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Program brings kids out of the classroom for college readiness

"Our target goal is to help students who are potentially first-generation college students get into school," said one organizer.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Six organizations came together Saturday morning to support the next generation and help them achieve their dreams. Around 30 students, who are all members of the Pre-College Upward Bound program, gathered together for an activity day outside of the classroom.

Typically, students involved with PCUB meet once a week for college readiness lessons. These can include tutoring,  ACT prep, career exploration, advising or even college campus tours.

However, once a month PCUB holds activity days to bring the students unique life experiences. 

"This is a great opportunity to introduce our students to new activities and things that they may not have had an opportunity to experience," said Jonathan Curry, the PCUB project director.

Students learned how to kayak in the Tennessee River. Many of the students were first-timers on the water, but many also learned quickly.

"We have a lot of first-time paddlers out here today. So it's really exciting to have provided that experience for them,” said Brad Collett, the director of the Tennessee River Line.

The Tennessee River Line is an organization that celebrates the beauty of the Tennessee River Valley. Collett sees importance in sharing the river's greatness with the next generation.

"Students are the future of our communities. They're our future leaders, and our future champions," Collett said, "We need to help our students, our young people understand how important our waterways are."

Collett explained the important role the river plays in the area's environment to the students and helped it become accessible for them to experience.

"We're breaking down some barriers by providing the kayaks today," Collett said.

It's also a chance to let them relax after a stressful start to a new school year.

"They're not focused on things that are going on at home. They're having an opportunity to just be a kid and spend time with their friends," Curry said.

The students expressed their enjoyment with the activity of the day, with many glad to have a chance to get out of the classroom and spend some time outdoors.

"I went with my friend," Skylin Smith said. "We went down a river around the island and it was very calm."

Smith is a Sophomore at West High school. She has been a participant in PCUB for around a year.

"We get to go on lots of field trips, and we get tutoring and ACT help," she said. "You know, the stuff you need when you're in high school if you don't have a strong support system."

Smith lives with her grandma, who she loves very much; however, she found a lot of support through the PCUB program.

"It brought me a bigger support system than I had," Smith said.

Smith is also a potential first-generation college student. This means that she qualifies for the program, which designs ways to help people like her succeed as they prepare to go to college.

"Our target goal is to help with students who are potentially first-generation college students, where neither of their parents have a four-year degree," Curry said.

PCUB is a federally funded program through the U.S. Department of Education. The goal is to get teens ready and into college.

In East Tennessee, the program serves nearly 100 students across eight different target schools. The schools span Knox, Blount and Sevier Counties.

For more information on which schools PCUB serves, refer to their website.


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