemic times.
Pellissippi State students gather in the Magnolia Avenue Campus courtyard in pre-pandemic times.

Pellissippi State Community College’s Magnolia Avenue Campus will celebrate its 20th anniversary in a socially distanced way, in keeping with the challenges of marking milestones during a pandemic. 

The celebration will take place noon-1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, over Zoom. Those who would like to attend should RSVP to tltrivette@pstcc.edu or call 865.329.3100 to receive the Zoom link for the event. 

Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman, who has served as dean since the campus opened, will oversee the celebration, which will include speakers sharing what Magnolia Avenue Campus did for them. 

“This was the only east campus (of Pellissippi State) when we opened 20 years ago, and we had the opportunity to serve this community in a way that they had not been served before,” Tillman remembered. “There was a reluctance at first to come inside a college door, but now they had a place in the neighborhood, and we tried to make them feel comfortable.” 

Among the students who have passed through the halls of Magnolia Avenue Campus over the years, one stands out in Tillman’s mind: a nail technician who came into the office 30 minutes into her first college class. Tillman recalled the student telling her, “I can’t do this. I’m too old,” but the Magnolia Avenue Campus staff encouraged her to stick with it.  

That student ended up getting her degree in education. 

That always has stayed with me because she was so devastated that day,” Tillman said. “We have been able to change people’s lives.” 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400. 

### 

Annual holiday concert shifts online during pandemic

Dakota Loo on marimba, Jacob Mincke on bells and Jennifer Vargo on vibraphone perform in the pre-recorded Holiday Spectacular in 2020
Pellissippi State students Dakota Loo on marimba, Jacob Mincke on bells and Jennifer Vargo on vibraphone perform in the pre-recorded Holiday Spectacular concert that will premiere at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 on Facebook and YouTube.

The talented musicians and singers at Pellissippi State Community College know that “the show must go on.” That’s why the College will present its annual Holiday Spectacular concert online this year. 

“Home for the Holidays … Again!” will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, on Pellissippi State’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. 

Those who want to enjoy the concert will not need social media accounts to view the concert, as privacy will be set to “public.”  

Our annual Holiday Spectacular is one of the most well-loved events of the year, so we traditionally perform the show twice in the same night,” said Assistant Professor Meagan Humphreys, music program coordinator for Pellissippi State. “With so many of us working and learning from home this year due to the pandemic, we thought, ‘Why not bring the concert into people’s homes?’ It’s a very 2020 way to kick off the holiday season!” 

This year’s concert will feature Pellissippi State’s jazz band, studio orchestra, percussion ensemble, bluegrass ensemble, guitar ensemble and brass ensemble as well as pieces by the College’s two choirs: Concert Chorale and Variations. 

The eight songs will be a mix of sacred and secular holiday music, from “Away in a Manger” to “Jingle Bell Rock.” 

There is no cost to view the concert, which will feature more than 70 Pellissippi State students. 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400. 

### 

Free webinar highlights Knoxville as major hub for production vision, talent, output

The Pellissippi State Community College Media Technologies program will continue its free webinar series titled “The Art, Science & Impact of Digital Storytelling” on Dec. 1, with a focus on “Building Greater Knoxville’s National Reputation as a Creative Community.” 

The session will take place 12:30-2 p.m. Eastern over Zoom. Registration is open now for professionals, faculty, students and alumni in digital, creative and strategic communications 

“Building Greater Knoxville’s National Reputation as a Creative Community” will focus on the region’s wealth of creative intellectual assets and highlight Knoxville as a major hub of production vision, talent and output.  

The session, which will be moderated by Mary Beth West of Fletcher Marketing PR, will spotlight the future direction and demand for creative and production services. Panelists including Deborah Allen of Catalina Content, Doug Lawyer of the Knoxville Chamber and Joe Richani of Jewelry Television will address how the region can best position itself to grow and adapt to workforce development needs. 

This webinar series is sponsored by The Hive, Bagwell Entertainment and Jupiter Entertainment and will conclude Jan. 22 with “The Media Technologies Workforce Pipeline & 2021 Employer Hiring Priorities.” 

For more information on the webinar series or to register for upcoming sessions, visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs/mediatech

### 

Arconic Foundation funds new afterschool program with Pellissippi State

Jeff Weida, plant manager for Arconic Tennessee Operations, left, and Christy Newman, manager of communications and community relations for Arconic Tennessee Operations, right, present a grant to start the Pellissippi Youth Scholars Program in Blount County to Teri Brahams, Pellissippi State’s executive director for economic and workforce development, and Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. on Oct. 23.
Jeff Weida, plant manager for Arconic Tennessee Operations, left, and Christy Newman, manager of communications and community relations for Arconic Tennessee Operations, right, present a grant to start the Pellissippi Youth Scholars Program in Blount County to Teri Brahams, Pellissippi State’s executive director for economic and workforce development, and Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. on Oct. 23.

Arconic Foundation has awarded Pellissippi State Community College $50,000 to start a new afterschool program for children in Blount County. 

The Pellissippi Youth Scholars Program, which will be implemented at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Alcoa and the Boys & Girls Club in Maryville, will focus on career awareness, exploration and preparation for high-wage, high-demand advanced manufacturing and coding careers. The program will offer concentrations in robotics, additive manufacturing, coding, hydraulics and pneumatics. 

“The earlier a student is introduced to these jobs, the sooner they will see an optimistic future open to career-connected learning,” said Teri Brahams, executive director for economic and workforce development for Pellissippi State. “Exposing students to these career opportunities in middle school will allow them to better use their time in high school to prepare for the path they’ll take after graduation.  

Having an exciting experience with the Pellissippi Youth Scholars Program could not only spark their interest in these careers, but also could help students understand the importance of taking advanced math, science and English courses in high school,” she added. 

