Pellissippi State Motorsports finishes sixth in national competition

Pellissippi State Motorsports founder Christian Boone drives the team's 2021 race car on the college's Hardin Valley Campus June 7.
Pellissippi State Motorsports founder Christian Boone drives the team’s 2021 race car on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus June 7. The team was nearly finished with the car and demonstrating it for supporters at a send-off celebration before the competition in Las Vegas the following week.

Pellissippi State Motorsports headed out to Las Vegas with a car about 110 pounds lighter and 60 horsepower faster than the first one the students designed and raced two years ago. 

They were betting the team’s new car would finish better than their first one did at Formula SAE Michigan in 2019, and they were right. 

Pellissippi State Motorsports finished sixth at Formula SAE Nevada held June 16-19.  

“There were 36 teams, and we finished sixth overall, as well as sixth in the Acceleration event,” said Christian Boone, who was a Pellissippi State student when he founded Pellissippi State Motorsports in 2018 and now serves as an engineering lab technician at the college. He is finishing his Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Tennessee. 

Pellissippi State was, again this year, the only community college in the competition that brings university undergraduate and graduate students together to compete with small, formula-style vehicles that they have conceived, designed, fabricated and developed themselves. The team finished ahead of larger four-year universities including Purdue, West Virginia and Mississippi State, among others. 

“Our biggest surprise for everybody (in 2019) was not that we were the only community college in the competition, but that we were a first-year team,” Boone said. “The chief design judge said our car was the best first-year car he had seen.” 

An issue with the engine, however, tripped up the team in 2019, and Pellissippi State Motorsports finished 95th of 109 teams that year, with an overall score of 181.4. This year’s car finished with an overall score of 378.7, an improvement of nearly 200 points. 

Boone said from the moment the 2019 competition ended that the team’s main objective moving forward was to reduce the weight of the race car from 578 pounds with fuel/without a driver. With the 2020 competition canceled due to COVID-19, the team regrouped and started working on the 2021 car in August, despite the ongoing pandemic. 

“We’re down to 465 pounds now by incorporating lighter materials and being more careful with the choice of hardware we make (internally),” Boone said at a send-off celebration for the team June 7. “We also have a launch traction control that will help us get off the line quicker.” 

“This team took what they learned from their first car and adjusted, and it looks great,” Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. said June 7, checking out the new car. “It’s going to be exciting to put it on the track.” 

The 2021 competition was hot – literally. After temperatures reached 115 degrees in Las Vegas and several competitors passed out from the heat, Formula SAE Nevada revised the schedule. Instead of teams having 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m. each day to get their cars to pass tech and safety checks and then complete the competition’s four events, the window was shorted to 5:30 a.m.-2 p.m. after the first day, said Associate Professor Lynn Klett, the team’s faculty advisor. 

“They did great despite the oppressive heat and aggressive schedule,” she said. “Temperatures were 115 and higher every day.”   

The shortened schedule knocked 14 teams out of competition, as their cars never made it out of tech, according to the Formula SAE Nevada results. Tech includes about a 15-page inspection, Boone explained. 

The Pellissippi State Motorsports club at competition in Las Vegas in June 2021
Pellissippi State Motorsports and their faculty advisor, Associate Professor Lynn Klett (third from right on the back row) take a minute to pose with their finished race car at Formula SAE Nevada in June. The team finished sixth in the competition.

“For Formula SAE, you design the car around a set of rules, and Formula SAE goes through everything to make sure your car is rules-compliant — everything from the firewall and the seats to the chassis and every critical fastener,” he said. “We came prepared and got through our tech inspection really quick.” 

Pellissippi State wasn’t spared all the effects of the Las Vegas heat wave, however. During the Acceleration event, which measures the time it takes each car to travel 75 meters, Pellissippi State’s fan broke, causing the car to overheat after one run on the Acceleration course.  

While Pellissippi State’s time of 4.5 seconds still netted the team a sixth-place finish in the Acceleration event, that 4.5 seconds was only 4/10 of a second away from a first-place finish, Boone noted — and the car had been testing at 4.1 seconds on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus. 

“I think we could have won if we had another run, but we had to let the car cool down,” he said. 

Pellissippi State fixed the fan and went on to compete in the other four events: Skid Pad, which tests each car’s cornering capability on a figure-8-shaped course; Autocross, which tests how fast each car can make it around an open course; and Endurance and Efficiency, which test each car’s overall reliability on a 22-kilometer closed course, as well as how much fuel is used during the run. 

“When we got there at 6 a.m., it was already 95 degrees,” Boone said. “We were worried about the temperatures, but we managed to keep the car 5 degrees below where the ECU (engine control unit) would have cut off the engine.” 

In the end, Pellissippi State was one of few teams in the competition that got to finish all the events, which made Boone proud. 

“With the car we had, we did the best we could have done,” he said after the team returned from competition. “There were some technical things we did with the car that we could do differently next time, but this was a good team with good organization and good communication at the competition. Everyone had a job to do.” 

