“I’m so proud of myself”

More than 30 graduates of all ages received a standing ovation from a packed house as they received their High School Equivalency diplomas from the Northeast State Adult Education Program on June 13.

“Every one of these students has a story, and every story is different, but they all have a story that led them here tonight, and we are oh so thankful that they’re here,” said Debbie Fillers, Adult Education Program director.

Graduates Michelle Whitaker and Gary Barnett briefly shared their stories with the crowd, emphasizing gratefulness for a second chance.

Whitaker, 39, said she battled drug addiction and troubles with the law for many years and she lost her home, children, and self-esteem. She credited her faith in God and her teacher, Karla Prudhomme, for giving her the inspiration and confidence to turn her life around and complete the program.

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Michelle Whitaker celebrates the moment.

“I made the decision to surround myself with people that really loved me and wanted to see me do better,” Whitaker said. “I’m graduating today; I finally did it and I’m so proud of myself.”

Barnett said he quit school in 1989 and ended up a year later in prison where he spent almost 18 years. He credited First Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice for giving him a second chance. Rice sent Barnett to one of the state’s Day Reporting Centers that helps individuals re-enter society as accountable citizens who can hold a job and establish a responsible lifestyle.

“Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be standing on this stage,” said Barnett, who now works as a construction superintendent. “I want to thank the (Day Reporting Center) facilitators for pushing me and giving me the inspiration to do what I’ve done. I thank everybody that’s helped me and pushed me toward the right path.”

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Gary Barnett gets a hug as he crosses the stage.

Ian White, assistant commissioner of the state’s Division of Adult Education, and Sam Rowell, Northeast State vice president for Economic and Workforce Development Sam Rowell were featured speakers. The event was held at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City.

White encouraged graduates to build on their success by becoming lifelong learners and continuing to pursue other educational and career opportunities.

“I challenge you to take this one achievement and change your future and in doing so change your families, your friends, and your communities,” White said.

Rowell praised the students for their grit and determination and echoed White by encouraging the graduates to capitalize on the moment.

“You may have entered the race a little late at the start, but you now have momentum–don’t stop. With the courage you’ve shown to get to this point, you’ll catch up, and you can move to the front,” Rowell said.

Fillers also recognized the program’s top three students: Michael Elliott Thomure, Heidi Stewart, and Morgan Keller, respectively. Thomure posted a perfect score on three of his exams.

“My confidence is tripled,” Thomure said. “This night is inspirational for me. I’ll probably be the first in my family to go to college and that’s heartwarming.”

Listed graduates were Latosha Ashby, Gary Barnett, Harley Barr, Shane Bouton, Matthew Collins, Chaz Condra, Jordan Conklin, Courtney Crawford, Christen Devoti, Misty Devoti, Faith Doss, Nita Hale, David Howell, Mackenzie Hughes, Mariah Huss, Jay Johnson, Matthew Johnson, Morgan Kellar, Calvin Lester, Sarah Marshall, Cassie McGinnis, Madison McKenna, Todd Mooney, Taryn Oster, Todd Rabren, Skiyung Rendon, Isiah Ross, Jacqueline Seagle, Brittany Shifflett, August Smith, Jordan Spears, Zoe Stanley, Heidi Stewart, Daniella Stuckenbruck, Michael Elliott Thomure, Michelle Whitaker, Christopher Wilson, and Chassidy Wright.

In 2016, Northeast State was named as one of eight service providers by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development to coordinate adult education programs in each of the state’s 95 counties today. Northeast State’s adult education team serves the state’s District 1 region including Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties.

The adult education team helps adults to complete a high school education, transition to postsecondary education and training, and obtain employment. The Northeast State adult education program recorded a total of 219 graduates since July 1, 2018.

For more information about adult education or how to pursue a degree, contact 844.637.5697 or email adulted@northeaststate.edu.

