Pellissippi State aims to ‘Pack the Pickup’ with food donations

Students with donated food items and Pack the Pickup poster
Pellissippi State students in Professor Lisa Fall’s Project Design and Management Class have been setting up Food Drive “Service Stations” this month to collect donations for “Pack the Pickup.”

How much food can fit in the bed of a pickup truck?

Pellissippi State Community College is hoping the answer is 10,694 items. That’s the college’s goal for this year’s TBR Annual Food Drive. TBR, The College System of Tennessee, is the largest system of higher education in Tennessee, governing the state’s 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology.

“Our theme is Pack the Pickup,” explained Drema Bowers, director of Student Care and Advocacy, noting that the goal equals the number of students enrolled at Pellissippi State this fall. “We are collecting donations, and then we will meet with our community partners on Dec. 6 to pack a pick-up with our donations.”

In addition to collection boxes on all five Pellissippi State campuses in Knox and Blount counties, community partners are collecting for Pellissippi State as well: Regions Bank on Hardin Valley Road, Integrity HR Services, King University, Food City, Maple Street Biscuit Company, Cotton-Eyed Joe and Sitel.

“We are fortunate to have so many of our local businesses support our Pellissippi Pantry,” Bowers said. “They understand the challenges that some college students experience, including food insecurity, and they are eager to help.”

Students in Professor Lisa Fall’s Project Design and Management Class have set up Food Drive “Service Stations,” in tandem with the pickup theme, across all five campuses to help educate students about food insecurity and the Pellissippi Pantry, which provides food for Pellissippi State students and their families.

“We know we have students who don’t eat, who live in their cars,” said Fall, who also is serving as co-advisor of X-Hunger, a new student club devoted to supporting the Pellissippi Pantry. “This isn’t New York City. This is right here on our campuses, right here in our backyard.”

Student places donated food in box
A Pellissippi State student places donated food into a box on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus. Pellissippi State has set a goal of collecting 10,694 items for the TBR Annual Food Drive, one item for each student enrolled at Pellissippi State this fall.

In fact, at this time last year, Pellissippi Pantry had 67 participants, Bowers noted. That number is up to 98 participants this year, representing 305 total people in those participants’ households.

“I think what I’ve learned most by participating in the food drive is that there are more people than you think that have food insecurity,” said Pellissippi State student Amberlie John. “Being provided with the numbers of last year’s participants in total versus where we are just three months into the academic year is astounding. By raising awareness of this issue, we hope to help those in need feel comfortable speaking out and asking for help – and to not be shy or ashamed of what they are going through.”

Financial contributions may be made this year in lieu of purchasing items, Bowers added. Every dollar donated equals two units of food. You can give directly online at this link provided by the Pellissippi State Foundation:

For more information about the TBR food drive, contact Student Care and Advocacy at 865.539.7417 or

Folk singers trace path to freedom from slavery through civil rights movement

Rhonda and Sparky Rucker performing on banjo and guitar
Folk musicians Rhonda and Sparky Rucker will perform at Pellissippi State on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Pellissippi State Community College will celebrate World Day of Social Justice through music and song with internationally known musicians, storytellers and authors Sparky and Rhonda Rucker.

Sparky and Rhonda’s “Let Freedom Ring” performance will be held 10:45 a.m.-12:05 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, in the Goins Building Auditorium on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The event is free and open to the public.

Sparky and Rhonda’s program at Pellissippi State will demonstrate how movements for justice have produced some of our country’s most inspiring songs and stories. They will trace the nation’s struggles from slavery and the Underground Railroad through the battles for women’s suffrage and workers’ rights and into the civil rights movement.

“As a social worker by training, I’ve been involved is social justice work for over 30 years, and I’ve always been amazed at how artists can utilize their works to reflect the time,” said Drema Bowers, director of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement for Pellissippi State. “That is especially true of musicians. Although I’ve only heard the Ruckers perform once, it made a lasting impression and I want others to share this experience.”

Sparky Rucker grew up in Knoxville and has been involved with the civil rights movement since the 1950s. He got his start in folk music during the movement, marching shoulder-to-shoulder with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers Matthew and Marshall Jones and playing freedom songs at rallies alongside such luminaries as Guy and Candie Carawan, Pete Seeger and Bernice Reagon. In addition, he worked for the Poor People’s Campaign and helped to gain benefits for coal miners in Southern Appalachia. Sparky accompanies himself on guitar, banjo and spoons.

