Program Description

Visit the NiswongerCARE Website

The NiswongerCARE College and Career Advising program was initiated for the 2015-2016 school year and continues to provide services to 26 affiliate high schools in Northeast Tennessee.  The program is designed to support partnering schools in developing a stronger college-going and career-ready culture, ensuring that all students have access to the resources and support needed to reach their future goals.  Through this programming, the Niswonger Foundation provides support to enhance the important work already being accomplished by the region’s high school counselors in preparing students for post-secondary education.

Staffing model

The program staffing currently includes a Leadership team comprised of a Program Director, Denise Arnold, a master’s prepared counselor who also holds an Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Counselor Leadership; an Associate Director, Anita Kilbourne-Greer, a master’s prepared counselor with extensive experience in college and career advising;  ten baccalaureate level specialists, and three interns from the graduate counseling programs at East Tennessee State University, Milligan College, and Carson-Newman University.  (Additional information about the staff can be found at “Our Team” on the NiswongerCARE website.)

NiswongerCARE uses an innovative staffing model that incorporates a purposeful design of professional counselors, less experienced near-peer professionals, and graduate school interns. This cost-effective model functions as a training and development opportunity for a new generation of young professionals who will be serving Northeast Tennessee beyond the scope of this program. For those who continue in school counseling, they are gaining a wealth of practical experience and professional development opportunities.

Advisor Training

Advisors receive comprehensive training designed to prepare them to help students with the myriad of college going milestones, such as, exploring careers and post-secondary opportunities, navigating the college admissions maze, applying for financial aid, registering and preparing for the ACT, and transitioning to college. Training also focuses on the importance of collaborating with counselors, teachers and administrators to imbed a college-going culture into the life of the school.

Because it is important to help students choose the college or program that is the right fit for them, Advisors are trained on the Appreciative Advising framework in order to help students realize and achieve their greatest hopes and dreams. Advisors are also provided the opportunity to visit public and private post-secondary institutions and colleges of applied technology in our region in order to have first-hand knowledge regarding majors and programs, cost, application deadlines, and available financial aid and scholarships. Not only do the advisors have the benefit of learning from the extensive counseling and college advising experience of the program’s leadership team, but they are also provided the opportunity to interact with other experts in the field.


NiswongerCARE Advisors work in partnership with the administrators and counselors in each school to help students achieve their future goals. Whether a student intends to enroll at a public or private university, a local community college, or a technical college, Advisors are there to help students prepare for the most fulfilling future of their choice. The program prioritizes five campaigns during the school year, which coincide with the timeline for completing tasks. Advisors assist students individually and in groups to complete each task associated with the various campaigns listed below:

Social Media Outreach

NiswongerCARE recognizes the importance of establishing a presence on social media in order to provide indispensable resources to students and families on the various platforms in which they are engaged. Regular updates are posted regarding important tasks related to the college going process, such as, application and scholarship deadlines and reminders, as well as opportunities to connect with other college access professionals and admissions representatives. Please follow us on social media by clicking on the links below:

Outcome Data Highlights

Post-secondary matriculation rates have steadily increased since the implementation of the Niswonger Foundation’s college and career programming efforts. In 2011, Northeast Tennessee’s college-going rate of 50.6% was well below the state average of 55.7%. Data for partnering schools continue to trend with the State of Tennessee college going rates.  Notably, a decrease during COVID years was felt across the nation and state.  Schools served by NiswongerCARE are again trending upward with the class of 2022 graduates.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) completion rates have steadily increased over the program’s baseline rate of 61% in 2014-15. Because of COVID-19, all states, including Tennessee, have struggled with FAFSA completion among the 2020 graduates. Nationally, FAFSA completion rates in small towns and rural areas experienced a drop in FAFSA completion by as much as 6.2%.  Schools served by NiswongerCARE experienced a 4% decrease during that time, but the class of 2023 FAFSA rates climbed to 78%.

Big Bright Future

Big*Bright*Future is the program initiative focused on helping to mitigate “Summer Melt,” which can be best described as the phenomena in which students who graduate high school, are admitted to and plan to attend a post-secondary institution, but never enroll. NiswongerCARE Advisors provide support and encouragement to the newly graduated high school seniors who will likely encounter many unforeseen barriers during the summer.

Throughout the school year, Advisors identify students for the Big*Bright*Future program.  Students more likely to “melt” are those who are first-generation college students, those who may lack resources or support, and those students who indicate they want the summer assistance.  College-going rates for students participating in Big*Bright*Future have consistently been above the state rate as well as the overall CARE rate.

    The Niswonger Foundation was established in 2001 to make a positive and sustainable difference in education in Northeast Tennessee. This dream was envisioned by Scott M. Niswonger, who founded Landair Transport, Inc. and Forward Air Corporation. These companies were the first two Greeneville-based companies to be taken public in the history of Greene County, Tennessee. Jointly, the companies have combined annual revenue of over one-billion-dollars and employ more than 5000 people.


    223 North Main Street
    P.O. Box 1508
    Greeneville, TN 37744


    (423) 820-8181


    (423) 588-5933