1/5/21 UPDATE: 

NiswongerCARE Director, Denise Arnold, selected as 1 of 33 to engage in higher education policy initiative.

The National College Attainment Network (NCAN) is thrilled to announce a class of NCAN Member Advocacy Fellows — 33 college attainment practitioners who, over the next year, will engage in national higher education policy discussions. Among those selected were Denise Arnold, Director of NiswongerCARE.

Each of the fellows have recruited two current college students to join them in this advocacy work. These 66 students collectively represent powerful voices to inform lawmakers of the great impact policy decisions can have on college access, affordability, and attainment. Niswonger Scholars, Jasmine Martin and Gustavo Castillo were chosen as the student fellows who will work alongside Denise.


Both the staff and student fellows recently engaged in NCAN’s 2020 #Thankful4Pell #DoublePell Advocacy Week Campaign (Nov. 16-20). This campaign centered on expressing to Congress how important the Pell Grant is to student success, and how doubling the maximum award would help restore the purchasing power of this crucial federal aid.

Through this new fellowship, our team representing the Niswonger Foundation will support NCAN’s efforts to advocate, in the shared mission to close equity gaps in postsecondary attainment for all students.


2020-21 National College Attainment Network Student Advocacy Fellows

The goal of the NCAN Student Advocacy Fellowship is to expand the breadth of NCAN members participating in advocacy through elevating staff and students. This fellowship is an opportunity for students to develop professionally, engage in public policy, and bring their voice to the federal stage.

Two student fellows from the Niswonger Scholar Program will engage in national policy discussions and join a growing group of 64 other peer members dedicated to advocacy across the country. The NCAN fellowship consists of 33 partner organizations in 24 states across the United States. They will participate in a peer learning community, advocacy campaigns, and author student stories around federal policies.



Jasmine graduated from Morristown-Hamblen High School East.  She is the daughter of Jennifer and Casey Cook.  While at Morristown East, she served as a member of the Student Council, Spanish Club and Science Club.  She participated in the Scholars Bowl. She achieved the honor roll every academic year 1st through 12th grade. Her other awards include, AP English Award and AP Scholar Award. She enjoys volunteering as a mentor at Meadowview Middle School.

Jasmine is attending University of Tennessee-Knoxville and is majoring in Communication Studies. She serves as assistant director of Communications for the Student Basic Needs Coalition (SBNC) at The University of Tennessee - Knoxville.



Gustavo Castillo, son of Sara Perez, is a graduate of Morristown-Hamblen High School East.  He served as president of the Student Council, and participated in the TRIO program at Tusculum University.  He was a member of the Psychology Club, Beta Club, Interact Club, and PSI Alpha High School National Honor Society.  He received state recognition twice in the Talent Identification Program.  He was a participant in Tennessee American Legion Boys State, where he was elected House of Representatives Minority Leader.  He was selected for Youth Leadership of Morristown.  He is an avid sports fan and was a starter for the Varsity soccer and football teams at Morristown East.

Gustavo is attending the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.  He will be studying exercise science.


12/15/20 UPDATE: 


NiswongerCARE Associate Director, Anita Kilbourne-Greer, takes the lead for using the texting platform Signal Vine.

In the spring of 2020 when the pandemic became a reality and closing our schools for the remainder of the semester, meeting a student “where they are” took on a new meaning. No longer did it only refer to a student’s developmental, emotional, and academic presence, but also the student’s physical presence as well. 

The NiswongerCARE program has always been incredibly fortunate in the partnerships we have with Northeast Tennessee’s schools. Our Advisors are in the schools, have easy access to students, and are able to develop relationships with students and staff alike through their availability. All of that changed when schools went remote; no longer could our Advisors call a student out of class or hunt a student down during lunch. Students couldn’t pop into the Advisor’s office to ask a quick scholarship question or get assistance with a college application. Counselors could no longer sit down with an Advisor to discuss student progress in college-going milestones or plan a Path to College Event. The challenge became, “how do we best reach students? How do we maintain those relationships in the absence of physical presence?” 

In the spring, our Advisors were creative, persistent, and diligent; however, it became clear that a standard, systematic approach needed to be implemented. In the fall, the TN Community CARES Act provided nonprofit organizations with funding and the ability to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. NiswongerCARE Associate Director, Anita Kilbourne-Greer, took the lead on the grant opportunity, which allowed the program to purchase a subscription to the texting platform Signal Vine. With this platform, all of the seniors in our service area could not only receive reminders of college-going tasks or opportunities, but could directly contact their Advisor with questions or concerns. With Signal Vine, NiswongerCARE Advisors can serve students seamlessly; regardless of a school’s education delivery method. If a school is completely remote, Advisors can still assist students in completing Tennessee Promise or FAFSA using Signal Vine. If a school is utilizing a hybrid schedule, Advisors can remind students of an appointment or assist on remote days using Signal Vine. When schools have all students present, Advisors can honor instruction time by notifying students of their presence in the building and allowing students to seek out the Advisor at a time that is most convenient to their class schedule. In short, Signal Vine has become the tool that makes it possible to “meet the student where they are.” 

To date, NiswongerCARE has over 1,800 seniors using the platform. In just over a month of texting students, our engagement rate is 58%. While CARE Advisors are continuing to advertise the service to seniors, they are also targeting underclassmen, encouraging them to join. Being able to engage juniors, and even sophomores, will allow our Advisors to build valuable relationships prior to the senior year as well as prepare these students for the myriad college-going tasks awaiting them senior year. The CARE Program is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to utilize Signal Vine.

If you are a current senior from the Class of 2021, and you would like to receive text messages about important college-going reminders and dates, please text (423) 225-1862 to opt in. Once you text the number, it will ask you to reply with your First Name, Last Name, and then your High School, to be added into the platform. Thanks!


11/11/20 UPDATE: 


Big news! We have a new Social Media Coordinator for NiswongerCARE! Our advisor, Mary Kerns, has stepped into this role and we couldn't be more thrilled. Mary has already hit the ground running with this opportunity, and she has a lot of things up her sleeve. Please check us out at our social media accounts - Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, which can be found in the menu bar above or on our "Contact Us" page! Follow us to stay up to date with college and career related news, and for some engaging content! 

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