Rhonda Hicks Rucker practiced medicine for five years in Maryville, Tenn., before becoming a full-time musician, author and storyteller. She is a versatile singer and performer, playing blues harmonica, piano, clawhammer banjo and rhythmic bones. Rhonda has become a passionate voice in social and environmental advocacy through her songwriting, creating moving songs about topics such as global warming, the broken health care system and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Sparky and Rhonda are world-renowned performers, and we are fortunate to have them here in our area,” Bowers said. “It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity to journey through time with them.”

To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email  accommodations@pstcc.eduFor more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.


Pellissippi State shares resources with students during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Forty-one Pellissippi State Community College students receive food every two weeks from the Pellissippi Pantry, a free service that is helping feed not only these students, but 127 family members.

The College is using Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 12-18, to make sure all students across Pellissippi State’s five campuses are aware of the resources available to them.

“Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is purposely the week before Thanksgiving so that we can think about the bountiful meal most of us will be enjoying and realize that not everybody has that,” said Drema Bowers, director of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement at Pellissippi State. “Among our goals is to share the definitions of food insecurity and housing insecurity, as we are working hard to address these issues at Pellissippi State.”

The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice’s 2017 #RealCollege survey of basic needs in higher education, released in April 2018, shows 42 percent of respondents at community colleges across the country had faced food insecurity in the past month while 46 percent had faced housing insecurity in the past year.

“My colleague Sandra Davis and I went to #RealCollege, a national conference on food and housing insecurity, in September, and we came back with a greater desire to make sure we are doing all that we can do,” Bowers said. “We’ve got our Pellissippi Pantry and our Hardin Valley Campus Garden, which grows produce for the Pantry, but what else would help our students?”

The Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week events will help Pellissippi State identify how the College could be more proactive in meeting students’ food needs, in particular.

A Student Voice Survey is set for 10:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, on the Strawberry Plains Campus and 10:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, on the Blount County Campus.

“We want to find out if students know about the Pellissippi Pantry, whether they are willing to utilize our services, and why or why not,” Bowers explained. “We also want to ask them what they would like to see in a pantry.”

To help identify the kinds of foods students would eat, Bowers and Davis will ask students to choose between two bags of food. Bowers, who has three children who are young adults, has a theory about why Pellissippi State students at the Strawberry Plains and Blount County campuses do not use the Pellissippi Pantry as often as students at the college’s other three campuses: the students at those two campuses tend to be fresh out of high school.

“Right now we have a lot of food like corn, green beans, peas – things you’d find in your mom’s pantry,” she said. “I think if we provided foods that are easier to fix – microwavable meals, single-serving-sized cereals – that we would have more traditional-age students utilize the Pellissippi Pantry.”

Other Pellissippi State events planned for Hunger and Homelessness Week include:

  • Monday, Nov. 12: “Soup, Salad and Solutions,” a panel discussion featuring Bowers, Andy Buckner of Helen Ross McNabb Center’s runaway and homeless youth programming, Shawn Griffith of the Homeless Youth Council, and Ross Jones of Knoxville Dream Center. The discussion will be held 11:50 a.m.-12:45 p.m. in the Cafeteria Annex on the Hardin Valley Campus and, while this event is free and lunch is provided, those interested should RSVP to by Nov. 8.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 14: #WisdomWednesday, an opportunity to drop by the Division Street Campus 10-11:30 a.m. to learn more about food and housing insecurity among college students and identify ways you can make a positive impact.
  • Friday, Nov. 16: Bowers will speak at the monthly Homeless Youth Council meeting 9-10 a.m. at the L.T. Ross Building, 2247 Western Ave., to share ways Pellissippi State is addressing food and housing insecurity among college students and to give an overview of the #RealCollege conference.
  • Saturday, Nov. 17: Bowers and Davis will create a Pop-Up Pantry at the Magnolia Avenue Campus to introduce Weekend College students to the Pellissippi Pantry and Hardin Valley Campus Garden – and to ask Weekend College students how Pellissippi State could better serve them.

For more information on Pellissippi State, visit or call 865.694.6400.

To request accommodations for the events on Nov. 12 and 14, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or


Pellissippi State honors innovation, dedication among employees

Employee Award Winners
The Innovations Award winning team. Alphabetically, Brenda Ammons, Kristy Conger, Stephanie Gillespie, Angela Lunsford, Martha Merrill, Deanne Michaelson, Paul Ramp, Trish Roller, Allison Stein and Kellie Toon.

Pellissippi State Community College honored innovation and dedication among its faculty and staff at a ceremony in April.

