YouthForce opens career prospects for high school students

Lesli Bales-SherrodBlount, East Knox

A summer nursing camp at Pellissippi State Community College left a lasting impression on Therese Lloyd when she was just 16 years old.


Four summers later, Lloyd volunteered at that same camp as a nursing student at Pellissippi State, helping 12 high school students from Knox and Blount counties with a simulated birth, newborn assessments, swaddling, drawing up medication for babies and other tasks.

“I remember being really inspired during my week at YouthForce and realizing that this is what I wanted to do with my life,” said Lloyd, now 20 and expecting to graduate with her nursing degree in spring 2023.

“I volunteered to help with the camp this year because I wanted to tell these kids so many things about nursing that would be beneficial to them. It’s a fulfilling, needed, versatile career, and they can do this – straight out of high school. I feel like I have so much knowledge to share with them!”

YouthForce is the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley’s workforce development program that introduces high school students to skilled trades. Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus, led by campus Dean Mike Northhas been partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley to provide space for its YouthForce Technical Training Camps since 2016.

“They’re here with us for a week in the summer, and the camps attract kids from a diverse population,” North explained. “It’s a wide mix, but most of our kids are African American, and this is a good way to bring diversity to these fields.”

In June, Pellissippi State hosted 36 YouthForce students for camps focusing on engineering, gaming and game design, nursing and welding. The college will host another round of YouthForce students in July with camps in criminal justice, gaming and game design and welding.

Lloyd was a rising junior at William Blount High School when she participated in YouthForce under Pellissippi State nursing instructor Felicia Murret, who was teaching the YouthForce students again this year.

“I never had thought about nursing, but I knew I loved biology and I loved children,” said Lloyd, who lives in Louisville, Tennessee. “I came here and realized I could put those two together for a career in pediatric nursing.”

Lloyd remembers YouthForce providing her with scrubs and a nursing pack that included everything from personal protective equipment to her own stethoscope. She also remembers learning CPR, first aid and how to stop bleeding among simulated nursing experiences like running a Code Blue.

Lloyd completed her pediatric clinicals this summer at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. “The nursing school is a lot of work, but the instructors are helpful and friendly, and that’s what’s gotten me through this. I also love the free counseling Pellissippi State offers, plus all the activities and how the college has helped me get grants and scholarships to keep my costs down.”

The YouthForce camps have been so successful that North recently applied for and was awarded a Tennessee Board of Regents grant to expand the program so that high school students can come to Pellissippi State two Saturdays in the fall and two Saturdays in the spring before completing their “capstone project” during the summer.

The SPIKE Academy – so named for “Strawberry Plains Increases Knowledge and Engagement” – will recruit rising high school seniors who are interested in the high-demand fields of nursing and welding. Each cohort can accept up to 15 students, North said, and recruiting will begin in August.

North said the SPIKE Academy will address Pellissippi State’s goals of increasing diversity, equity and inclusion at the college by recruiting students from underrepresented populations, like women in welding and Black students in both nursing and welding. The SPIKE Academy also will make creative use of Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus when college students are not in the building.

The TBR grant for $19,975 will cover the cost for two welding instructors and three nursing instructors for the SPIKE Academy, as well as welding and nursing kits for students in the program, bus transportation from the Boys & Girls Clubs sites to the Strawberry Plains Campus, and food.

Info: Dean Mike North at 865-225-2303.

Lesli Bales-Sherrod does marketing and writing for Pellissippi State Community College.

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