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Scott M. Niswonger, President and Founder of the Niswonger Foundation, and the members of the staff welcomed First District Congressman Phil Roe for an update on the Foundation’s successes with the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, partnerships and programs with school systems in Northeast Tennessee, and the Niswonger Scholars program. 

The grant update, led by Vivian Franklin, Executive Director of the i3 Grant, began with an overview on the Niswonger Online program and the infrastructure that has been put in place to make available 35 rigorous online courses to the region’s 30 high schools and 26,000 students. 

The grant report also indicated that the Niswonger Foundation has provided the opportunity for 297 of the region’s teachers to be trained as Advanced Placement (AP) instructors. There is a total of 25 different subject areas of AP classes being taught in Northeast Tennessee.  Amanda Weems, Principal at North Greene High School, and James Rosenbalm, AP history teacher at North Greene, were on hand to share their experiences with the delivery of the AP instruction and the value of the training for the region’s teachers. Due to the i3 Grant, North Greene High School has been able to add the first AP instruction in the school’s history.  Both educators shared their appreciation to the Niswonger Foundation, stating that these opportunities for their students could not have been provided otherwise. 

The Niswonger Foundation’s College and Career Counselors shared first-hand accounts of the students who have been impacted by the “college and career ready” goal of this grant.  Their efforts in the high schools include assistance with career planning, completing college applications, assisting with financial aid applications (FAFSA), planning college visits, and informing students of the availability of resources such as Niswonger Online. The counselors provided Congressman Roe with a “virtual visit” to their schools with a video produced by Counselors Shawn Stewart and Julina Pyanoe. 

Dr. Richard Kitzmiller, STEM Coordinator for the Niswonger Foundation discussed the opportunity the grant has provided to increase technology in the region’s high schools.  He shared the successes of STEM-focused summer programs for students and professional development for educators.  Dr. Kitzmiller also noted the Foundation’s work in Career Technical Education. 

Dr. Nancy Dishner, Executive Vice President of the Niswonger Foundation highlighted the Foundation’s work beyond the i3 Grant.  She shared that the Foundation’s school programs address many needs.  Dr. Dishner highlighted efforts to assist schools that are challenged to be successful because of resource or professional development needs.  The partnership efforts also extend to the region’s higher education institutions.

Dr. Dishner discussed the prestigious Niswonger Scholars program.  She described the components of leadership training and expectations of the Scholars, while highlighting that they are committed to returning to “live, work and serve” in Northeast Tennessee.  “We are building the next generation of leaders for our region,” Dishner stated. 

Law Loving, Niswonger Scholars Class of 2012 addressed the group.  He shared the importance of the training aspect of the program, while focusing on the fact that his family would have been unlikely to be able to provide the college experience he was able to receive. Mr. Loving is a graduate of Tulane University.  He is employed as a quantitative analyst with Smarty Pants marketing research company, in Jonesborough.  He is also completing an M.B.A. at East Tennessee State University. 

Scott M. Niswonger closed the presentation with remarks about his initial vision for the Niswonger Foundation and his pride in the work that has been accomplished.  He stated to the staff, “You have taken my dream and made it a much greater reality than I could have envisioned.” 

Congressman Roe expressed appreciation for the Foundation’s work.  He particularly spoke of the importance of early counseling and direction for children, referencing the book “I Got Schooled” by M. Night Shyamalan. He encouraged the Foundation to remember the importance of early intervention for the development of children. 

Congressman Roe serves on the U.S. House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Development Committee. 

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