Judy Sichler
Judith Sichler

Judith Sichler, an assistant professor teaching anthropology, won the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Pellissippi State alumna and Sichler’s former student, Heather Woods, praised her in a nomination letter. Woods is currently a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Tennessee.

“I chose to take a human origins class at Pellissippi to fill an elective requirement … I enjoyed her [Sichler’s] teaching so much that first day that I immediately added myself to her prehistoric archaeology class,” said Woods.

Woods, a first-generation college student who returned to college as an adult, working mother, had a goal of becoming an English teacher. But she was so inspired by Sichler’s teaching that she eventually changed her major to anthropology.

“More than 20 years of dreaming and planning for an English degree ended up in second place to anthropology,” Woods said. “Dr. Sichler literally made such an impact in my education and life that I am following in her academic footsteps. Any college would be hard-pressed to find even one professor with her skills, heart and dedication.”

Annie Gray
Annie Gray

Annie Gray, English professor and Service-Learning coordinator, is the Gene Joyce Visionary Award winner for her creation and management of Pellissippi State’s Service-Learning program, which combines community service and civic responsibility with traditional classroom learning. Last year, 2,677 student volunteers served more than 37,000 service hours in the community, for an estimated impact of around $887,759.

“People thrive when connected to causes bigger than themselves,” Gray said.

Gray has been recognized across the state and the nation for her work. The Tennessee Board of Regents, Pellissippi State’s governing body, has encouraged all its institutions to adopt Service-Learning programs because of her program’s success. Tennessee Campus Compact recognized Gray with the Tennessee Treasure Award in 2014, and the Service-Learning program was named a President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll winner in 2015.

This year is Gray’s last as Service-Learning coordinator. She is returning to the classroom, and a full-time director will manage the Service-Learning program. Gray donated the monetary portion of the Gene Joyce Visionary Award to the Pellissippi Pantry, a food pantry for students in need at Pellissippi State.

A team of faculty and staff representing each department in the college won the Innovations Award for their creation of a training program for faculty on best practices for using online teaching platforms. Online courses are becoming a more popular option for students. The training helps faculty learn to better use online platforms to create more meaningful experiences for students. All faculty members at Pellissippi State have completed at least level one of the training, which introduces faculty to Pellissippi State’s online learning platform, D2L — which is used in many classes, not just those that are online. The level two training is required for faculty members who teach any hybrid or online courses.

The Innovations Award team includes Brenda Ammons, Kristy Conger, Stephanie Gillespie, Angela Lunsford, Martha Merrill, Deanne Michaelson, Paul Ramp, Trish Roller, Allison Stein and Kellie Toon.

Pellissippi State Foundation board members select the recipients of the Excellence in Teaching, Innovation and Gene Joyce Visionary awards based on nominations. Recipients also receive a monetary award provided by the Foundation.

Additional college awards for employees recognize excellence among faculty and staff:

  • Outstanding Contract Worker: Amy Satkowiak
  • Outstanding Adjunct Faculty: Gabe Crowell
  • Outstanding Full-time Faculty: Alex Fitzner
  • Outstanding Administrator: Kathy Byrd
  • Outstanding Support Professional: Aneshia Brown
  • Outstanding Technical/Service/Maintenance: Scott Bell

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

Food Lion supports Pellissippi State food pantry

Pellissippi State Community College Service-Learning Coordinator Annie Gray accepts grant funding from Food Lion representative Roger Scarbro.


The Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation will support Pellissippi State Community College’s food pantry with a $2,000 grant not only for its continuing operation, but its nutrition education goals.

The Pellissippi Pantry provides hunger relief for at-risk students at the college by delivering enough food for students to prepare one healthy meal a day for themselves and their families, for up to two weeks at a time. Students can pick up food on any of Pellissippi State’s five campuses. The pantry provides canned and packaged goods, healthy recipes and seasonal fresh produce from Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Garden.

To remain operational, the Pellissippi Pantry relies on packaged food donations from the community as well as monetary donations that cover the costs of food ordered through Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

“We’re immensely grateful to partner with Food Lion in this productive way, which will translate to an increased ability to do community outreach and education through the Pellissippi Pantry,” said Annie Gray, Service-Learning coordinator at Pellissippi State — the program that oversees both the Pellissippi Pantry and the Hardin Valley Garden.

“Although the Pellissippi Pantry only began last May, we already know it’s making a huge, positive difference in students’ lives,” Gray said. “One hundred percent of our participants reported in a survey that the Pellissippi Pantry services helped them stay in school.”

