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 

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Pellissippi State’s spring registration starts Wednesday

Four Pellissippi State students pose on campus with masks on
Pellissippi State students have been wearing their masks, practicing social distancing and filling out daily COVID-19 screening questions before coming to campus in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus and stay #PellissippiStrong.

Registration for spring 2021 classes at Pellissippi State Community College opens Wednesday, Oct. 21. 

Spring 2021 will look like fall 2020, with most classes not taking place on campus. In the spring 2021 schedule, students should look at “instruction mode” to see how classes will be conducted: 

  • Asynchronous online: students do the work on their own time; 
  • Synchronous online: students meet with their class at a set time via a platform such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom; 
  • Hybrid: students will be expected to come to campus at some point during the semester, often for hands-on labs or proctored tests, but most work will take place virtually; and 
  • In person: students will report to campus and meet with instructors and classmates in a traditional classroom. 

Students who prefer one of these modes of instruction over others can do a search by instruction mode in the College’s Schedule Planner. 

Current Pellissippi State students are encouraged to schedule an appointment with their assigned academic advisor using the Navigate app prior to registering. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, advising is being conducted virtually and includes access through Microsoft Teams, Zoom, email and phone. 

“It is important to register early for the spring term so that you can be assured to get the classes you need to keep you on track to complete your degree,” said Leigh Anne Touzeau, assistant vice president, Enrollment Services. 

Prospective students have a unique opportunity to learn what it’s like to attend Pellissippi State later this month. The College will host its first drive-thru Pellissippi Preview 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville. Those who want to learn more about Pellissippi State’s academic programs, admissions, financial aid and student support services, all from the safety of their vehicles, are encouraged to reserve their spot at www.pstcc.edu/prsvp. 

“With five campuses and a variety of online and virtual classes, Pellissippi State remains ready to meet students where they are and help them get to where they want to go,” Touzeau said. 

Pellissippi State has staff standing by to assist prospective students with the registration process in its Virtual Walk-in Student Services platform. Prospective students with a camera-enabled computer or smartphone can access Admissions, Advising, Financial Aid, HelpDesk and other student services 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday via Zoom. Prospective students do not need an appointment, but should be aware that, just like walking into an actual waiting room, prospective students will be helped on a first-come, first-served basis.  

Prospective students also can learn more about Pellissippi State through a remote meeting, an in-person appointment or online information sessions. To learn more about these options or to sign up for one, visit www.pstcc.edu/admissions/tour. 

For more information on Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. 

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Pellissippi State cancels August Commencement ceremony

Pellissippi State Community College has decided it will not hold an in-person Commencement ceremony this August for its spring and summer graduates as was hoped. With the increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, the college decided it was not safe to move forward with the specially scheduled ceremony. 

“When we postponed our May Commencement, was hopeful that we would be able to hold the ceremony in August,” said President L. Anthony Wise Jr. 

The Knox County Health Department reported 91 new positive COVID-19 cases Thursday. Federal officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies visited Knoxville last week after declaring the area a hotspot for the coronavirus. 

Pellissippi State’s summer graduates will be notified by postcard when their diplomas are available for pick up, and the college also will offer all 2020 graduates photo opportunities on campus when it is safe to do so, Wise said. 

Spring and summer graduates will be allowed to walk in the college’s next Commencement ceremony as well. 

“We are so proud of the diligence and resilience our 2020 graduates have shown, completing their associate degrees under what have been the most unusual and stressful circumstances in the 46-year history of our college,” Wise said. “Pellissippi State is a family, and we want to celebrate with our graduates who have worked so hard to reach this milestone. But, like with our individual familiesthe health and safety of our Pellissippi State community is our top priority.” 

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Pellissippi State employee tests positive for COVID-19

Pellissippi State Community College was made aware today that a Pellissippi State employee has tested positive for COVID-19. 

The employee was on campus Friday, June 26, at which time the employee was not showing any symptoms. The employee was on the second floor of the Goins Administration Building and in the Facilities reception area on the Hardin Valley Campus. 

The College has consulted with the Knox County Health Department and is following its recommendations. Pellissippi State has blocked off the areas for cleaning by its Facilities staff, and the College has notified all the people who were in extended contact with the employee on campus. 

The Health Department has deemed this a low-risk exposure. The employee wore a mask and practiced social distancing while on campus. Because the virus only lives seven days on surfaces and the areas the employee visited will be cleaned, the Hardin Valley Campus will reopen to the limited number of employees and students who have appointments on Monday, July 6, as scheduled. 