Pellissippi State students attending the competition this year included Daniel Ray (powertrain performance), Daniel Rasmussen (composite materials specialist), Ethan Crisp (electrical capstone student) and Zachary Koller (co-captain).  

They were joined by UT students Clayton Hickey and Charles Brush, both of whom previously attended Pellissippi State, as well as UT students Charlie LindeJeff Cargile and Cooper Jenkins. Cargile and Jenkins designed the race car’s aerodynamic package as their senior design project with fellow UT Aerospace Engineering student Gavin Jones. 

All UT students who serve on the team do so as volunteers and pay their own way to competition. 

Other Pellissippi State Motorsports team members who worked on the car but did not travel to the competition this year include George Johnson IV of Pellissippi State and Forrest Hamilton, a dual enrollment student who completed his Associate of Applied Science in Welding Technology while completing high school at Knox County’s Career Magnet Academy. 

“A lot of it has not been easy, but it was definitely a great experience,” Hamilton said. “There was a lot of going to school and going to work and then coming here and welding for six to eight hours, but it feels good to see so much of it finished. A lot of welding is not small diameter tubes so this has given me so much more confidence.” 

Pellissippi State Motorsports is a college-sponsored student club that could not do what it does without additional help from sponsors such as Barton Racing, Daycab Company, Norm and Ann Naylor, Gene Haas Foundation, Dave and Lynne Blair, Morlind Engineering, BHS Corrugated and Endeavor Composites. 

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Graduate spotlight: 10 high schoolers graduate from Pellissippi State this week

CMA seniors who are graduating from Pellissippi State around a painted rock on their high school campus
A pandemic didn’t deter these Career Magnet Academy seniors from finishing their associate degrees while earning their high school diplomas. From left are Arwen Roach, Kynlea Waldrop, Sophie Trent, Eli Elgin, Forrest Hamilton, Dylan West, Nathan Parker and Rondhea Martin. Not pictured are Josie Maynard and Jessamine Reckard.

Ten Knox County high school students will don their caps and gowns three weeks before their classmatesas they graduate from Pellissippi State Community College with their associate degrees before they earn their high school diplomas. 

This is the fourth and, by far, largest class of dual enrollment students to earn their associate degrees at Pellissippi State while completing high school at Career Magnet Academy, a public high school located on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus. No students are zoned for CMA, and any Knox County student who wants to make significant progress toward an associate degree, at little to no cost to their families, may apply. 

“I knew CMA was a good fit for me because I knew (Advanced Placement) classes would stress me out and I wanted something more tangible as an end result,” said Sophie Trent of south Knoxville, who has earned her Associate of Arts degree and is transferring to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to study biology. “Also, I knew I wanted to be a doctor, and this is a really big head start on that.” 

Rondhea Martin of east Knoxville also said he chose CMA because he already knew what career path he wanted to pursue. 

I came for business-related purposes and got to take my first college-level business class my junior year,” said Martin, who has earned his Associate of Science degree and is transferring to Middle Tennessee State University to study public relations. 

Most of the 10 CMA students who are graduating from Pellissippi State together grew up in different parts of town and went to different elementary and middle schools – but at CMA, they say they found their people. 

“Here everybody fits in,” said Kynlea Waldrop of west Knoxville, who has earned her Associate of Arts degree and plans to double major in marketing and recording industry, music business at MTSU. “You can come from anywhere and make friends.” 

Having only 53 students in their senior class contributes to that “tightknit” “family” feeling the teenagers describe – but the 10 students who have earned their associate degrees have also formed a bond through the unique experience of finishing community college and high school at the same time. 

CMA grad Josie Maynard
Josie Maynard is one of 10 Career Magnet Academy seniors who has earned her associate degree while completing high school.

“It has certainly been difficult,” said Josie Maynard of south Knoxville, who has earned her Associate of Science degree and plans to work as a licensed certified nurse assistant until she transfers to the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in August. “I personally have not had a summer break in three years! It is a lot of work, but it is worth it.” 

Eli Elgin and Forrest Hamilton agreed. The two students from northeast Knoxville have been friends since third grade, and both have earned their Associate of Applied Science degrees in Welding Technology. 

“I’ve been taking six classes for the last few semesters, and it’s tiring,” said Hamilton, who is transferring to Ferris State University in Michigan to study welding engineering technology. “Trying to keep on track with things while also having a life outside of school could be difficult.” 

Elgin recalled one semester that the two friends were on campus 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. two days a week, due to the timing of their high school and college classes. 

“I go to school four days a week, and then spend two or three days a weekend working in landscaping,” he added. “But now I’m ready to go straight into the workforce, and that was the point.” 

Meanwhile, unlike a lot of students coming straight from high school, the CMA graduates who are continuing their education at four-year universities will know what they’re in for. 

“Traditional public school is very rigid and structured,” said Dylan West of Farragut, who has earned his Associate of Science degree and is transferring to the Colorado School of Mines to major in petroleum engineering. “When we started our Pellissippi State classes, there was a period of transition from having teachers stay on you about assignments to being self-reliant.” 

