A group of 18 high school students on Friday finished the first “Women’s Search for Success and Self-Sufficiency” Summer Institute at Tusculum College.
Students from Carter, Cocke and Greene counties attended the program, which was hosted and coordinated by Tusculum College’s Talent Search program. The summer institute was funded through an $11,000 grant from the Women’s Fund of East Tennessee.
The “Women’s Search for Success and Self-Sufficiency” Summer Institute was designed as a first-generation college student mentoring program. The week-long program was filled with activities providing the participants a holistic view of what is needed for success in careers and life.
The students arrived on Monday, July 7, and spent the entire week living in one of the residence halls at Tusculum, providing some insight in what it is like to live away from home and the intrapersonal skills needed to get along with others in a non-family setting.
Participants in the summer institute are all part of the Talent Search program, which helps prepare potential first-generation college students to pursue higher education. This emphasis continued throughout the institute as the students not only toured Tusculum but also toured the East Tennessee State College of Pharmacy.
Personal habits and choices that affect future success were addressed in such activities as a health and nutrition session and a seminar about personal finance and budgeting. The high schoolers had the opportunity to put their new knowledge into practice when they went grocery shopping and then cooked a meal using healthy foods.
The participants learned about diversity and career preparedness from professionals at Tusculum. One of the topics of career preparedness session was what to wear to an interview and the type of dress expected in a professional environment. Two of the fun activities for the participants were related – students learned hair and make-up tips from local professionals and went shopping for a professional outfit.
Another of the sessions focused on proper etiquette and manners, and the participants worked with staff of Tusculum College Arts Outreach to improve their presentation and public speaking skills. The participants had the opportunity practice their etiquette and manners (and wear their new outfits) at a dinner at the Martha Washington Inn and a play at the Barter Theatre.
On the messier end of the practical lessons, one session focused on car maintenance and how to fix minor problems such as a flat tire.
The importance of teamwork was emphasized on the group’s visit to a challenging ropes course. The students also provided three hours of community service at local non-profits such as the Humane Society.
At the closing ceremony, Jeanne Stokes, director of the TRIO programs that include Talent Search, said that the Niswonger Foundation will be providing mentors from its Niswonger Scholar program for each of the participants. Stokes added that some money from the grant remained and would be used to bring the participants back for some more activities in the fall.
Each of the participants will continue to be served through the Talent Search program in the coming year as well, she said.
A video was shown during the ceremony chronicling the week’s activities. Each participant expressed their gratitude for the program during the video and students also got up during the ceremony to express their thanks to the Women’s Fund of East Tennessee for the grant and for the Talent Search staff that had worked with them through the week.