Unaka High School receives Path to College distinction

Published 8:19 am Friday, November 22, 2019

Unaka High School recently earned the Path to College School Distinction for its 2018/2019 school year, courtesy of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation.

School counselor Lisa McGinnis said the distinction is an honor for the school.

“It is a great opportunity for our students,” McGinnis said.

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This distinction marks a school’s continued efforts to promote post-secondary opportunities after high school and the various aspects of that focus students need to understand. In particular, Unaka had to host four different events: a College Application and Exploration Week, a Tennessee FAFSA Frenzy to highlight financial aid opportunities, a Career Planning Night and a College Signing Day.

“A lot of parents do not have the knowledge to do FAFSA,” she said. “It changes every year. This gets them some assistance, so they do not have to suffer on their own.”

The distinction also partly comes from the school’s partnership with Niswonger Children’s Hospital. Allison Turbyfield, part of NiswongerCARE, said the partnership between CARE and the school has been beneficial to the students.

“All of the teachers are on board with our program,” Turbyfield said. “It is rewarding, especially the college signing day.”

She said the program helps students to improve their options for when they graduate and teaches them how to seek out and receive the assistance they may need, financial or otherwise.

This program, though it may seem to have a college focus, does not solely talk about college. McGinnis said the program also provides resources for students who pursue different opportunities.

“We know some are looking for the military or other careers,” she said.

She said this kind of support for their student body is crucial.

“A lot of these students may be their main income for their families,” she said.

She also said Unaka did not just begin providing these programs as part of the distinction.

“Unaka provides all of our students for some post-secondary opportunities,” McGinnis said.

The program, she said, will now ensure these kinds of events will occur annually, not just because of the award and fancy ribbon they get to place on the door to the main office, but because they want to provide as much assistance to their student body as possible