Parade highlights Project Grad graduates

Sandra ClarkInside 640

Parents and grandparents honked car horns, Ronni Chandler had a bullhorn, and even a German shepherd got involved, barking when its graduate drove by.

It was the second annual GRADuate Car Parade at Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue campus on May 22. It was hot, but it was fun.

The parade was not a public event, but was open to families of the 26 former students of Austin-East or Fulton high schools who celebrated completion of a post-secondary degree.

Taylor Teasley had completed a degree in exercise science from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She’s already enrolled for a master’s in public health with emphasis on chronic disease and prevention.

“I’ll go wherever life takes me,” she said.

Janiyah Rowans got a bachelor’s from Tennessee State University in Nashville. Her degree is in business with emphasis on hospitality and tourism.

Jordyn Hill graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in health and human performance with a major in dance. She’s now auditioning for professional dance companies.

Ronni Chandler, executive director of Project Grad, said more than 600 students have finished post-high school degrees since the inception of Project Grad in 2001. Her program coordinators at Fulton and A-E are both graduates of the program, and a former Project Grad student now sits on the board.

She is incredibly proud of her “kids.” Graduation is always a huge deal, but this past year has been like no other, she said. “These students persevered during a worldwide pandemic. They stayed dedicated to reaching the end goal – a post-secondary diploma – in spite of social distancing, virtual classes and dealing with all the fear and loss that Covid-19 brought with it. Their dedication and fortitude paid off and on Saturday, we’ve come together to celebrate.”

The parade of decorated cars circled the parking lot three times. Then the families headed off for lunch to continue the celebration.

Spring 2021 graduates:

Austin Peay: Mauwa Nsengiyunva, April Fowler

Compassionate Care: Ansleigh Marsh

ETSU: Abigail Russell-Sanders, Makaley Black

Johnson University: Jacqueline Jackson

Maryville College: Hannah Rose Libby, Nancy Gonzalez-Rodriguez

MTSU: Jordyn Hill, Justice Brabson, Mekayla Hartsell, Neema Bahati

Rhodes College: K’Nori Bone

Roane State: Jalan Harper

South College: Chantel Malone

TN School of Beauty: Brennan Cox, Janiyah Rowans

Tennessee State University: Raven Warren

Tennessee Tech: Mahongony Cobb

Tennessee Wesleyan: Taylor Nicols

Kentucky University: Keondra McKinney

UT-Chattanooga: Shirliece Lundy, Taylor Teasley, Bell Velasco, Caleb Gaston

Tusculum: Kaitlyn Pickens

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