Education was front and center Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the latest Breakfast Speaker Series hosted by the Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce.
Not only was University of Tennessee’s Interim President Randy Boyd the guest speaker at the sold-out event in Fox Den Country Club, but the Chamber also singled out two Knoxville Tennessee College of Applied Technology students to receive the organization’s first Workforce Development Scholarships.
Zachary Manges, who is studying industrial electricity, and Abigail Fawver, who is studying to be a dental assistant, received $1,300 and $1,000 respectively from the FWKCC to cover tools, books and any other incidentals they might need.
“I am very grateful for this scholarship,” said Fawver, who graduated from Carter High School earlier this year and just started her dental assistant program two weeks ago. “TCAT is a great school, and I am so excited to be (there).”
Manges, who was born and raised in Knoxville but attended high school in Virginia, came “home” to attend TCAT and started his one-year program in February, he said.
“It was really a nice surprise to get this scholarship,” Manges said. “If it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get the tools I needed.”
FWKCC president/CEO Julie Blaylock said a first-time donation of $50,000 from the Knox County Commission earlier this year helped set the wheels in motion to creating the scholarship.
“We have gotten the support of the Town of Farragut for so many years, and they have been wonderful, and now this Spring we were blessed with the County’s donation,” she said. “Because of the support we’re now receiving from both of our direct municipalities, and because the Board decided last year to do more to support workforce/trade development,
Blaylock met with Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs about possible goals and focus ideas, and said he discussed education and job creation. She also met with Patrick Wade, vice president of TCAT, on the Chamber’s role and how it could help with workforce development.
“I was so impressed with everything they did,” she said. “(Wade) never asked us for any money, but I asked him what could we do to help TCAT students.
“I found out the HOPE Scholarship covers a great deal, but what it doesn’t cover — in the way of materials, tools or books — can be really expensive, so I asked about scholarships.”
Blaylock said not only was Wade excited about the suggestion, but so was the Chamber’s Board of Directors, which drafted a scholarship very quickly in early August.
“It was so fast, but had such a short turnaround time — about 10 days — that we were afraid we might not get any applicants, but we had 13 students apply,” she said. “They were all amazing. We gave the applications to the Executive Board, and they reviewed them and tried to narrow them down to just one, but very quickly came back and said, ‘What if we did two scholarships?’
“I was watching this happen over e-mail,” Blaylock added. “And it was just beautiful to see.
“I am just so proud of our Board. We are very fiscally conservative, so it is a big decision for us to give money away. So the fact they wanted to fund two scholarships was just huge.”
Blaylock said plans call for the partnership with TCAT to continue, and more scholarships to be awarded in the years ahead.