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Students from Knox County’s Austin-East and Fulton high schools got a taste of college life last week at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as part of the Project GRAD Summer Institute.

Taught by UT Knoxville faculty, the one-week residential workshop invites rising juniors and seniors to experience what it is like to live, eat and attend classes on a college campus.

Courses focus on math, English, computer application, ACT preparation and critical thinking skills. Students also choose a career based elective class to learn more about a field of interest.

Along with the Project GRAD staff, the institute incorporates returning successful graduates of the Project GRAD program, which was designed to increase high school graduation rates and post-secondary education in urban schools.

One of the returning graduates is Toyia Williams, a UT sophomore majoring in sports marketing, admitted that while the program is intense it is worth it. “It can be overwhelming but the students learn skills such as networking and time management that will help prepare them for college,” Williams said.

The Summer Institute is organized by two professors, Fritz Polite, director and assistant professor and Steven Waller, assistant professor. Both are from the Institute for Leadership, Ethics, and Diversity in Sport (I-LEAD), part of the College of Education Health and Human Sciences.

As co-directors, they are responsible for the logistics and planning of the workshop.

The professors are also involved year-round in the recruiting of students for the Project GRAD Knoxville program.

“The main focus of the Summer Institute is to promote education to the students and encourage them to expand their thinking,” Polite said. “The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has amazing resources and staff to help these students become successful. We are delighted to share in this partnership that benefits not only the students but the community as well.”

If the students are able to complete two Summer Institutes, and meet other requirements of the Project GRAD program, they will qualify to receive a $4,000 scholarship to attend the accredited four year or two year college of their choice.

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