Arwen Roach, who lives near Knoxville Center Mall and has earned her Associate of Arts degree, found that her greatest challenge was her own shyness – and taking Pellissippi State classes helped her conquer her fears. 

“It was really just my timidity being around adults,” said Roach, who is transferring to UT to study psychology and neuroscience. “But once I got over that, it was great. 

Her classmates agreed. 

“I really enjoyed having classes with adult students, actually, because I found them more interesting to talk to,” said Nathan Parker of Old North Knox, who has earned his Associate of Science degree and also is transferring to UT to study psychology. 

CMA senior Jessamine Reckard in front of Sunsphere
Jessamine Reckard of Career Magnet Academy will graduate from Pellissippi State on Friday with seven of her high school classmates. Two will graduate Saturday in a ceremony for Welding Technology students.

Jessamine Reckard, who lives near Johnson University, said the Pellissippi State class that touched her the most was American Sign Language. 

“I have cochlear implants – I’m hard of hearing – so to be immersed in that class and get to learn the language was amazing,” said Reckard, who has earned her Associate of Arts degree and is transferring to Lipscomb University to study mechanical engineering. “Going to Tennessee School for the Deaf and getting to work with deaf kids is one of the most surreal and best experiences of my life.” 

While most of the CMA seniors took their Pellissippi State classes on the Strawberry Plains Campus, some had the opportunity to take in-person classes at the Hardin Valley Campus as well. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, most Pellissippi State classes moved online. 

That didn’t stop the CMA seniors, who overwhelmingly said they loved asynchronous classes that they could take on their own time. 

“We could work more to save money so that we can transfer to a university,” Waldrop noted. 

The CMA students also raved about Pellissippi State’s tutoring center on the Strawberry Plains Campus. 

“These children are so amazing, and their perseverance is incredible,” said Ann Orpurt, the CMA guidance counselor who helped the students choose their classes. “They had to take extra classes in the mornings, in the evenings and in the summer to make this happen.” 

A majority of CMA students graduate with between 24 and 45 college credit hours, which is no small feat, she added. 

“Kids typically want to take as many classes as they qualify for,” Orpurt explained, noting CMA students no longer are confined to choosing a particular pathway but can take any Pellissippi State class offered. “These children did extra, but the other children at CMA are just as amazing.” 

Eight of the 10 CMA seniors will walk at the 7 p.m. Friday, May 14, Commencement ceremony on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus while Elgin and Hamilton will walk at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 15, with their fellow Welding Technology graduates. CMA will hold its graduation on June 5. 

“This is a monumental moment for these 10 remarkable students and for those at Pellissippi State and in Knox County Schools who have worked so hard to make Career Magnet Academy an option for students,” said Spencer Joy, dual enrollment specialist at Pellissippi State. 

Eight Career Magnet Academy seniors who are graduating from Pellissippi State
Eight of the 10 Career Magnet Academy seniors who will graduate from Pellissippi State with their associate degrees this week include (front row, from left) Rondhea Martin, Dylan West, Eli Elgin, Nathan Parker and Forrest Hamilton; and (second row, from left) Arwen Roach, Kynlea Waldrop and Sophie Trent. Not pictured are Josie Maynard and Jessamine Reckard.

The 10 friends may be heading in mostly different directions – two are transferring to MTSU and three to UT – but they won’t forget where they got their start. Waldrop summed it up for the group: 

“I tell everyone I know to come to CMA!” 

CMA can accept 125 freshmen each year, and there are still 60 slots open for fall 2021. The school accepts older students as space is available. Those interested in attending CMA can apply now at https://transapp.knoxschools.orgThe application deadline is July 2. 

For more information about CMA, contact CMA Magnet Facilitator Cameron Molchan at 865-622-3800 or cameron.molchan@knoxschools.org. 

For more information about other dual enrollment opportunities at Pellissippi State, visiwww.pstcc.edu/admissions/dual. 

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Former Pellissippi State student named Georgia Tech’s top engineering senior

Lily Turaski at Georgia Tech
Lily Turaski of Blount County, a former dual enrollment student at Pellissippi State, has been awarded the highest honor from Georgia Tech College of Engineering.

Former Pellissippi State Community College student Eleanor (Lily) Turaski of Blount County has been awarded the Tau Beta Pi Senior Engineering Cup, the highest honor from the Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Engineering, recognizing academic excellence, leadership and service.  

Turaski was selected from approximately 2,000 graduating engineers for this honor and will receive an engraved cup and $5,000 in recognition of her accomplishments. 

During high school, Turaski took multiple classes at Pellissippi State through the College’s dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to take college classes for credits they can then transfer to four-year institutionsIn addition to taking dual enrollment classes, Turaski was a member of the College’s Science Club and participated in a research project with other Pellissippi State Chemistry students 

Turaski also participated in many academic contests sponsored by Pellissippi State for local middle and high school students — the Math Contest, the Science Bowl and the Science Olympiad. She said she is grateful Pellissippi State offered so many opportunities for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields. 