Alt-country rockers Avant Farm head Northeast June 20

Get your alt-country rock groove on when Avant Farm performs at Northeast State Community College on June 20. The performance continues the College’s “Hot Nights, Cool Music” summer concert series. The annual summer concert series features local, regional, and nationally known musical artists.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The concert – with free admission – begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Regional Center for the Performing Arts Theater at the Blountville campus next to Tri-Cities Airport.

Avant Farm

Influenced by no less than Hank Williams Sr., The Talking Heads, Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, and Southern Culture on the Skids, the Avant Farm sound formed when East Tennessee musical standouts and spouses Mike and Melanie Hilliard approached singer-songwriter Eric Moon to collaborate on a project. The three had shared bills together with the Hilliards’ band Heppy Kats and Moon’s Bootleg Turn. The partnership fit just right, and Avant Farm planted its seeds.

“I loved playing shows with the Hilliards,” says Eric. “I have been following Mike since he was with Floyd Eats Mayberry and The Knuckle Draggers.”

The two share vocal and songwriting duties with Mike Hilliard on guitar and Moon on bass, along with what the two call “our secret weapon,” referring to Melanie’s pedal steel and lap steel guitar skills.

“Once we all got together, it felt like we were meeting our musical kindred spirits. We’ve just kept on rocking since that first jam, playing some Hilliard or Moon creations along with our favorite old country and rock and roll songs,” says Mike.

Moon then recruited long time band mate and drummer Russell Overholt to complete the rhythm section. Finally, Eric’s son Ean Moon came onboard, adding a vintage lead guitar sound with his classic country and rockabilly licks and leads.

Moon says, “In this project we are literally paying tribute to the last 70 years of music with our own twist on it. It is experimental, with this arrangement of musicians, and it has its own unique edge. We’re having a blast and we hope everyone will hear something they like.”

For more information about the Hot Nights, Cool Music series, visit www.NortheastState.edu or email jpkelly@NortheastState.edu.

Alpha Iota Chi chapter published in national research journal

Northeast State’s Alpha Iota Chi chapter earned an exclusive place in a national journal highlighting the best academic research projects of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

The chapter’s abstract on its research project about human trafficking was published in the Civic Scholar: Phi Theta Kappa Journal of Undergraduate Research for 2019. The chapter’s student members developed a research project focused on the subject of human sex trafficking in the northeast Tennessee region. The chapter hosted a series of events including a public forum “Breaking Free: Modern Day Sex Slavery in East Tennessee” in November.

“Each year, I am privileged to work with hard-working, motivated students, and each year I am amazed at their accomplishments,” said Dr. Jane Honeycutt, vice president of Teaching Excellence at Northeast State. “These students devoted seven months and countless hours to develop this research-driven action project and learned that even a small number of people can have an important impact on their community.”

Alpha Iota Chi

As the chapter’s faculty advisor, Honeycutt praised the chapter’s student leadership for their work in bringing the project together. The chapter officer team for 2019-19 was made up of these students: Angela Cobble, President; Brianna McMillan, Vice President of Scholarship; Savannah Honaker, Vice President of Service; Christopher Jones, Vice President of Leadership; Samantha Parrish, Vice President of Communication and Fundraising Chair; Summer Hunley, Honors in Action Chair; and Hannah Faucher, Treasurer.”

Alpha Iota Chi was one of 16 chapters selected for publication from 465 submissions to the journal. Civic Scholar featured research projects by PTK chapters across the country on a wide range of topics, including “Transforming Health through Music Therapy” and “Bridging the Gap Between Immigrants and Citizens.”

“This journal is the only one of its kind and features the research of our most outstanding students as they examine and improve issues within their colleges, communities, and world,” PTK President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner said. “We are proud to showcase their good and important work, and we are grateful to the Cooke Foundation for helping us share this work with others.”