Pellissippi State partners with Blount Memorial to train nurses for Covid-19 care

Blount Memorial nurses run a simulation in the Nursing lab on Pellissippi State's Blount County Campus
Blount Memorial Hospital nurses run a Covid-19 simulation in the Nursing lab on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus on June 3. Each group of medical-surgical nurses is led by an ICU-surgical nurse. BMH Critical Care Educator Briana Dahl, at head of SimMan, is the team lead for this group of nurses.

Pellissippi State Community College is helping Blount Memorial Hospital nurses train to care for Covid-19 patients. 

The partnership allows the Maryville hospital’s nurses to train in the Nursing simulation lab on the college’s Blount County Campus. The first training was held Wednesday, May 27. 

“We have gotten together with Briana Dahl, the critical care educator for Blount Memorial, to create simulation scenarios based on actual cases to better prepare these nurses for what can come up in the hospital,” said Assistant Professor Ronda McCown, who is the lab coordinator for Pellissippi State Nursing. “A simulation lab is a safe place to learn because no one can get hurt.” 

For Blount Memorial’s critical care nurses, the simulations will be a review. But for the hospital’s medical-surgical nurses, the single largest nursing specialty in the United States, the simulations will allow them to practice skills they may not had to use since they were in Nursing school. 

“Learning is often experiential,” said Michelle McPhersondirector of education for Blount Memorial. “This training enables us to run scenarios that maybe they’ve only come across once or twice in their career.” 

As Pellissippi State continues to follow guidelines for social distancing, only seven people are allowed in the lab at one time: one ICU-surgical nurse and four medical-surgical nurses, as well as Katrenia Hill, nursing skills and simulation laboratories coordinator for Pellissippi State, and Pellissippi State Nursing Instructor Anna Wells. 

“We purposely mixed the floor staff who aren’t used to dealing with ventilators and Covid-19 with our critical care unit nurses, who can serve as team leads,” McPherson explained, adding there is ample time between the 2.5-hour training sessions for a “very strict cleaning regimen. 

BMH Critical Care Educator Briana Dahl is flanked by Pellissippi State Nursing staff in the Blount County Campus' Nursing lab
Pellissippi State Nursing Instructor Anna Wells, left, and Katrenia Hill, nursing skills and simulation laboratories coordinator for Pellissippi State, right, join Blount Memorial Hospital Critical Care Educator Briana Dahl in Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus Nursing lab to train BMH nurses on Covid-19 care.

By the time the training ends, 61 Blount Memorial medical-surgical nurses will have more experience in intubation careputting patients on a ventilator, adjusting ventilator settings, suctioning and proning” patients, which means lying them flat on their chests. 

The trainings will culminate in a mock code that allows nurses to practice what to do when a patient is declining, McCown noted. 

These Covid-19 trainings, which are expected to wrap up June 17, are just the beginning of what Pellissippi State and Blount Memorial nursing staffs envision being a year-round partnership. 

“We are trying to start up a nurse residency program that would meet once a month for one year,” McPherson said. “These four-hour sessions would allow us time to address things new nurses may need help with, such as mock codes and leadership training. 

This conversation with Pellissippi State actually started last fall, noted Joseph Newsomeassistant chief nursing officer for Blount Memorial – before Covid-19 pushed that training to the forefront. 

“When Mr. Newsome and I met last fall and he toured our Blount County Campus, we started discussing all of the possibilities for a training partnership between the college and the hospital,” said Dean of Nursing Angela Lunsford. “Blount Memorial provides several clinical training areas for our Nursing program, and it is our hope that using the simulation lab at Pellissippi State will strengthen training for nursing students, new graduate nurses and experienced ones.” 

Blount Memorial Hospital nurses train on Covid-19 care at Pellissippi State
Blount Memorial Hospital nurses Kenlie Langford, left, and Kody Smitherman, right, train on Covid-19 care on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus on June 3. The nurses do not have to maintain social distancing because of the personal protective equipment they are wearing.

Newsome agreed. 

We are excited to send our intern nurses and our new graduate nurses to Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus to use the simulation lab to enhance their training,” he said. “I think the Covid-19 trainings and the new nurse residency program show the best of what we can do when we work together.” 

For more information on Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

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Pellissippi State offers four class formats for fall 2020, some courses return to campus

Two Pellissippi State students wearing face masks work on computers while staying socially distanced
Pellissippi State students Heather Stewart, left, and Chelan Branham returned to campus earlier this month to complete coursework in labs wearing face masks while staying socially distanced.