“The courses I took at Pellissippi State gave me a strong foundation to be successful in my STEM classes at Georgia Tech,” said Turaski, who was homeschooled through high school and graduated in May 2017. “I am so thankful for professors Patricia Zingg and Rachel Glazener who made learning Chemistry fun!” 

“Lily was an outgoing and inquisitive student from day one in my course,” said Glazener, an associate professor of Chemistry. “It was a joy to have her in my class and field her array of questions about chemistry. I have no doubts that with her dedication to the STEM field she will do great things in life!  

Turaski won a full scholarship to Georgia Tech, where she is a Stamps President’s Scholar graduating in May 2021 with a 4.0 GPA. She is majoring in Materials Science Engineering with a minor in Chemistry.  

In addition to excelling in the classroom, Turaski has seven semesters of research experience in two Georgia Tech labs and has presented her research at four national conferences. For her research acumenTuraski was selected for the prestigious Goldwater Fellowship in 2019, which recognizes the top students across the country participating in STEM research. 

“I have really enjoyed my classes at Georgia Tech,” Turaski said. “Georgia Tech is a special place, where you are surrounded by incredibly talented and diverse people. I have learned so much not only from my classes and my professors, but also from my peers.” 

As a sophomore at Georgia Tech, Turaski created an undergraduate leadership team for Women in MSE (Materials Science Engineering) to integrate with the graduate team, and she served as the first undergraduate president of the group. She also was instrumental in revitalizing the Material Advantage chapter at Georgia Tech, which was named one of the top five chapters globally in 2020.  

In 2019, she founded the MSE Peer Partners Organization, which works alongside the Materials Science Engineering advising staff to help students with course scheduling, applying for internships and finding undergraduate research opportunities. 

“She is a dedicated, thoughtful student, one who strives to build community and advocate for STEM women to magnify their voice,” said Mary Lynn Realff, associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech. “Turaski stands out among the thousands of students that have passed through my hands over the years just by how effective she has been in making the School of MSE and Georgia Tech a more inviting, inclusive and diverse community.” 

Shortly after being named the winner of the Senior Engineering Cup, Turaski received a competitive fellowship from the National Science Foundation, which will pay for her to continue her studies at the graduate level. She will begin a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University in the fall, where she will focus on electronic materials. 

Turaski is the daughter of Steven and DeeDee Turaski from Friendsville, Tenn. Her mother is a longtime adjunct instructor of Biology at Pellissippi State. 

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Pellissippi State math students take top honors in Southeast

Jingxing Wang
Jingxing Wang, a senior at Knoxville Catholic High School who is taking dual enrollment classes at Pellissippi State, was the top scoring individual in the Southeast in the 2019-2020 Student Mathematics League competition. (Photo courtesy Jingxing Wang)

Pellissippi State Community College not only finished first in the Southeast in the 2019-2020 Student Mathematics League competition, but also had the top individual in the region — a dual enrolled student who is still in high school. 

Jingxing Wang, a senior at Knoxville Catholic High School, finished first in the Southeast. Wang, who has completed 10 hours of college credit at Pellissippi State, is taking Calculus-Based Physics this fall and is registered for eight hours of classes this spring. 

“I like to do any type of math competitions, and this one was quite similar to the other ones I’ve taken,” said Wang, who is applying to four-year colleges now with his sights set on University of Chicago. “I don’t know what I will do when I grow up, but I really enjoy theoretical physics and cooking. I also want to write a book. 

“He is truly remarkable,” said Spencer Joy, dual enrollment specialist for Pellissippi State. 

Pellissippi State has a tradition of math excellence, having finished first in the Student Mathematics League competition in Tennessee every year since 2009 and having had two other students finish first in the region: Lily Turaski in 2016-2017 and Trevor Sharpe in 2011-2012. 

This is the first time the College has placed first in the Southeast, however. 

“We were 20th nationally, which also is the highest we have been,” said Associate Professor Robert “Bobby” Jackson, who coordinates the annual competition for Pellissippi State. 

“This speaks volumes about our professors and our students,” addeJudy Fethe, interim dean, Mathematics. 

The Student Mathematics League competition is sponsored by the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges and is comprised of two rounds: one in the fall and one in the spring. 

The competition is open to any Pellissippi State student, Jackson explained, and close to 100 students usually participate. Those who compete have one hour to answer as many of the 20 questions as they can. Questions may involve precalculus algebra, trigonometry, synthetic and analytic geometry, and probability. 

“These are very challenging questions,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to answer all 20 questions in one hour.” 

Pellissippi State held the second round of the 2019-2020 competition on March 13, the last day students were on campus due to the pandemic. They tested in the Goins Building Auditorium and another classroom so that they could adhere to social distancing guidelines, Jackson noted. 

The five highest ranking teams, as well as the team and individual champions from each of AMATYC’s eight regions, receive plaques at AMATYC’s annual conference each fall, although this year’s event was held virtually. 

Meanwhile, the 2020-2021 competition has been canceled due to the pandemic. 

With most colleges in remote operation, we do not think it is possible to run the competition,” writes Student Mathematics League Coordinator Steve Hundert in the AMATYC newsletter. “For students looking for a challenge as well as some friendly competition, we will instead be running the AMATYC Online Challenge, which will be comprised of problems from past SML contests.” 

