When Sandy Cole and Jonathan Brocco created and founded College Knowledge, Now! or CK, Now! in a Co.Starters for Causes Class offered by Company Lab and Causeway, they wanted to inspire more fourth and fifth graders to plan for college.
“CK, Now! was created because there are thousands of 4th and 5th graders in our region who will be the first in their family to go to college. After operating the PAWS project for nearly 8 years, we needed to be able to reach more children,” said Cole, Executive Director for Community Career Education.
Postsecondary Awareness With Success or PAWS began as an after-school initiative, established with a $40,000 grant from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. Cole looked to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to find a researched, proven model to use with fourth and fifth grade students. UTC mentors delivered the programming by facilitating activities from Positive Action, providing homework assistance, panels, campus tours, and other special events.
Cole evolved the program from focusing on lowering juvenile delinquency to one keen on helping elementary-age students explore their postsecondary options. In 2010, PAWS shifted emphasis from “Positive Action With Success” to “Postsecondary Awareness With Success.”
To be sure materials aligned with the goals of increasing postsecondary awareness, a new curriculum was designed to meet the needs of the program. In 2011, the Center for Community Career Education published the comprehensive curriculum “Achieving the Dream: College Bound!” for the PAWS program.
“What we have found with PAWS… kids in this age group are like sponges for this information,” Cole revealed. “One of our PAWS parents sent this message to Jonathan Brocco recently: ‘I want to thank you all for giving my son the opportunity of being able to attend PAWS. He has a better outlook on the future. I really appreciate how you all took time out of your schedules to mentor the kids…’”
Cole gives Brocco a lot of the credit for beginning CK, Now! Brocco ’13 is pursuing his Master’s degree at UTC.
“Jonathan created the vision for the project: No more generations of first generation college students,” Cole explained. “We hope to be able to serve 1,000 children this year. Jonathan’s passion with PAWS (he served 4 years as a mentor) and now as a coordinator of CK, Now! will help this project grow in the region.”
CK, Now! is delivered in a meaningful way for young children with a twofold takeaway.
“Our primary goals for CK, Now! are that students will leave this UTC field trip mission understanding that college is a reality and there is a way for them to afford a post-secondary education. The Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga has provided us with preliminary funding to help us launch this new initiative,” Cole said.