Pellissippi State Community College plans to allow students to return to campus on a limited basis this fall, offering classes in four formats. 

“While our top priority remains providing a safe environment for our students and employeesour goal is to continue to give students the best learning experiences we can, both inside and outside the classroom,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. 

Pellissippi State will build on the convenience it historically has offered students through its five campuses and online courses by introducing new ways of learning this fall. Students will be able to choose classes taught in a variety of ways: 

  • Online: These traditional online courses do not meet on a certain day or at a certain time, but are taught completely through Pellissippi State’s learning management system, Brightspace; 
  • Virtual: These courses are offered online, but they use virtual platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to offer instruction at the times and days listed in the College’s fall schedule; 
  • Hybrid: These courses offer part online or virtual instruction and part face-to-face instruction in a classroom, with instructors letting students know which days they will meet on campus; and 
  • On-campus: These courses are taught in a traditional classroom, face-to-faceand will be limited primarily to programs that have a strong hands-on component, such as Nursing and Welding. A few general education courses will be offered on campus in the evening with smaller enrollments to allow for social distancing. 

By limiting the number of classes taught in person, we can ensure that our students have the space necessary to practice social distancing while they are on campus,” Wise said. “We know that some students may not feel comfortable returning to campus, however, and that is why we are offering even more options for students to continue their educational journey with us.” 

Pellissippi State’s data from spring 2020 shows that students‘ success rates in general education courses such as English, science, math, and history did not suffer when the college moved its classes online March 23 for the remainder of the semester. This information bolstered the recommendation from Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Kathy Byrd and the college’s academic deans that Pellissippi State continue to offer virtual and hybrid classes this fall. 

Pellissippi State also recognizes that some students may not be returning to their universities this fall and encourages local students to register for classes that will transfer to their home institutions after the coronavirus pandemic is resolved. Pellissippi State offers 50 pathways that will transfer to four-year universities in addition to its 25 programs that prepare graduates to enter the workforce in two years, all for about $2,100 per semester for a full-time student. 

“We know this fall will not look like ‘business as usual’ for many of us,” Wise said. “We welcome not only those students who choose to stay home for a bit, but also those who have decided this might be the time to learn new skills and pursue a different career moving forward.” 

Registration is going on now. To learn more about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. 

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Pellissippi State creates protective face shields for Covenant Health

Employees assemble face shields in the Strawberry Plains Campus MegaLab
MegaLab Director Andy Polnicki, left, and Pellissippi State student Matt Nidiffer, right, clean and package face shield kits for Covenant Health. Each kit contains one 3D-printed headband, two overhead transparencies, two elastics and a set of assembly instructions.

Pellissippi State Community College has produced its first 200 transparent plastic face shields for Covenant Health, building on an earlier project that provided personal protective equipment to health care facilities throughout Tennessee. 

Once we finished our responsibility to the statewide effort spearheaded by Gov. Bill Lee, I suggested we reach out to our friends in health care to see if they also had a need for personal protective equipment,” explained Teri Brahams, executive director for economic and workforce development for Pellissippi State. “It was great to offer assistance at the state level, but as a community college, it is great to be able to impact our local community as well.” 

Covenant Health responded to Pellissippi State’s offer, requesting 2,000 face shields that health care professionals can wear over their masks to help protect them from infectious diseases such as Covid-19. 

Moving from 3D-printing only the headbands for the face shields to producing the entire face shields took collaboration between Covenant Health’s Emily Sinkule and Pellissippi State’s Andy Polnicki, director of the MegaLab on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus. The two worked together to find a prototype Pellissippi State could produce with the supplies the college already had on hand or could find quickly, as “a lot of these items are difficult to get (due to the pandemic),” Polnicki explained. 

Pellissippi State got creative, repurposing transparencies for overhead projectors as plastic for the face shields. 

“We found about 500 usable transparencies,” Polnicki said. “We ordered more as well.” 

Pellissippi State also needed to produce face shields that Covenant Health couleasily store and pull out of inventory as neededPolnicki added. That meant coming up with kits that could be stacked on shelves and assembled by health care professionals on site. 

A Pellissippi State employee hands off a box of face shield kits to an Covenant Health employee
Pellissippi State student Matt Nidiffer, left, delivers face shields to Covenant Health employee Cody Leach, right. Pellissippi State produced its first 200 transparent plastic face shields for Covenant Health, building on an earlier project that provided personal protective equipment to health care facilities throughout Tennessee.