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

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Pellissippi State breaks ground for long-awaited workforce development center in Blount County

Eight officials with shovels in front of a bulldozer
Among the dignitaries celebrating the groundbreaking for the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center are, from left, state Rep. Jerome Moon, donors Steve and Ruth West, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville President Kelli Chaney, state Sen. Art Swann, state Rep. Bob Ramsey and Blount Partnership CEO Bryan Daniels.

Pellissippi State Community College broke ground today on its new Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center, a joint project with Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville. 

The 51,000-square-foot building on the College’s Blount County Campus will help fill the area’s need for highly skilled, college-educated employees. Blount County has experienced $2.8 million in new capital investment and announced 5,500 new jobs since 2011, according to the Blount Partnership. 

Named for longtime Blount County Campus benefactors Ruth and Steve West, the workforce development center will include space for Pellissippi State’s Computer Information Technology, Culinary Arts, Electrical Engineering Technology and Electromechanical Engineering programs while TCAT will have space for its Engineering Technology program, giving that college its first footprint in Blount County. 

Steve and Ruth West in front of artist rendering of new building named for him
Steve and Ruth West stand in front of an artist rendering of the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center that is being built on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus.

“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 Mr. West, longtime owner of West Chevrolet and a former mayor of Maryville. “But it’s not like it was when I was young. A good attitude and willingness to learn, while important, are not enough in today’s economy. We need more specialized training to fill these jobs.” 

The center will help fill that gap, with a unique, integrated approach to workforce development. In addition to Pellissippi State’s partnership with TCAT, the workforce development center also represents a K-12 partnership, offering dual enrollment classes for high school students, focusing on high-demand career skills. Meanwhile, a new corporate training center will give the College’s local industry partners extra space and opportunity to train their employees at Pellissippi State. 

“Our institutional mission at Pellissippi State is to provide a transformative environment that fosters the academic, social, economic and cultural enrichment of individuals and of our community,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “The Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center is going to embody that mission in a tangible way, helping us prepare Blount County students for high-demand careers that will sustain them and their families economically and allow them to stay right here at home instead of leaving in search of well-paying jobs. 

For example, the new building will include a 4,890-square-foot Culinary Institute that will allow the College to expand its Culinary Arts degree program and industry-recognized certification programs, increasing the number of graduates ready to fill in-demand culinary positions at hotels, restaurants, farmsteads, breweries, wineries and resorts across Blount, Knox and surrounding counties.

Dignitaries with shovels in front of bulldozer
Also celebrating the groundbreaking for the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center today are, from left, Blount County Campus Dean Priscilla Duenkel, Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell, Jeff Weida of Arconic Tennessee, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., TCAT President Kelli Chaney, Louisville Mayor Tom Bickers, Don Heinemann of Blount Memorial Hospital, Bob Booker of DENSO and Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor. Not pictured is Alcoa Mayor Clint Abbott.

The workforce development center will also help us serve our industry partners by providing  more space to train their employees and offering individuals the continuing education that helps them move to the next level in their careers,” said Teri Brahams, executive director of Economic and Workforce Development for Pellissippi State. And with the flexible space located right outside our new Culinary Institute, the College can provide the community space to host events and have them catered by our Culinary Arts students. It’s a win for everyone.” 

Construction of the $16.5 million building, which was funded by the state of Tennessee and TCAT in addition to Pellissippi State, is projected to be complete in February 2022.  

The fundraising team with shovels
Among those who have been working hard behind the scenes are fundraising team members Joy Bishop and Sharon Hannum, Chuck Griffin of BarberMcMurry Architects, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., TCAT President Kelli Chaney, fundraising team members Christy Newman, Andy White and Mary Beth West, Raja Jubran of Denark Construction and fundraising team member Teri Brahams, from left.

The Pellissippi State Foundation raised $5.5 million for the workforce development center. In addition to the Wests, the center also received significant financial contributions from donors such as the Economic Development Board of Blount County Government, the City of Maryville and the City of Alcoa; Arconic Foundation; Blackberry Farm Foundation; Blount Memorial HospitalCare Institute GroupClayton Family Foundation; Clayton Homes Inc.; DENSO North America Foundation; and William Ed Harmon.  

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

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Pellissippi State hosts Family Visit Night for Latinx community at Division Street Campus

Three students from Venezuela
Pellissippi State students Kelvin Gonzalez, Alejandra Alvarez and Gabriel Gonzalez, from left, are among the Latinx students who have been sharing their experiences with prospective Latinx students and their families during Pellissippi State’s Latinx Family Visit Nights this semester. All three students photographed here are originally from Venezuela.

Latinx families in the Knoxville area are invited to Pellissippi State Community College this Thursday for the school’s second Latinx Family Visit Night.

“We are specifically inviting prospective Latinx students, but we would love for them to bring their families and friends to learn more about enrolling in Pellissippi State and the resources we have to offer,” said Enrollment Services Coordinator Selena Kimber.