The program, which will begin January 2021, will be led by a Pellissippi State employee, although the College is recruiting volunteers from industry and the community to help.  Activities will be interactive and age appropriate, introducing participants to the basic terminology and concepts that are critical to each concentration. Students will learn how to use the basic types of equipment common to each field and will build new skills through hands-on instruction. Guest speakers will help students make the connection between what they are learning and a real job.  

The Pellissippi Youth Scholars Program also will focus on critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity – four areas regularly identified by area business and industry leaders as skills that their employees need. Activities will address the barriers students may face when considering one of these career pathways and will highlight the resources available throughout the community to help them. Inspiring self-esteem in students is another program goal. 

“Blount County employers are emphasizing a desire to hire a more diverse workforce, but many underrepresented populations may not be aware of the opportunities for a career in advanced manufacturing or the educational pathway needed to be successful in manufacturing,” Brahams said. “This program will address both of these challenges.” 

The Pellissippi Youth Scholars Program is open to students attending afterschool programs held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Alcoa and the Boys & Girls Club in Maryville. However, those who would like to volunteer to help with the program should contact Teri Brahams at tbrahams@pstcc.edu. 

### 

Help honor veterans by sponsoring a wreath this holiday season

Logo for Wreaths Across AmericaA group of Pellissippi State Community College students is spearheading a drive to provide 1,000 wreaths to decorate veterans’ graves in December, and you can help. 

Maya Billingsley, Celeste Christopher, Justin Hammack, Jake Harrell and Leslie Nokes are assisting Knoxwreaths, the local affiliate of Wreaths Across America, as their service-learning project for their Project Management and Design class.  

The group’s goal is to get 1,000 wreaths donated to the organization by Thanksgiving so that they can be placed on headstones at Knox County’s three veteran cemeteries at noon Dec. 19. 

Knoxwreaths needs 18,000 wreaths total. 

“This is very close to my heart – it’s very personal to me – because my father was a World War II vet and my grandfather a World War I vet,” Christopher explains in a video on the Knoxwreaths Facebook page. “Because I can’t thank them anymore in person, this is my way of contributing.” 

Assistant Professor Tracey Farr said this project picks up where a spring 2020 Principles of Marketing class left off. That class, taught by adjunct Mandy Summittmet with the United Veterans Council of East Tennessee to create a marketing plan for summer and fall 2020. 

“We are doing a lot of social media for them,” Farr said of the group of gentlemen who work with Wreaths Across America each year to provide wreaths for Knox County‘s three veteran cemeteries. “It’s a big goal, but we are hoping that the vast Pellissippi State community will contribute. 

Those who want to sponsor a wreath can do so on a Wreaths Across America webpage set up specifically for the Pellissippi State project. The cost of each wreath, which is crafted from balsam and hand-tied with a red velvet bow, is $15. 

There also is an opportunity to volunteer on the day the wreaths are placed at the cemetery, Farr added. 

“I would love to have a Pellissippi State team,” said Farr, who plans to participate with her own children. “It will be safe, with social distancing and masks, and even young kids can do this.” 

Volunteers are needed at all three veteran cemeteries. Those who are interested can sign up to volunteer at the site of their choice through the website or can email Farr at tefarr@pstcc.edu. 

###

Pellissippi State, Discovery honor alumna for extraordinary volunteer service

Leila Howell in front of a black backdrop
Leila Howell, a 2013 Pellissippi State graduate, has been named the 2020 Peggy Wilson Volunteer Alumni Award winner by the College and Discovery.

Pellissippi State Community College has recognized Leila Howell as winner of the 2020 Peggy Wilson Volunteer Alumni Award, sponsored and announced this year by Discovery, Inc. 

This honor highlights an outstanding graduate in recognition of extraordinary service to the Pellissippi State community. 

“At Discovery, being purposeful and doing the right thing are two of our Guiding Principles and core to our DNA,” said Vikki Neil, executive vice president and general manager for Discovery’s Digital Studios Group. We are dedicated to giving back in communities where we live and work and value the importance of volunteerism and recognize the passion and commitment volunteers bring to an organization. We are honored to partner with Pellissippi State and sponsor the 2020 Peggy Wilson Volunteer Alumni Award and honor Leila Howell, who is incredibly deserving of this award.” 

Howell’s story is one of persistence. She started her education at Pellissippi State more than 20 years ago, but then put college on hold when she became a mother to five daughters. She returned to Pellissippi State in 2011 and earned her general Associate of Science degree in 2013. 

Today Howell is a human resources manager at Integrity HR Services and is pursuing a master’s in organizational leadership at Trevecca Nazarene University. 

Despite working full time, taking classes and raising her daughters as a single mom, Howell still finds the time to be an active member of Pellissippi State’s Alumni Association. For 2019’s Pack the Pickup food drive, she led a campaign to support both the Pellissippi Pantry and the college’s Clothes Closet — promoting the needs of students, setting up her workplace for drop-offs and personally picking up donations around town. 

Howell also volunteers at student events and mentors Pellissippi State students through Tennessee Achieves. 

Volunteering means a great deal to me,” Howell said. I have always harbored the philosophy that when we are blessed, we should bless others in return. My father, a sage man, once told me that anyone could give money, but not everyone can give time and talent. This is an idea that has followed me, with merit, through my adult life. 

“The Foundation is proud to honor Leila Howell’s passion for serving Pellissippi State through the Peggy Wilson Volunteer Alumni Award,” said Britney Sink, director of Alumni and Donor Engagement for the Pellissippi State Foundation. Supporting our community is vital, and we encourage our alumni to get involved and give back. 

For more information about Pellissippi State Alumni, visit www.pstcc.edu/alumni or call 8655397275. 

###