Polnicki and Pellissippi State student Matt Nidiffera former Knox County Schools educator who is now studying Electrical Engineering Technology, worked together in the MegaLab, printing about 50 headbands each day. Staff from Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services chipped in by helping clean the headbands before packaging them with the other raw materials. 

Pellissippi State finished printing and packaging the first 200 face shield kits for Covenant Health last week. Each kit includes one 3D-printed headband, two overhead transparencies, two elastics and a set of instructions for how to assemble the components into a face shield. 

Even masked and gloved, the shields can be assembled and donned by health care professionals in less than a minute, Polnicki demonstrated, wearing a mask and gloves himself. Two plastic shields and two elastics were included in each kit so that those opening the kits have a backup should one of components become contaminated, he noted. 

Pellissippi State now will turn its attention to creating similar packets for the college’s Nursing students to use in labs this summer and fall, but then will resume fulfilling Covenant Health’s order of 2,000 face shields, as health care facilities prepare for whatever the coronavirus pandemic may bring this fall. 

“This is still a large project, but we are not under the same deadlines (as when the pandemic started),” Polnicki explained. “We have our 3D printers running at half capacity, which allows us to make about 250 headbands for face shields each week, but we could ramp up to full capacity if we need to. 

A representative from Covenant Health picked up the first 200 masks Thursday, May 21. 

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

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Pellissippi State announces phased plan for returning to campus

Pellissippi State sign at entrance to Hardin Valley Campus
Pellissippi State will allow a small number of employees and students to return to the college’s Hardin Valley (shown here) and Strawberry Plains campuses starting Monday, May 4.

Pellissippi State Community College announced Friday a multi-stage plan for a slow, limited return to campus following the coronavirus pandemic that closed the college to all but essential personnel this spring. 

While one of Pellissippi State’s campuses is located in Blount County, Pellissippi State has adopted the guidance for Knox County as released by the Knox County Health Department for all five Pellissippi State campuses. The college’s plan also incorporates additional guidance from the Tennessee Board of Regents, the American College Health Association and the Centers for Disease Control. 

“Our first priority is the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. As we return to campus, we will do so in a manner that follows the best guidance of local, state and federal authorities. Within that frame, we will work to create the kind of engaged academic and student experience members of our community have come to expect.  

Pellissippi State’s first stage starts Monday, May 4, but only allows limited access to two campuses: Hardin Valley and Strawberry Plains. 

Those campuses will be open to those classes necessary for students to finish coursework that must be done on campus – skills assessment and project completion – during finals week. These labs in career programs such as Welding TechnologyEngineering and Nursing will not be operating at full capacity, in keeping with social distancing guidelines of leaving at least 6 feet of space between individuals and 10 or fewer people in one room. For that reason, an entire class may not be able to work or test at the same time. 

Outside of Strawberry Plains Campus
Strawberry Plains Campus is one of two Pellissippi State campuses that will reopen Monday, May 4, to students who need finish coursework that must be done on campus – skills assessment and project completion – during finals week.

Stage 1 also allows employees who have been working remotely to access their officesby appointment only, to retrieve items they need. 

While on campus, everyone must wear a mask at all times and follow social distancing guidelines. Anyone who has been exhibiting any of the symptoms of Covid-19 as outlined by the CDC should not report to campus. All employees are asked to take their temperatures before reporting to campus, and students who report for labs will be asked three screening questions provided by the Knox County Health Department before they are allowed to enter campus buildings: 

  1. Have you been told to quarantine/isolate by a medical provider or the health department? 
  2. Have you had face-to-face contact for 10 or more minutes with someone who has Covid-19? 
  3. Are you feeling ill and/or experiencing any of the symptoms of Covid-19? 

Stage 2 is scheduled to start May 29 and opens Blount County and Magnolia Avenue campuses to essential employees. The college’s Division Street Campus will remain closed throughout summer, as in previous summers. 

Future stages will be announced at a later date. 

Pellissippi State previously announced that all summer courses will move online, with limited in-person instruction in the second summer term for lab sections.  

For more information about Pellissippi State’s coronavirus response, including an archive of the college’s daily updates to faculty, staff and students, visit www.pstcc.edu/coronavirus. 

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FirstBank partners with Pellissippi State to supplement food pantry during coronavirus, pledges $50,000 to build new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science and $10,000 to celebrate alumni

Officer places grocery bags in open hatch of vehicle
Corporal Richard Brintnall of the Pellissippi State Campus Police loads groceries from the Pellissippi Pantry into a recipient’s car earlier this month.