The Family Visit Night, the second offered this semester, will be held 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12, on the college’s Division Street Campus, 3435 Division Street. Refreshments will be served.

The event is free, and there is no need to RSVP.

Latinx Family Visit Night will give prospective Latinx students and their families an opportunity to talk to Pellissippi State faculty, staff and students. Admissions, financial aid and scholarships are among the topics that will be addressed, as well as Dual Enrollment options for high school students who want to get a head start on college.

Drema Bowers, director of Student Care and Advocacy, also will be on hand to talk about the ways Pellissippi State can help students who have experience nonacademic barriers to success such as food insecurity, housing and transportation.

A panel of Latinx Pellissippi State students will share their experiences at the college as well.

“Everyone here has been a blessing,” said Pellissippi State student Kelvin Gonzalez, who just arrived in the United States two years ago from his native Venezuela. “Everyone has helped me out. I have felt very welcome here, which is very important when you’re an immigrant.”

Alejandra Alvarez, who has been in the United States for five years, agreed.

“I have really enjoyed Pellissippi State,” she said at the college’s first Latinx Family Visit Night in February. “The faculty and staff have been so welcoming and friendly.”

While Enrollment Services has intentionally reached out to Latinx high school students and their families for this event, the Family Visit Night is open to all interested Latinx families, as Pellissippi State has a robust community of students who are older than the traditional college age of 18-24.

For more information, contact Pellissippi State at 865.694.6400. To request accommodations for a disability for any Pellissippi State event, call 865.539.7401 or email accommodations@pstcc.edu.

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Pellissippi State hosts first Family Visit Night for Latinx community

Pellissippi State sign at entrance to Hardin Valley CampusLatinx families in the Knoxville area are invited to Pellissippi State Community College next week for the school’s first Latinx Family Visit Night.

“We are specifically inviting prospective Latinx students, but we would love for them to bring their families and friends to learn more about enrolling in Pellissippi State and the resources we have to offer,” said Enrollment Services Coordinator Selena Kimber.

The first Family Visit Night will be held 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. Refreshments will be served, and a Spanish translator will be on hand to help those family members who may not be fluent in English.

The event will give prospective Latinx students and their families an opportunity to talk to Pellissippi State faculty, staff and students. Admissions, financial aid and scholarships are among the topics that will be addressed while a panel of Latinx Pellissippi State students will share their experiences at the college.

“Everyone here has been a blessing,” said Pellissippi State student Kelvin Gonzalez, who just arrived in the United States two years ago from his native Venezuela. “Everyone has helped me out. I have felt very welcome here, which is very important when you’re an immigrant.”

Pellissippi State staff also will explain the college’s Dual Enrollment options for high school students who want to get a head start on college, Kimber added.

While Enrollment Services has intentionally reached out to Latinx high school students and their families for this event, the Family Visit Night is open to all interested Latinx families, as Pellissippi State has a robust community of nontraditional students who are older than the traditional college age of 18-24.

The event is free, and there is no need to RSVP. For more information, contact Pellissippi State at 865.694.6400.

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TBR honors Blount County Economic Development Board for philanthropy

Fred Lawson accepts matted and framed TBR Chancellor's Award
Blount County Economic Development Board Chairman Fred Lawson, center, accepts the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy from Pellissippi State Community College President L. Anthony Wise Jr. and Regent Danni Varlan on Thursday.

The Blount County Economic Development Board was honored Thursday with the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy.

The board was nominated by Pellissippi State Community College for its early pledge of $1 million on behalf of Blount County and the cities of Alcoa and Maryville to support the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center that will be built on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus.

“The Economic Development Board was founded as the Blount County Industrial Development Board more than 50 years ago with the vision to attract good jobs so that young people wouldn’t have to leave Blount County,” said Regent Danni Varlan before presenting the award to Economic Development Board Chairman Fred Lawson at Blount Partnership. “With shared space for high school dual enrollment, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, Pellissippi State and incumbent worker training, the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center will ensure that students are ready to enter the workforce with great local employers such as Arconic, Blount Memorial Hospital, DENSO and Clayton Homes.”

The $16.5 million Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center is being funded by a public-private partnership: $5.5 million raised by the Pellissippi State Community College Foundation, $5.7 million from TCAT Knoxville capacity expansion funds and $5.3 million from the state.

“This is a different path than most of our projects take,” noted Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “State building projects usually wait on a list for about 18 years. The conversations we’ve had with business and industry leaders and (Blount Partnership CEO and President) Bryan Daniels indicated that, with the job growth in Blount County, we were pretty sure we didn’t have 18 years to wait.”

Varlan agreed.

“Blount County is just rocking it,” she said. “Since 2012, Blount County has added 6,000 new jobs and $2.9 billion in capital investment.”

In addition to receiving the Chancellor’s Award, the Economic Development Board got a sneak peek at plans for the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on Thursday. The plans by BarberMcMurry Architects have not been shared publicly because they will not go to the state building commission for approval until October, Wise explained.

