Q&A: Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of tnAchieves

Krissy DeAlejandro is the executive director of tnAchieves, a Knoxville-based scholarship program for Tennessee public high school graduates to receive up to $3,000 annually for community college tuition. Originally starting as knoxAchieves, the program accepted almost 1,100 students from the Class of 2011, and it is now working to go state-wide.

Who are the most important people tnAchieves serves?

tnAchieves serves all public high school graduates in 24 counties across Tennessee. The program began as knoxAchieves in 2008. While all seniors who wish to attend community college are eligible, we target first-generation students who would otherwise not attend college.

What's been your best accomplishment of 2010?

We have two! First, we had 608 students from Knox County enter community college; 65 percent were the first in their families to attend college. Second, tnAchieves received funding to take our program to new communities. Because of this, more than 25,000 students from the Class of 2012 will have the opportunity to attend community college with mentor support.

How would it work to take the model statewide, and how can the average person help you with that goal?

tnAchieves needs education, community, and business leaders to create momentum that leads to mentor recruitment and funding support. Mentoring is the heart of our program. Every applicant receives a mentor from the community to help eliminate the barriers associated with college access. It only takes 15 hours annually to make an impact in a student's life. It is a model that will work in all Tennessee communities that embrace the importance of increased college access and greater college success.

Have you yourself attended any community college? What do you like about community colleges in general?

I did not attend a community college, but am such a fan! I have taught at Pellissippi State over the past few years to better understand our students. I love their flexibility as well as the overwhelming support our students receive from faculty and staff. While providing an excellent post-secondary education, the community colleges are also a cost effective option for students.

Do you have any noteworthy donors behind the cause?

From individuals like Randy Boyd, Rich Ray, and Tim Williams to foundations such as Aslan, Cornerstone, Choice Data, and Clayton, tnAchieves has generous donors and the list continues to grow. We are also very fortunate to operate our non-profit from Randy's company, Radio Systems Corporation. This allows all monies raised to go directly to student scholarships.

Is there a limit to how old you can be to receive the scholarship?

Yes! To meet eligibility requirements, a student must complete an application during his/her senior year of high school.

If I've got a person I think could qualify, what should I ask them to do?

The individual can visit our website at tnachieves.org. The student can also pick up an application from his/her guidance counselor and return prior to the October 14th deadline.

Any celebrity mentors in the tnAchieves midst?

tnAchieves believes all our mentors are rock stars!