Employees and friends of FirstBank in Knoxville recently raised $3,000 to help Pellissippi State Community College supplement the food in its Pellissippi Pantry during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Pellissippi Pantry provides access to healthy foods for members of the Pellissippi State family who may be experiencing food insecurity. Every other week, participants may pick up orders that include prepackaged food and fresh organically grown produce from the Hardin Valley Campus Garden. 

With the coronavirus pandemic causing shortages at local grocery stores, FirstBank employees stepped up and helped Pellissippi State supplement the food the college had on hand to distribute to more than 75 Pellissippi Pantry recipients the first week of April. 

“The work of Pellissippi State’s food pantry is vitally important to supporting the student community, and we’re happy to see our FirstBank family rally around a cause that helps people build a better future,” said FirstBank Knoxville Market President Nathan Hunter. 

Pellissippi State set up distribution tents on three of its campuses – Blount County, Hardin Valley and Magnolia Avenue – and announced times during which Pellissippi Pantry recipients could pick up their food. Volunteers from the college placed the boxes and bags of food in each recipient’s vehicle for a contact-less delivery. 

This was just the latest way FirstBank, the third largest bank headquartered in Tennessee, has partnered with Pellissippi State in 2020. 

In MarchHunter presented Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. with a $60,000 donation — $50,000 to help build the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus and $10,000 to sponsor Pellissippi State’s annual Alumni and Friends Luncheon, which celebrates accomplishments of past Pellissippi State graduates. 

“We’re happy to be partnering with Pellissippi State to support the great work this school is doing in our community,” Hunter said. “As a longtime resident of East Tennessee, I know how important Pellissippi State is to residents of this area, and we’re proud to contribute to their alumni and students’ success.” 

FirstBank’s $50,000 gift to the Pellissippi State Foundation will help the college complete its new 82,000-square-foot Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the Hardin Valley Campus, which is now under construction and expected to open for classes in fall 2021.  

The new building will help Pellissippi State, the largest community college in Tennessee, meet demands for classrooms and lab spaces that have increased due to Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, last-dollar scholarships that provide two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in Tennessee. 

FirstBank employees present ceremonial check to Pellissippi State
FirstBank presents Pellissippi State with a donation to help build the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science and to sponsor the annual Annual Alumni and Friends. From left are Robert Baird and Nathan Hunter of FirstBank, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Chris Parrott of FirstBank, Pellissippi State Foundation Executive Director Aneisa Rolen and Rusty Harmon of FirstBank.

The Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science will include 18 classrooms, six computer labs and nine science labs, as well as a teacher education center for the college’s Early Childhood Development and Teacher Education programs. An Adjunct Faculty Suite in the building will be named in honor of FirstBank’s generous contribution. 

“Each contribution we receive for the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science allows us to offer greater access to required labs in the sciences,” Wise said. “This new building will also include much needed classroom space for mathematics and teacher education as well as spaces for faculty and student collaboration. We appreciate our partners at FirstBank seeing the value of what we’ve proposed here and contributing to that vision.” 

FirstBank also will contribute $10,000 to Pellissippi State’s annual Alumni and Friends Lunch, which was scheduled for April 8 at the Foundry on the Fair Site but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The winners of the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Peggy Wilson Alumni Volunteer Award, both selected by members of the Alumni Steering Committee, will be honored at the lunch. 

Those award winners have not been announced. 

For more information on Pellissippi State, visit  www.pstcc.eduor call 865-694-6400. 

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About FirstBank 

Nashville-based FirstBank, a wholly owned subsidiary of FB Financial Corporation (NYSE: FBK), is the third largest Tennessee-headquartered bank, with 73 full-service bank branches across Tennessee, Kentucky, North Alabama and North Georgia, and a national mortgage business with offices across the Southeast. The bank serves five of the major metropolitan markets in Tennessee and, with approximately $6.2 billion in total assets, has the resources to provide a comprehensive variety of financial services and products. 

For More Information 

Jeanie Rittenberry or Roger Shirley 

FirstBank MP&F Strategic Communications 

jrittenberry@firstbankonline.com 

rshirley@mpf.com 

(615) 313-8328 

(615) 259-4000 

Pellissippi State nursing student sews more than 700 masks for strangers

Bridget Frazier at sewing machine
Pellissippi State nursing student Bridget Frazier of Knoxville sews surgical masks at her home. She has made more than 700 masks since March 20.

