Rural LIFE

Scott M. Niswonger, Chairman and Founder of the Niswonger Foundation announced the award of an “Education Innovation and Research” (EIR) Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This grant, with the required matching funds, will provide more than eight million dollars to assist schools in Northeast Tennessee. Niswonger stated: “This is a day of tremendous pride as I reflect on the extraordinary accomplishments of the Niswonger Foundation. It is gratifying to be recognized nationally for our work in public education but more important to me is that we have another new and powerful opportunity to serve the children in this region, to ensure that they are prepared to be successful in post-secondary education and in their chosen careers.”

School Districts Served

The grant will serve eighteen school systems in Northeast Tennessee (Bristol City, Carter County, Cocke County, Elizabethton City, Greene County, Greeneville City, Hamblen County, Hancock County, Hawkins County, Jefferson County, Johnson City, Johnson County, Kingsport City, Newport City, Rogersville City, Sullivan County, Unicoi County, and Washington County). This grant will add another important scope of work to this unique consortium of schools that has drawn national recognition. The majority of the 73 schools in this project are designated rural and 85% are Title I school-wide. Approximately 19,700 students are served by Rural LIFE-participating schools.

Grant Recipients

The United States Department of Education selected 16 grant recipients from 379 proposals based on recommendations from independent peer review panels. The 16 successful applications represented 9 states and the District of Columbia.

The Niswonger Foundation is one of only 6 recipients in the “mid-phase” category. This grant will be used to fund a program entitled: Rural LIFE (Literacy Initiative Focused on Effectiveness). The purpose of the grant is to validate the use of personalized learning strategies, with the goal of focusing on literacy to improve academic achievement for students in grades six through eight. Rural LIFE uses the strategy of deploying technology-enabled literacy-focused personalized learning. Participating schools will identify specific technology needs as part of their learning model.

Our Rural LIFE Staff and Coaches

Stephanie Boyd
Literacy Curriculum Specialist
Dr. Richard Kitzmiller
Vice President, Niswonger Foundation
Dr. Bethany Fillers
Communications/Data Analyst
John Payne
Director of Technology and Innovation
Dr. Catherine Edwards
Supervisor of Student Success
Brittany Seybert
Communications and Compliance Director
Linda Stuart
Rural LIFE Coach
Brandi Wilson
Rural LIFE Coach

    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