KINGSPORT — Friday was a bonus day for Roosevelt Elementary: Not only did students attend a half-day of school before Christmas break, as did students in all Kingsport City Schools, but the entire student body and accompanying faculty and chaperones were invited on a free trip to Knoxville to see the Lady Vols play the Lady Bucs.
It was part of Project Hope, a program requested by Roosevelt Principal Kelli Seymour and being provided with help from the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and groups like the not-for-profit Lady Vols Legacy and Legends Foundation launched in November by former Lady Vols basketball players and headed by Cheryl Littlejohn. The foundation’s first stop on a statewide tour was at Roosevelt last month, and the organization provided the free tickets to the Friday game.
“She (Seymour) had requested that from the business community through the chamber,” chamber board Chairman Bob Feathers said Thursday. Without help from groups like the foundation and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Seymour said Friday, such activities simply wouldn’t be possible. The group traveled on four school buses.
WHICH TEAM DID ROOSEVELT SUPPORT?
Feathers was interviewed Thursday from Knoxville, where Friday he helped facilitate a free meal for the Roosevelt group. About 140 students and 25 adults went on the trip. A former Lady Vol spoke to students a few weeks ago, and the grades 3-5 students got a visit from some Lady Bucs Thursday.
Chamber Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Bennett and Director of Government Relations Laura Barnett helped with the Friday trip and with Project Hope overall, Feathers said. They were among the group that made the game trip Friday.
An informed source inside the chamber Friday afternoon said the Lady Bucs Thursday promised Roosevelt students if they cheered for ETSU and that school won against UT, the team members would buy the students lunch. Seymour declined comment, but earlier in the day when asked whom she and the school supported, she responded: “Roosevelt hopes for a tie.”
However, she must have forgotten to tell that to the older students on the bus she rode, where students were captured on video repeatedly chanting “Tenn-e-ssee.” The bus driver also indicated support for the Lady Vols.
Feathers said the chamber project started in the spring, during the last school year, and while initially focused on Roosevelt is expanding to other elementary schools. He said Roosevelt is overall the lowest socioeconomic student body in Kingsport City Schools.
However, Kennedy Elementary, Jackson Elementary and Lincoln Elementary also are among lower socioeconomic schools as well as those that have higher concentrations of NAS children. NAS stands for neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition that affects the health and cognitive development of children born to drug-addicted mothers.
That, coupled with socioeconomic issues, can leave children with little or no hope or understanding of what a better life could be.
“Despite the situation they’re in,” Feathers said, “they can make a difference choice.”
Feathers said a companion program launched by Mayor John Clark, Project 200, strives to make high school students aware of post-high school options to further their education or training at no cost through the Tennessee Promise, as long as they earn a high school diploma, and through other means. Feathers said it targets students who have no definite plans or goals after high school graduation, encouraging them to change that.
PROJECT HOPE NOT JUST FOR STUDENTS?
Project Hope, meanwhile, is working at the elementary level to make students and parents aware early on in a student’s career about opportunities such as the RCAM or Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing and the “RCAM Jr.” or RCAM Academy that opened early this year downtown and serves high school students.
Getting elementary students into those facilities includes getting the parents in there, too, and Feathers said parents are told about Tennessee Reconnect for adults who want to complete post-secondary education or training.