Alpha Iota Chi students poured many hours of work into their research project during the 2018-19 academic year. The students created research teams, recorded findings, and organized their data. The chapter also formed a committee of local experts to share their data and create actionable plans to benefit the community. The students assembled an advisory board, including the director of advocacy and outreach for the Community Coalition against Human Trafficking, an Assistant United States attorney, FBI agents, and TBI agents to inform the student leaders about the magnitude of sex trafficking in our region and the most pressing action needed.

The chapter organized two events: a public forum entitled “Breaking Free: Modern Day Sex Slavery in East Tennessee” in November of 2018. The forum sought to educate the community, especially teenagers and parents, about the little known dangers of sexual slavery and human trafficking in our region. The chapter later hosted a follow up workshop, “Unmasking Traffickers,” designed to give law enforcement better tools to identify potential trafficking victims.

More than 200 people attended the “Breaking Free” forum. The event included a panel discussion featuring members of law enforcement and the legal community including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the regional Community Coalition against Human Trafficking.

Among audience members completing a forum survey, 86 percent of respondents rated speakers as excellent, 96 percent agreed the event enlightened them about sex trafficking, and 88 percent agreed they felt equipped to discuss trafficking with others. The forum also spurred collaboration among law enforcement and social resource agencies to aid victims of human trafficking.

The chapter earned regional and national accolades from Phi Theta Kappa earlier this year. The chapter took the 1st Place award for their Distinguished Honors in Action Project in the Tennessee Regional competition. The project received a Top 50 Most Distinguished Honors in Action Project at the national PTK Catalyst Convention held in April. The project was also named a Top 3 Most Distinguished Honors in Action Project to address the society’s honors study topic, “Transformations: Acknowledging, Assessing and Achieving Change” and the theme, “Visions of Justice.”  Alpha Iota Chi also earned recognition as a fifth finalist for the most distinguished chapter in the nation as a result of the high quality of both its Honors in Action and College Projects.

Phi Theta Kappa is the premier honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. The Society is made up of more than 3.5 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 nations.

Flora named to Leadership Tennessee Class of 2020

Dr. Bethany Flora, president of Northeast State Community College, has been named to Leadership Tennessee’s Class of 2020.

Starting in August, the 46 leaders from rural and urban communities across the state will spend the next year engaging in collaborative, non-partisan dialogue on issues of statewide importance.

Dr. Bethany FloraLeadership Tennessee crosses the state’s three traditional Grand Divisions to inform and empower business, education, government, health and nonprofit leaders on the most critical challenges and opportunities affecting the state and to create alignment for conversation and action.

Flora became president of Northeast State in January, after serving as associate director of the Center for Community College Leadership at East Tennessee State University, where she also served as associate professor of postsecondary leadership in ETSU’s Clemmer College of Education. She earned a Ph.D. in higher education administration at Virginia Tech.

Dr. Rebecca Ashford, president of Chattanooga State Community College, was also selected as part of the 2020 class. Ashford has been president of Chattanooga State since July 2017.

“Dr. Ashford and Dr. Flora are rising leaders in the College System of Tennessee and will provide their Leadership Tennessee class with valuable insight into the key role that our community and technical colleges play in student success and workforce and economic development across our state,” said Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings.

“At the same time, they will learn more about the state’s broader challenges and opportunities. Leadership Tennessee is Tennessee’s premier leadership development program and I couldn’t be prouder that our system will be represented by two of our outstanding presidents.”

Entering its seventh year, Leadership Tennessee selects a new class of leaders annually to take part in a statewide study course while visiting different areas of Tennessee, learning best practices and analyzing important issues faced by Tennesseans. Through its first six classes, Leadership Tennessee has built a statewide network of 246 leaders.

“Tennessee has a lot of momentum right now, but Tennesseans continue to face significant challenges that require new and innovative partnerships to overcome them,” said Leadership Tennessee Executive Director Cathy Cate. “Each class brings its own unique perspective and insight to the conversation, and we’re excited about Class VII joining the Leadership Tennessee network.”