Pellissippi State announces first positive case of COVID-19

A student at Pellissippi State Community College has self-reported a positive test for COVID-19 today. The student has not been on campus for the past two weeks and has been under self-quarantine throughout that time. All relevant parties have been notified, and all facilities have been cleaned and disinfected. 

Pellissippi State officials announced yesterday that the college is moving all of its classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester. Updates are being posted daily to the college’s website and social media accounts. 

Pellissippi State moves online for rest of semester, postpones commencement

Pellissippi State sign at entrance to Hardin Valley Campus
Pellissippi State is moving its classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester.

President L. Anthony Wise Jr. announced Thursday that it is in the best interest of Pellissippi State Community College faculty, staff and students to move classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester, with very few exceptions. 

This serious decision was made after the White House and the Centers for Disease Control revised their guidance that social gatherings should be limited to 10 or fewer people, a challenge for any institution. 

To that end, all college events through May 11 have been canceled, effective immediately. Spring commencement and the Nursing pinning ceremony, originally planned for May 10, will be postponed until a later date, but will be held in person when it is safe to do so. 

We know this is not the semester you imagined. It is not the semester we imagined. But we will get through this together,” Wise said in an email to faculty, staff and students. “We have a dedicated group of employees working every day to ensure we cover all our bases so we can finish the semester Pellissippi Strong. This includes everything from offering advising and tutoring online or by phone to making sure our work-study students and part-time employees get paid, even if their jobs change to duties they can do remotely. 

Although classes are moving to an online format for the rest of the semester, at least one computer lab on each campus will continue to operate its normal hours. However, there will be a reservation system put in place after the college’s extended spring break ends March 29 to ensure that there are no more than 10 people in a lab at one time. The same is true for classes that need to hold labs on campus to complete the semester. Instructors may meet with nine or fewer students in a lab while practicing social distancing measures of leaving at least 6 feet between individuals. 

As Pellissippi State transitions to an online learning environment, students can submit questions and concerns about technology, coursework, and support services to our new PantherHelp team at this link. Pellissippi State will continue to update its website – www.pstcc.edu/coronavirus – with frequently asked questions, as well as new pages of resources for faculty, staff and students.  The college also will communicate with faculty, staff and students via their Pellissippi State email and Pellissippi State’s social media accounts. 

Meanwhile, Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services has suspended all non-credit classes until further notice as well and is working with those instructors to discuss rescheduling options. Those with questions about non-credit classes should call 865.539.7167 or email bcs@pstcc.edu. 

“Although these are challenging circumstances, I look forward to the day when we can gather in community on campus once again,” Wise said. 

View Wise’s video message to faculty, staff and students today at www.pstcc.edu 

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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 Media Technologies program to host Digital Storytelling Forum April 24

Female students operating cameras
Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program will host a Digital Storytelling Forum on April 24.

Pellissippi State Community College’s Media Technologies program will host “The Art, Science & Impact of Digital Storytelling” on Friday, April 24, on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The half-day event is designed as a continuing education forum for professionals, faculty, students and alumni in East Tennessee’s digital, creative and strategic communication communities.

“We’re excited to welcome East Tennessee’s creative and strategic communications community to join us for learning, sharing and networking opportunities, as we interact with Pellissippi State’s Media Technology students who represent such an important segment of our industry’s workforce pipeline,” said Mary Beth West, volunteer chair of Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies development campaign.

Presented by sponsors The Hive and Discovery Inc., this Digital Storytelling forum will bring together thought leaders in digital production, creative services and brand storytelling to discuss industry trends and workforce opportunities as greater Knoxville continues to evolve as a nationally and internationally recognized center of digital content development for major broadcasting and consumer platforms.

All proceeds will benefit Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program, which offers concentrations in Audio Production Engineering, Design for Web and Print, Photography, Video Production Technology and Web Technology.

A full slate of session and keynote speakers will be announced soon. Planned break-out sessions during the forum will include topics such as:

  • Igniting the Power of Social Listening
  • Crafting Digital Messages that Motivate Audiences to Action
  • Building Greater Knoxville’s National Reputation as a Creative Community
  • User-Experience Trends in Digital Development
  • Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, Bias and What it All Means for Clients and Consumers
  • Employer Panel – Hiring Needs & Priorities for 2020-21

Registration can be accessed at www.pstcc.edu/bcs, with fee options including:

  • $55 for early bird registration by March 31
  • $25 for professionals to sponsor attendance for one Pellissippi State student
  • $25 for students
  • $75 to register between April 1 and April 20
  • $95 to register after April 20 or on site the day of the forum

The event will be held in the Goins Administration Building, but will include a student showcase and networking reception in the college’s Bagwell Center for Media and Art, which opened on the Hardin Valley Campus in September 2007. The building is named in honor of Ross Bagwell Sr., a pioneer in the cable television production industry, and his family.

