Part of our 2015 Grantee Highlights series.
Tusculum College received a 2015 Women's Fund grant that helped enable young women in the community to attend the Tusculum College Women’s Search for Success and Self-Sufficiency program. The program was initiated to provide assistance to first-generation high school women to complete high school and enroll in/complete college.
Tusculum College partnered with its Talent Search (TS) program to provide a five-day, four-night summer institute housed in the campus dormitories for 18 high school-aged women. The young women attended workshops on financial literacy, social skills, cognitive skills, studying and test preparation, job and college searching skills, and employment transition skills, each of which accentuated the focus areas of the Women’s Fund: life skills and education and work-related skills.
The program has had quite the positive impact on young women. As Michelle Arbogast, Tusculum's Associate Director of Foundation and Donor Relations, stated, "The 18 high school participants are learning life skills, education, and work-related skills to move them out of the cycle of poverty and into the cycle of education, career preparation, personal development, and self-sufficiency." In the upcoming fall semester, five Tusculum College students will be chosen to mentor the 18 high school participants. “This mentor partnership will increase leadership skills in the college students as well as provide the high school student an opportunity to build her social skills," Arbogast explained.
The women not only learned skills that will help them overcome the barriers they may face in their life; they also learned that they are not alone. "The outstanding young women who participated in the program created not only friendships but a support system with each other. Through every step of this program,” Arbogast stated, “healthy relationships were built as participants demonstrated a growth of learning through the various workshops they attended." Learning how to utilize these relationships is an everlasting skill that Tusculum’s program has taught these young women.
With regard to program outcomes measurement, Tusculum had prearranged the taking of pre- and post-tests in efforts to measure the program's success. "Outcomes also included the participants’ ability to think critically when locating resources available to them such as college assistance," said Arbogast. As a result, participants were either promoted to their next level of high school or enrolled in college. "They learned how to dress professionally, create a resume, and successfully navigate a job interview as well as demonstrate etiquettes and the skills needed to build healthy relationships."
All in all, the Women’s Fund is delighted with the impact Tusculum’s Women’s Search for Success and Self-Sufficiency program has had upon young women in East Tennessee. As Michelle Arbogast noted, "Not only did the participants grow from this experience, but the program brought attention to the community to recognize the importance of transforming lives of women in East Tennessee." The Women's Fund is proud to stand with Tusculum College as they continue to dedicate their program to changing the lives of East Tennessee women and girls.