Governor Bill Lee awards $1 million grant to TCAT Elizabethton

Published 10:49 am Monday, January 6, 2020

State governor Bill Lee visited the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Friday afternoon to award the college $1 million from the state’s GIVE grant as an investment in the Northeast STEM to Work program.

GIVE is $25 million of the governor’s budget that goes out to multiple local partners throughout the state, and the highest amount any one organization can receive is $1 million.

TCAT Vice President Danny O’Quinn said the grant will go towards equipment and technology that will better their programs, including machinery and robotics.

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“We started this a year ago and we are half complete,” O’Quinn said in a release. “This grant will allow us to complete it.”

The rest of the grant will go towards the college’s STEM labs they helped build in various high schools, including Elizabethton and Unicoi High Schools.

O’Quinn said the labs will allow students to take TCAT courses in their standard learning environments, allowing them to receive dual credit opportunities for when they do finally enroll at TCAT once they graduate.

Lee said the program prioritized “economically distressed” counties.

“We are proud to work with the General Assembly to pass the GIVE initiative and expand career and technical education for Tennessee students,” Lee said. “These funds directly support our workforce development efforts in distressed and at-risk counties and are a key component of our strategy to prioritize rural Tennessee.”

Lee said the grant helps highlight the region’s incentives.

“These grants are being given to programs who are examples to the rest of the state,” Lee said. “Where it really happens is out here. Your community has done this.”

Vocational education like TCAT, he said, helps further economic development in the region, including technical, agricultural and more.

He said this and more help create a climate of cooperation between government and schools that will strengthen the quality of education across the state for everybody, not just high schools.

“The government has an opportunity to create an environment for collaboration,” Lee said. “What happens here is important. It changes lives.”

He said opportunities like this could also work to drive changes throughout the country.

“If we want to be a leader, we have to lead in education,” he said.

Of the first year he has been governor, he said this has been one of the biggest things he has done.

“I believe this will change the way high school works in Tennessee,” Lee said.