“Pellissippi State’s Bagwell Center for Media and Art includes impressive facilities and technical capabilities for students to gain hands-on, experiential learning,” West said. “This event will be a fantastic opportunity for industry employers and hiring managers to tour the school and meet with students from the next graduating class.”

The Pellissippi State Foundation is welcoming more corporate sponsors until March 20. Companies interested in sponsorship opportunities during the event should contact Executive Director Aneisa Rolen at 865.694.6525 or alrolen@pstcc.edu.

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Pellissippi State aviation training aims to close gap for women and minority pilots

Brandon Hardin
Captain Brandon Hardin is a Knoxville native and commercial pilot who wants to see more African American representation in aviation.

Knoxville native Brandon Hardin fell in love with the idea of flying when he saw an airplane fly over his house as a child.

Hardin’s dream of becoming a pilot didn’t waiver throughout his years in high school, and he went on to pursue a degree in Aerospace at Middle Tennessee State University before flying with the U.S. National Guard.

These days Captain Hardin is a commercial pilot who loves being able to see the world and the adventure that comes with the job.

Now students like Hardin don’t have to wait until college to learn about the aviation industry. Pellissippi State Community College has partnered with Tuskegee NEXT to offer introductory aviation training to teens and young adults in an effort to close the gap for women and minority pilots.

The program, which started last fall at Pellissippi State, could not come at a better time for the aviation industry. The 2019 Boeing Pilot & Technician Outlook, a respected industry forecast of personnel demand, projects that 804,000 new civil aviation pilots, 769,000 new maintenance technicians and 914,000 new cabin crew will be needed to fly and maintain the world fleet over the next 20 years.

“Every single airline is hiring,” Hardin said. “There is a huge need for pilots right now, and they need the next generation of kids to be ready to take the seat in the cockpit.”

Of all the professional pilots and flight engineers in the United States, however, only 7.5% are women, 2.6% are black, 3.4% are Asian and 2.2% are Hispanic or Latino, according to 2019 numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We need more African American representation in aviation,” Hardin said. “We represent less than 3% of the commercial pilot workforce, and that’s not enough.”

One possible cause of the lack of diverse representation among pilots is how much it costs to get started. Students could easily invest $60,000 to $70,000 in their training, from attending flight school or a college aviation program to paying for flying hours and Federal Aviation Administration certification exams.

Aviation students in flight simulator at Cirrus in fall 2019
Students in Pellissippi State’s first Introduction to Aviation class check out a flight simulator at Cirrus Aircraft in Alcoa during the fall 2019 semester.

Pellissippi State has partnered with the nonprofit Tuskegee NEXT to help remove some of those obstacles. Students ages 16-20 can apply to take a 15-week Introduction to Aviation class at Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus this fall.

Students who participate in the Introduction to Aviation class at Pellissippi State will learn what they need to know to sit for the Federal Aviation Administration basic knowledge written exam.

“The Tuskegee Airmen are such iconic figures in the field of aviation for individuals like myself,” Hardin said of the United States’ first black military airmen. “They led the way, and the obstacles they had to surmount are huge compared to what myself and my peers have had to go through. They paved the way for me, and I want to help pave the way for the next generation.”

While the Introduction to Aviation class at Pellissippi State does have a cost, full scholarships are available to those with financial need in keeping with Tuskegee NEXT’s mission of providing flight training and educational assistance for underrepresented minorities and at-risk youth.

“Tuskegee NEXT and Pellissippi State back me up in supporting that goal of inspiring and providing resources for the next generation of aviators,” Hardin said. “We want it to be normal to see an African American pilot in the cockpit.”

Those who successfully complete the Introduction to Aviation course at Pellissippi State and pass the FAA written exam will be eligible to apply to the Tuskegee NEXT Summer Flight Program in Chicago, which will run from mid-June to mid-August 2021.

The summer program completely immerses students in both flight training and life skill development. The skills learned during the program can help change lives and transform communities.

“I think aspiring pilots should take advantage of the unique opportunities Pellissippi State and Tuskegee NEXT are offering,” Hardin said. “There are going to be hurdles, but there are going to be people like me who are going to help and mentor students past those obstacles.