Bridget Frazier is a lot of things: wife to a disabled veteran, mother to 6-year-old twins, a nursing student at Pellissippi State Community College and an emergency room technician at Parkwest Medical Center. 

But since March 20, she’s also found the time to sew more than 700 surgical masks – and ship them all over the United States to people in need. 

“I noticed the shortage across the nation, and when I went in to work over spring break, we were already having to start limiting to one mask per day,” Frazier explained. “I came home, and that was the same day the CDC told us to go ahead and put a bandana around your face. I thought, ‘That is not going to work!’” 

Frazier, who is 30 years old and has been sewing since she was 12, started researching what kinds of fabrics work best in lieu of the N95 surgical masks that are in such short supply during this coronavirus pandemic. Then she took her own mask from her Pellissippi State nursing pack and traced it. 

“It took three attempts,” Frazier remembered, laughing. “The first two were pretty terrible. They probably wouldn’t have fit on a Barbie doll.” 

The third time was a charm, however, and Frazier got right to work sewing masks. With a father with multiple sclerosis, a mother with rheumatoid arthritis and a daughter with asthma, it was important to Frazier to protect her family as well as her friends who are medical professionals. 

“When I shared some photos on social media, it blew up,” Frazier recalled. “I was getting requests from all over: doctors’ offices, hospices. I didn’t know the demand was going to be so crazy. I wasn’t expecting people to respond the way they did.” 

Bridget Frazier at her home
Pellissippi State nursing student Bridget Frazier, pictured at home in Knoxville, finds time to sew masks even while finishing her degree, parenting 6-year-old twins, and working as an emergency room technician.

Local orders can be picked up from a basket on Frazier’s porch – she’s serious about social distancing! — but she also has mailed masks to Hawaii, Alaska, Alabama, Georgia, New York, Washington, D.C. and counting. On Friday alone, she sent 60 to Texas, 20 to Virginia and 12 to a critical care unit in Colorado. 

Frazier doesn’t charge a thing, not even shipping, but accepts donations to help her continue buying fabric and elastic bands – an activity she does twice a week, armed with a mask, gloves, Lysol and hand sanitizer. 

“I go to the store and the post office twice a week and limit the time period I’m out,” Frazier stressed, noting she otherwise is sheltering in place with her family. “I bought almost $100 worth of fabric (in one trip) so that I won’t have to go back out for a while because no one was observing social distancing. I was like Pac-Man. I’d see them coming down an aisle, and I’d turn and go the other way. I was like, ‘Stay 6 feet back!’” 

Frazier estimates she’s spent several hundred dollars on the project so far between fabric, elastic and shipping costs, but she’s not going to stop making masks. 

“With such a mask shortage right now, and so many people having lost their jobs, I don’t want people to go without because they can’t afford them or they can’t find them,” Frazier said. “I ask people if they want to make a donation, but if they don’t, that’s totally fine. You’re definitely going to get your masks!” 

Surgical masks sewn by Bridget Frazier
Bridget Frazier traced the mask from her Pellissippi State nursing pack when she started sewing masks over her spring break.

From March 20 until March 28, Frazier was able to crank out 100-120 masks per day. Now that Pellissippi State classes have resumed online – Frazier is on track to graduate in May and has accepted an RN position at Parkwest, pending the outcome of her state boards – she’s sewing 20-40 masks per day, but she also has some help. 

“So many people have reached out to me on social media who have felt compelled to go buy a sewing machine and start sewing masks,” Frazier noted. “I have eight to 10 people who are learning righnow. I made them a video of how to make masks, which is not an easy thing to do. The design I made is complicated, and these are beginner sewers. I’m so proud of them!” 

She shrugs off any accolades pointed her way, however. 

“I don’t view myself as an inspiration,” Frazier says simply. “I saw a need, and I figured out a way to fill that need.” 

To reach out to Frazier, you can find her on Facebook or email her at blfrazier@pstcc.edu.

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Sidebar: Thoughts from a future nurse

Pellissippi State Community College nursing student Bridget Frazier shares here, in her own words, what she’s seeing in Knoxville: 

“People aren’t understanding how serious this is. Across the world, 20-40 year olds are dying because they can’t breathe and we don’t have enough ventilators. It is very frustrating because everybody keeps posting how appreciative they are of nurses, but they are not doing what we ask them to do. For the love of God, stay home! Practice social isolation. Wear a mask when you have to go out. Wash your hands. Cover your mouth when you cough. It is going to affect someone you know within the next several weeks, and when that time comes, I hope that people are part of the solution and not part of the problem.”