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Project GRAD Knoxville

  • Project GRAD Knoxville
  • 1100 Marion Street
    Suite 100
  • Knoxville, TN 37921
  • 2001

Program Description

Our Vision: "We see a world of hope - where there are no limits on potential, the greatness in every child is inspired and celebrated, and dreams are realized through opportunities and education."

Project GRAD Knoxville (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) is a college/career access program serving fourteen high need public schools (ten elementary, two middle, two high) plus graduates of those two high schools who are pursuing post-secondary education. In partnership with Knox County Schools and the communities we serve, our mission is to impact generational change through education. Our K-16 approach focuses on: college/career access and success, social services support, family/neighborhood/community engagement, and intentional supports for disadvantaged students. Approximately 7,000 students are supported by school based staff, college support coaches, and field support. Additionally, computerized scholarship research centers are provided at the high schools. Both high schools are configured as small learning communities/academies. Upon graduation from either of the two high schools, eligible students receive a $4000 scholarship to any accredited post-secondary institution. The criteria for receiving this scholarship are: students must graduate on time, maintain a 2.5 or higher GPA, and complete two PGK college institutes.

Community results:

  • Prior to Project GRAD in 2001, the Principals of Knoxville's two inner city high schools indicated that the graduation rates of beginning 9th graders were less than 50%. The stated goal of Project GRAD Knoxville was that over a 12 year period the graduation rate would be increased to 80%. As of 2011, the combined graduation rate of the two high schools stood at 83%.
  • Prior to Project GRAD it was estimated by Austin-East and Fulton High School's principals that less than 50 students a year were going to college or post-secondary training from their schools. Now approximately 200 students are doing so per year. Of the students meeting the GPA and summer institute attendance requirements to qualify for the Project GRAD scholarship, 83% are attending post-secondary institutions.
  • The first class eligible for the Project GRAD scholarship was the Class of 2005. The PGK post-secondary completion rate from the enrolled cohorts of 2005-2007 (classes that could have completed within the typical four to six year window) is 40%. The percentage of Tennessee's population earning a bachelor's degree is 22.5%; the percentage of Project GRAD scholarship recipients earning a bachelor's degree is 33%.
  • 1,877 students have taken advantage of the opportunity to attend multi-week Summer Institutes at Pellissippi State Community College and week-long residential Summer Institutes at UT Knoxville resulting in 3,254 total enrollments.
  • During the period of time Project GRAD provided targeted academic support in math, the academic achievement gap in Math was reduced from 23.7% to 11.8% in elementary schools and from 19.6% to 11.8% in middle schools.
  • Prior to the KCS GRAD Partnership, social service issues were handled by teachers and administrators and other staff. As of 2011, school-based GRAD Campus Family Support staff has handled more than 47,000 social service/basic need/family support referrals freeing up teachers and administrators and dramatically increasing parental involvement.
  • As of Spring 2012, Project GRAD scholarships totaling over $1.4 million have been disbursed on behalf of local high school graduates, leveraging significant money through lottery scholarships, state grants, Pell grants, as well as academic and athletic scholarships. A GRAD USA analysis shows that every GRAD scholarship dollar leverages three additional dollars in grants and scholarships.

Success Stories

I am a Project GRAD scholar, a high school and college graduate, and a current graduate student and part-time employee with Project GRAD Knoxville.

Project GRAD has supported me in many ways. It has also given me the opportunity to serve my community. I have participated on panels of graduates speaking to upcoming Project GRAD scholars. I have visited schools and answered student questions about college. I have met with our local board and acted as a student advocate. Most recently, I worked at the Project GRAD office, mentoring some of my younger peers with college and career access. My service has not been limited to my community. I have worked in other parts of the city working with children and young adults. I have even traveled to Haiti to offer my support.

I hope that as I complete my graduate degree I am able to make a difference in students' lives the same way that Project GRAD has made a difference in mine. I am thankful for their continued support, and I look forward to the impact I can make on students.

Kensey Parker

Services Provided

  • Academic enrichment/tutoring/study skills
  • Career exploration and counseling/internships
  • College admissions guidance and counseling
  • College fairs/campus visits
  • College transition and retention support
  • Community service/service hours
  • Financial aid advising/FAFSA completion
  • Leadership development
  • Mentoring
  • Parent/family services
  • SAT/ACT and other test preparation
  • Scholarships and last-dollar grants


Race & Ethnicity

  • American Indian or Native Alaskan: 1%
  • White: 41%
  • Asian or Pacific Islander: 1%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 7%
  • African American: 50%

Education Level and
Number of Students

  • High School: 1732
  • Middle School: 926
  • Elementary School: 4010
  • Post-secondary: 303
  • Non-traditional: 0

Populations Served

  • Academically At-risk
  • Academically High-performing
  • ESL Students
  • Undocumented Students (8)


  • Less than 25%

Colleges Attended
by Alumni

  • The University of Tennessee-Knoxville (2)

Matriculation & Completion

  • 4-yr College Matriculation: 83%
  • 4-yr College Graduation: 33%