“The one thing students should know is that they want to get there,” he added. “When you get to the endpoint and become a pilot, you’re going to be able to take care of yourself and take care of your family. If you are willing to focus and commit yourself to a career in aviation, the rewards are amazing.”

Students can apply now for the Fall 2020 Introduction to Aviation class at Pellissippi State. Applications are due May 7.

Fall 2020 Introduction to Aviation Class

  • When: Tuesdays, August 25 – December 15, 2020, 6-8 p.m.
  • Where: Pellissippi State Community College Magnolia Avenue Campus
  • Who is eligible to apply: Students ages 16-20 and at least a sophomore in high school – must hold a minimum grade point average of 2.75 and have no criminal record

Students can learn more and apply at www.pstcc.edu/bcs/aviation or call Business and Community Services at 865.539.7167.

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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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Pellissippi State wins statewide food drive, collects equivalent of 15,411 items

Three students stack canned goods given during the Pack the Pickup campaign
Pellissippi State students in Professor Lisa Fall’s Project Design and Management class help “Pack the Pickup” with donations to the Pellissippi Pantry on Dec. 6.

The Pellissippi Pantry will be stocked with more than 15,000 new units of food, thanks to Pellissippi State Community College’s recent Pack the Pickup campaign.

The food drive, which ran Nov. 1 through Dec. 11, collected seven times the amount of food the college gathered the previous year.

“Last year we collected 1,904 items of food,” said Student Care and Advocacy Director Drema Bowers. “This year we set the lofty goal of 10,694, one item for each student enrolled at Pellissippi State this fall. We are thrilled to report that we surpassed our goal and collected the equivalent of 15,411 items.”

Pellissippi State’s Pack the Pickup campaign was part of the Tennessee Board of Regents’ annual food drive. TBR is the largest system of higher education in the state, responsible for governing Tennessee’s 13 public community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology.

TBR Vice Chancellor for Student Success Heidi Leming announced Friday that 110,944 items were collected and donated to food pantries at the nine community colleges and 16 colleges of applied technology that participated in the food drive this year.

Institutions were grouped by student headcount to determine the top institutions, and Pellissippi State won for Tier 2 community colleges while Jackson State Community College pulled in the most items – 18,315 – as a Tier 1 community college.

“Pellissippi State was awarded an additional $6,000 not included in their total to further support their food pantry,” Leming added, referencing a $5,000 donation from Discovery, Inc. and a $1,000 donation from Lipscomb University for projects completed with Pellissippi State earlier this year. “What an incredible expression of kindness and generosity across the TBR system!”

Pellissippi State had some extra helping hands with its food drive this year. Professor Lisa Fall’s Project Design and Management students set up Food Drive “Service Stations,” in tandem with the college’s Pack the Pickup theme, to accept donations as well as share information about the Pellissippi Pantry and food insecurity among college students.

Right now the Pellissippi Pantry serves 125 participants, representing 398 total people in those participants’ households. That’s a significant increase from last year, Bowers noted, as the Pellissippi Pantry only served 130 participants during the entire 2018-2019 academic year.

Group of students with donation box for food drive
Jimmy Buckner, executive director of Scarecrow Foundation, an organization to fight hunger (far left), joined Pellissippi State Student Care and Advocacy Director Drema Bowers (second from left), Professor Lisa Fall (third from right) and Fall’s Project Design and Management students in helping “Pack the Pickup” with food drive donations on Dec. 6.

“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.”

The college also collected donations at its first Wild Goose Chase 5K and during its annual Breakfast with Santa.

Pellissippi State had support from the community this year as well. Chick-fil-A locations in Turkey Creek and Oak Ridge held a fundraiser to support Pack the Pickup while other community partners collected for the food drive at their places of business: Regions Bank on Hardin Valley Road, Integrity HR Services, King University, Food City, Maple Street Biscuit Company, Cotton-Eyed Joe and Sitel.

“Food insecurity impacts every community, and it’s gratifying that so many local businesses partnered with us during this food drive,” Bowers said. “We look forward to continuing this important work together.”

Another thing that made a huge difference this year was online giving enabled by the Pellissippi State Foundation, she added. More than $5,500 in donations was collected online, and each dollar was counted as equivalent to two food items.

In total, Pack the Pickup collected 4,983 items while 11,018 items will be purchased from monetary donations given during the campaign.

“In addition to thanking those who supported us throughout the Food Drive, I would also like to acknowledge the support we receive all year long through our employee giving, monthly food drives and student clubs and organizations,” Bowers stressed. “That support from the Pellissippi State community keeps us going throughout the entire year.”