Funding for this grant goes through the Pellissippi State Foundation. The Foundation works to provide student scholarships and emergency loans, to improve facilities and to secure new equipment. For more information about the Foundation, visit or call 865-694-6528.

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

Pellissippi State named to President’s Honor Roll for community service

Annie Gray
Annie Gray, Pellissippi State Service-Learning coordinator, harvests produce from the Hardin Valley Campus Garden, which is used to provide fresh food for a five-campus food pantry.


Pellissippi State Community College has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll 2015 for its Service-Learning program and community outreach initiatives.

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions with exemplary community service programs that raise the visibility of effective practices in campus-community partnerships. The college was recognized in the general community service division of the 2015 awards.

“We’re honored and grateful that Pellissippi State’s deep and active commitment to serving the community has been recognized at a national level,” said Annie Gray, Service-Learning coordinator and English professor.

In the 2013-2014 academic year — the year for which Pellissippi State was evaluated for the 2015 Honor Roll — the estimated economic impact of all of Pellissippi State’s volunteer service hours in East Tennessee was $899,205. In the past 2015-2016 academic year, the value of Pellissippi State’s Service-Learning hours rose to $971,617.

At Pellissippi State, students who complete community service hours and submit them through Service-Learning can have their verified community service hours listed on their official college transcripts.

“Service-Learning not only helps our students in the classroom, it provides meaningful ways for them to give back to their community — and it demonstrates to future employers or four-year universities that our students are well-rounded,” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., Pellissippi State president.

The Good Food For All initiative, which took place in 2014 as part of Pellissippi State’s Service-Learning program, worked with community partners to address issues of food access, nutrition education and environmental stewardship. The initiative placed Pellissippi State students, employees and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers in community service positions with local community gardens, food banks and poverty alleviation organizations — including Pond Gap Elementary School, Knoxville’s Great Schools Partnership, Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, the Center for Urban Agriculture at Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum and the Knoxville Permaculture Guild.

The Good Food For All initiative oversaw the Pellissippi State-sponsored community garden at Pond Gap and was the inspiration behind the new garden on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus this year. Produce from the Hardin Valley garden is used to stock a five-campus food pantry program for Pellissippi State students in need.

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


Download this press release: SL President Honor Roll

Pellissippi State launches sustainable garden, food pantry

Annie Gray
Annie Gray, program coordinator of Service-Learning at Pellissippi State, shows off lettuce grown in the Hardin Valley Campus Garden.

Pellissippi State Community College is building on a history of sustainability and service with a new campus garden and food pantry.

The garden, which is located on the Hardin Valley Campus, is not only an outdoor education and community service hub, but a supplier of local produce to the college cafeteria. A significant portion of the food produced will help low-income students at Pellissippi State.

“What makes this project unique is not only the sustainability aspect, but the emphasis on providing for students in need and educating them about healthy food choices amid real concerns about poverty,” said Annie Gray, Service-Learning coordinator and leader of this project.

The Hardin Valley Campus Garden will complement a new food pantry that will support college students who struggle with chronic hunger issues. Most of the garden’s produce — 75 percent — will supplement the food distributed through this new Pellissippi Pantry, which also will partner with Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

The remaining food from the garden will supplement Hardin Valley Campus cafeteria food offerings, available to anyone.

The Pellissippi Pantry will be available on all five Pellissippi State campuses in Knox and Blount counties. It will offer qualified students healthy packaged and fresh food, as well as nutrition education. It will launch for at-risk students this summer.

Research shows there’s a need for this type of outreach. A 2015 study out of the University of Wisconsin has shown that, nationally, about 52 percent of community college students experience ongoing food insecurity, or the inability to readily access healthy or nutritious food. Atlantic magazine has reported that 22 percent of community college students nationwide reported they’d gone hungry due to a lack of money.

Pellissippi Pantry will operate on a basis of confidentiality. Students will be identified to workers only by an ID and will be able to discreetly pick up food at a pre-specified time and location.

Pellissippi State has a history of launching sustainable and service-oriented gardens. In partnership with other local organizations, the college opened the Pond Gap Elementary School community garden in 2013 as part of the Service-Learning program. That community garden has been a widely-regarded success in enhancing curriculum and after-school programs and providing healthy food for Pond Gap students and their families.

For more information about how to support the Pellissippi Pantry or the Hardin Valley Campus Garden, contact the Pellissippi State Foundation at or call 865-694-6528. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.


Download this news release: PSCC Garden Pantry