“The principal layout is large open teaching spaces, similar to our MegaLab at the Strawberry Plains Campus, because we wanted to build in flexibility,” Wise said. “When students walk out to train, they get the feeling they are walking out onto the floor at one of our industry partners. That flexibility is important because my guess is that advanced manufacturing won’t be done the same way 10 years from now.”

Varlan praised the flexibility reflected in the plans and connected that flexibility with how higher education has changed over the years.

“It’s very important to us at TBR to make sure our workforce is competitive,” she said. “The whole idea of our community and technical colleges is to be open and nimble. We don’t know what’s coming down the road, but we have to be ready to teach it. Now we ask communities, ‘What do you need?’ The whole point is that our students can get out of school and get a job.”

Blount County Economic Development Board with Chancellor's Award
Several members of the Blount County Economic Development Board were on hand at the Blount Partnership Thursday for the presentation of the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy. From left are Bob Booker of DENSO, Monica Gawet of Tennessee Marble, Joe Dawson, Regent Danni Varlan, Blount County Economic Development Board Chairman Fred Lawson, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Greg Wilson of First Tennessee Bank and Matthew Murray of the University of Tennessee.

The 51,000-square-foot Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center will include proposed Pellissippi State programming for Computer Information Technology, Culinary Arts and Engineering Technology concentrations such as Automated Industrial Systems and Industrial Maintenance.

The building also will house a Corporate Training Center that will be available to businesses who want to train their workers off site, for training Business and Community Services provides to local employers and to the community for events.

“It can be divided into three areas for smaller groups, or we can open it up with theatre seating for 234 or round tables for banquets accommodating around 210,” noted Teri Brahams, Pellissippi State’s executive director for Economic and Workforce Development.

TCAT’s portion of the building is slated to include programming for Industrial Electrical Maintenance, Machine Tool Technology, Pipe Fitting and Welding to start, Wise said, while dual enrollment opportunities with Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County schools will continue to grow.

“We’ve done a lot and had a lot of conversations about this, and one of the things that’s exciting is now it’s time to execute that planning and have something really special here in Blount County,” Wise said. “It’s going to be a great facility to teach in, to learn in and to work in.”

Pellissippi State plans to break ground on the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center this winter and fully occupy the building by fall 2021.

“We wouldn’t be here without the support of the people in this room,” Wise said.

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

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Pellissippi State honors retired Rep. Harry Brooks with Career Education Center dedication

Harry Brooks in front of Career Education Center sign
Retired state Rep. Harry Brooks, third from left, unveils the new Harry Brooks Career Education Center on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus on Tuesday, Sept. 10. With Brooks, from left, are Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Dunn of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and Brooks’ wife, Mary.

Pellissippi State Community College lauded retired state. Rep. Harry Brooks of Knoxville on Tuesday by naming a wing of its Strawberry Plains Campus in his honor.

The Harry Brooks Career Education Center contains Pellissippi State’s MegaLab as well as its newly expanded cyber operations and welding centers. The campus is located at 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike.

“Rep. Harry Brooks championed career and technical education during his many years in the legislature,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “His advocacy for workforce training, dual credit and dual enrollment promoted career opportunities for students not just at Pellissippi State, but across Tennessee.”

Brooks, who was on hand Tuesday to witness the dedication with many friends and family members, represented District 19, part of Knox County, in the state legislature for eight terms, from 2003 until his retirement in 2018. During that time he served myriad committees, including chairing the House Education Committee during the 108th General Assembly and the House Education Administration and Planning Committee during the 109th and 110th General Assemblies. He also served on the Knox County School Board from 1992 until 1996.

“I’ll remember this day forever,” Brooks said Tuesday. “It’s an honor to see your name added to an educational institution, whether it’s K-12 or a college, and I don’t deserve it. I’m just happy to have been part of a team that made great strides in education in our state, and the future is bright.”

Pellissippi State also held a grand opening for its new cyber defense and welding centers on Tuesday.

Pellissippi State has 80 students enrolled in its Cyber Defense concentration under the Computer Information Technology program. The concentration has added $69,000 worth of equipment and supplies in response to explosive growth from an initial 19 students in fall 2016.

Cyber Defense Program Coordinator Charles Nelson
Cyber Defense instructor Charles Nelson shows off Pellissippi State’s new Cyber Security Operations Center on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The Harry Brooks Career Education Center also contains Pellissippi State’s MegaLab and welding areas.

Funding was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor via the Knoxville area Information Technology and Engineering (KITE) Program, which focuses on removing barriers facing unemployed or underemployed 17- to 29-year-olds in order to obtain middle- and high-skill jobs in the information technology and advanced manufacturing sectors.

“When we were teaching in a general purpose classroom with no dedicated equipment, we were not able to provide the quality or capacity we wanted,” said Cyber Defense instructor Charles Nelson. “This facility provides a digitally safe and secure environment to simulate cyber security scenarios that allow students to explore a wide variety of tools and techniques without interfering with normal campus operations, leaking threats or exposing vulnerabilities outside of the lab space.”