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Pellissippi State microbiology students create intricate art using bacteria

Art in Petri dishes
Pellissippi State microbiology students created these and other designs using bacteria in the Strawberry Plains Campus lab.

Microbiology students on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains and Magnolia Avenue campuses have used the techniques they’ve learned in lab this semester to create agar art, also known as microbial art.

You can see this agar art displayed on the Strawberry Plains Campus, in a hall on the main level of the building.

Agar art is an active learning tool that presents the microbial community in an interesting way, explained microbiology instructor Zainab Ahmed, who is a microbiologist and virologist.

Students created artwork using agar – a gel-like substance used to grow bacteria in Petri dishes – as a canvas and bacteria as the paint. The kind of agar and bacteria used determines the color of the artwork students produced.

“The pigments are colorful evidence of bacteria’s morphology in their real habitat,” Ahmed noted. “This illustrates the beauty of these microorganisms in nature.”

The agar art was created solely on the Strawberry Plains Campus this semester, offered as extra credit in lab time outside of class. Microbiology students on any of Pellissippi State’s campuses were welcome to participate.

“Students all like it,” Ahmed said. “Some have asked to come back and participate again the next semester we offer it, and I have met with a high school biology teacher in Blount County who would like for us to promote Agar art for high school students in the future.”

This was the third time Ahmed has offered her microbiology students the opportunity to create agar art, but it’s the first time Strawberry Plains Campus Dean Mike North has invited Ahmed to display the students’ artwork on campus.

“I thought it was the coolest thing that was done with the outcome of the Agar art,” North said. “I love filling up the campus with art, and when it’s contributions from students, that’s even better. I want to support them. It’s educational, and it looks really really cool.”

Photos of the Petri dishes show everything from Christmas trees to a lizard to a map of North and South America – all formed by bacteria grown in the Strawberry Plains Campus microbiology lab.

“Students had the option of what they wanted to draw – they could use a stencil or choose something from the internet and draw it freehand,” Ahmed explained. “We have heard from other instructors and students that they like this agar art.”

Ahmed and microbiology technician Katherine Fullerton prepared the agar and cultured the bacteria, but students took it from there.

The bacteria students could choose to use produced pigments of red, blue, orange and green. While red, blue and orange pigments occur naturally in bacteria, some bacteria that appear white or tan on other agar present as green when grown on a different kind of agar.

Students also could choose how to transfer the bacteria to their Petri dishes – using a wire loop that had to be fired in a Bunsen burner, a toothpick or a fine paintbrush.

“This is a good opportunity for our microbiology students to use all the different tools in the lab and to feel free to experiment,” Ahmed said. “They get to use all the knowledge they’ve learned earlier in the semester, from lab safety to how to incubate the bacteria, and they get to see chemical reactions and how colonies of bacteria can change color.”

Ahmed’s agar art project was supported this semester by a grant from Pellissippi State’s Instructional Development Committee, which allowed Ahmed to purchase more agar and new bacteria. The grant will cover another semester of agar art, but Ahmed said she may wait until fall 2020 to offer the opportunity again, as it would give microbiology students a chance to enter their agar art into an international competition sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology.

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

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Pellissippi State boasts record number of graduates this fall

Four spring 2019 grads at Pellissippi State commencement
Four spring 2019 Pellissippi State graduates take time to pose for a photo before Commencement.

Pellissippi State Community College will graduate a record number of students this month, with 580 graduates and at least 450 expected to walk in the Dec. 13 Commencement ceremony at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The number of December graduates has grown by more than 100, noted Manager of Records Terri L. Strader. Pellissippi State graduated 477 students in December 2018.

“We have summer graduates participating in December’s Commencement as well, and we had a record number of summer graduates, too,” Strader added. “In summer 2018, we had 217 graduates, and this summer we had 262.”

Commencement will begin at 7 p.m. Thompson-Boling adheres to a strict bag policy that everyone attending the ceremony should read before heading to the ceremony.

Assistant Professor Tracy Rees, winner of the Roger Crowe Excellence in Teaching Award for 2019, will be the Commencement speaker. She will address graduates about the role self-care plays in success, encouraging them to take care of themselves and to exercise their minds in new ways.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400. To request accommodations for a disability at this event, call 865.539.7401 or email accommodations@pstcc.edu.

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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: https://sites.pstcc.edu/foundation/pack-the-pickup/.

For more information about the TBR food drive, contact Student Care and Advocacy at 865.539.7417 or ppantry@pstcc.edu.