Pellissippi State has 52 students enrolled in its Welding Technology program and has expanded its welding area at the Strawberry Plains Campus by adding 15 booths to the 14 the college already had there. In addition to offering Welding Technology cohorts for Pellissippi State students during the day and in the evenings, the college also is offering three welding classes this semester to high school students in Knox County Schools’ Career Magnet Academy located on the Strawberry Plains Campus.

“These facilities are now available and utilized from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturday mornings for student utilization, open labs and courses,” said Welding Technology Program Coordinator Adam Streich, noting the American Welding Society is predicting a shortage of 450,000 skilled welders by 2022. “Local employers have asked for more student proficiency in alloys, stainless steel and aluminum (so) this expanded space and new equipment allows students to get more time on the skills local employers require.”

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

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Three Pellissippi State students earn high school and college degrees in the same month

“High achieving” doesn’t begin to describe three students who will earn their associate degrees from Pellissippi State Community College during Friday’s Commencement ceremony. Unlike the other graduates walking across the stage to receive their diploma, these three have yet to graduate from high school—though they’ll accomplish that, too, later this month.

Although difficult to imagine, Andrew Jerome, Haley Folsom and Savannah Keck will earn their college degree almost simultaneously with their high school diploma. Each student has invested years of hard work, determination and self-motivation to reach this milestone.

“I’ve always been up for a challenge. I started taking classes that interested me, and before I knew it, I only had one class left to earn a college degree,” said Folsom, 17, who attends L&N STEM Academy.

“How many high school students get to say they’re graduating from college at the same time?” asked Keck, 17. “It has been an amazing experience.”

Savannah Keck
Savannah Keck

“We look forward to celebrating the success of these exceptional students at commencement,” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., president of Pellissippi State. “They have excelled as dual enrollment students and demonstrated they can succeed in a rigorous academic environment. I have every confidence they will do well as they transition to their chosen four-year institutions.”

These students have been able to accomplish this by taking a combination of advanced placement and dual enrollment classes alongside their regular high school courses. They also took additional classes during the summer. Taking these classes allowed them to earn college credit while still in high school. Pellissippi State offers a wide range of dual enrollment courses in both high schools and on the college’s campuses.

jerome standing with trees in the backgroun
Andrew Jerome

“I heard about dual enrollment classes at Pellissippi State and starting taking them in 9th grade,” said Jerome, 18, and a home-schooled student under the umbrella of Christian Academy of Knoxville. “In my junior year, I realized that I would soon earn a college degree.”

Jerome began taking classes at the Hardin Valley Campus when he was just 14. He started out with one Spanish class. His older brother, also a dual enrollment student, showed him where to go and what to do during that first semester.

“It was weird at first because I was younger, but I got used to it. I’ve enjoyed the experience,” said Jerome. “I don’t think many have known that I’m a dual enrollment student. Those who have found out were surprised, but they didn’t treat me any differently.”

Folsom agreed. “Age wasn’t an issue. Some of my best friends were adult learners.”

“I found dual enrollment to be a lot of fun. It’s a great opportunity to get ready for attending a college,” added Jerome.

Keck is a student at Career Magnet Academy, which is located on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus. The two schools have a partnership in which CMA students take dual enrollment classes through Pellissippi State and then earn their associate degree after they graduate from high school. This month CMA will celebrate their first graduating class. Keck is not only a part of that class, but she is the first CMA student to complete high school and an associate degree simultaneously.

“It has been a crazy, amazing experience,” says Keck. “I love going to a high school located on a college campus. The standards are higher; it’s more challenging. And I love being taught by actual college professors. The CMA teachers work with you one-on-one. They trust us to be more responsible and give us more freedoms.”

Haley Folsom with stained glass on background
Haley Folsom

Keck even found time to participate in Pellissippi State’s student clubs and work in the summer as a New Student Orientation leader who helps new students acclimate to the college.

“Savannah Keck’s success is a great example of what we believe the partnership between Pellissippi State and Career Magnet Academy can produce. We are taking the time to celebrate the success of all the students in the school’s first graduating class and to develop new opportunities for student achievement moving forward,” said Wise.

Folsom took classes at the Hardin Valley Campus and online. She says that dual enrollment gave her more opportunities than were available at her high school. She often took classes that her high school didn’t offer, such as American Sign Language. She said that this allowed her to get used to a college environment and to meet new people.

Folsom will attend Georgia Tech in the fall and major in neuroscience. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she plans to continue her education to become a brain surgeon.

The next stop for Keck is Michigan State University where she will study criminal justice and international affairs. She will be part of James Madison College, a residential college at MSU where students and faculty examine the major political, legal, social and economic issues affecting our world.

“It’ll be a big change, but I’m looking forward to it,” she said.

Jerome will attend the University of Alabama in the fall and major in computer science. He plans to study German and participate in the college’s competitive and challenging Two Steps Ahead International German Student Exchange Program, which will allow him to spend a year studying in Germany.

All three students said that they would recommend dual enrollment classes to other high school students as a way to get ahead in their college courses and careers.

Pellissippi State’s Commencement ceremony is Friday, May 4, at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee campus.