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Pellissippi State and NASA team up to help more women become engineers

When Tara Walker and Makayla Edwards cross the stage at Pellissippi State Community College’s commencement ceremony on May 5, they will have a special grant, funded by NASA, to thank.

Makala Edwards

Walker and Edwards are two of 14 female Engineering Technology students at Pellissippi State to have earned scholarships funded through the Tennessee Community College Space Grant Consortium, which is part of the NSPIRES (NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System) program. The grant funds are earmarked for women and other underserved populations in STEM programs.

“I have absolutely loved the time I have spent at Pellissippi,” Walker said. “The teachers I’ve had make me want to come to class every day because they are so enthusiastic about their jobs. I do not believe, as a whole, any school has better teachers than Pellissippi. They are truly here because they want to see us learn and help us in any way they can.”

Tara Walker
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without Pellissippi State and my professors,” Edwards said. “Pellissippi introduced me to 3D printing, and that helped me start my own business.”

Edwards started AMTec Fishing (an abbreviation of Additive Manufacturing Technologies Fishing) at the end of 2016. She designs and 3D prints fishing lures, then has them mass manufactured. Edwards intends to transfer to Austin Peay State University this fall, where she will study mechanical engineering.

Walker will transfer to Tennessee Technological University, where she will study chemical engineering.

“I like the engineering field because I feel like it gives me the opportunity to apply the knowledge I have gained in math and science while in college in a practical way. Chemical engineering is a fairly broad field, and there are a lot of different directions I could go with it. I would really like to work on the environmental side of chemical engineering in waste water treatment,” she said.

Walker, who graduated from Hardin Valley Academy in 2013, was not always interested in STEM fields.

“When I was in high school, I wasn’t always a very good student. But in my senior year, something clicked and I realized I needed to do well to be successful. That success mindset has continued here at Pellissippi State,” she said. “I first enrolled in an education program, but I realized it takes a very special person to be an educator and that wasn’t me.”

Walker first came to Pellissippi State as part of the tnAchieves scholarship, the precursor to Tennessee Promise — as did Edwards.

“The tnAchieves scholarship was one of my biggest reasons for originally attending Pellissippi,” Walker said. “I wasn’t sure if I would do well in college because of my not-so-stellar academic performance in high school, so I didn’t want to go to a huge university.”

“The NASA grant brought a lot of the female engineering technology students together,” Edwards said. “It’s nice to know you’re not alone when you’re studying in a traditionally male-dominated field. It also introduced me to the community; I was able to go to local middle schools and speak to students about STEM.”

The NASA grant funds more than just scholarships for the students who earn it. Pellissippi State students have traveled to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and to the Society of Women Engineers conference.

“At the SWE conference, I was able to speak to companies who wanted to hire female engineers,” Walker said. “Those contacts and the SWE organization may help me find companies hiring engineers when I graduate. Plus, it was amazing to see all of the accomplishments women in engineering are making.”

For more information, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

Pellissippi State Student Jaima Baskin has experienced great benefits from her participation in the Dept. of Labor UPEP grant

Jaima Bastin, a Pellissippi State student in the grant program called Universal Pathways to Employment Project (UPEP) at the college, shows off some of the work she has created in her Computer Graphics Technology major. Jaima wants to be a graphic designer when she graduates in May 2017

Jaima Baskin is an artistic, 20-year-old Pellissippi State student from Oak Ridge who is benefitting from a $5.2 million, five-year U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy grant awarded to the College in October of 2015. The grant is known as Universal Pathways to Employment (UPEP) and it helps students with disability to graduate and get a job doing what they studied in college.

“I have always been into art,” Jaima said. “I have a slight disability, so that makes it very hard to comprehend things.”

Jaima was born at Fort Benning, Georgia, to an Army family. “The men on my dad’s side of the family were in the military, while the women were usually nurses.” She has traced her dad’s family back to her great, great, great

Grandfather, who was a World War I Army Air Corps officer, and a great, great, great grandmother, who was a self-taught nurse.

Jaime moved to Oak Ridge, where her mother’s family is from, when she was “four or five-years-old.”

”It was rough,” she said, “We were lower middle class and we struggled.” At one point, Jaima’s mother held down three jobs at once. “She was a nurse at Briarcliff, worked in a convenience store, and provided in-home heath care to the sick.”

Jaima attended Glenwood Elementary School, Jefferson Middle School, and Oak Ridge High School. Sadly, her mother died when she was a high school junior in 2012. Now, she lives with her grandmother and works part-time at Big Ed’s Pizza in Oak Ridge.

Her aunt, Sayona Shoemaker-Groover, who works in the cafeteria on the Pellissippi State Hardin Valley Campus, is the rock in Jaima’s life. “My aunt helps out so much. It almost feels like she lives with us.”

Another important person in Jaima’s life she calls “Aunt Ann.” Aunt Ann is Ann Satkowiak, the Director of Disability Services at Pellissippi State. Satkowiak was the person who wrote, applied for, and won the UPEP grant for the College.

In discussing what UPEP has done for her, Jaima points to her Career Coach Taylor Ragetti. “We have career coaches who help us. They look for jobs in the local area and help us with resumes and cover letters.”

Jaima said that another benefit of UPEP is being assigned an Academic Coach. Her Academic Coach is Allison McKittrick. “She is just really friendly and it makes her easier to talk to. She’s in college too, working on a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee. She breaks my lessons down into small chunks and helps me learn it bit by bit.”

“I’ve met a lot of great people in the program. Even though we all have disabilities, we all understand how it is to struggle with them (disabilities),” she said.

Jaima said another important aspect to UPEP is providing participants with the material resources they need to succeed. “Some students don’t have internet, so PSCC provides them with a ‘Hot Spot,’ while UPEP provides assistive technology like laptops and live scribe pens, so they can get their work done at home and won’t fall behind.”

As far as Jaima is concerned one of the biggest benefits of UPEP is that it has given her confidence. “They try to make you go out and do things, but you still can choose not to, if you don’t want to do it.”

“UPEP has helped me a lot,” Jaima said. “I don’t know where I’d be without it. I don’t think I would be making the grades I am without the extra help.”


Pellissippi State sophomore Jonathan “Jack” Horsley is a leader and mentor in the U.S. Dept. of Labor students with disabilities grant program

Jonathan “Jack” T. Horsley is a photographer with a small business. He is also studying photography at Pellissippi State Community College. Horsley is completing his second year at Pellissippi State and he plans to grow his family and wedding photography business when he graduates.

Jack has a disability, but he said that he has been part of the $5.3 million Universal Pathways to Employment Project (UPEP), U.S. Dept. of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy grant Pellissippi State won in 2013.

“I started in it when I came to college,” Jack explained. “There are so many benefits. I’m thankful for all the workshops that will help with my career, for the free tutoring from an academic coach, for the opportunity to shadow photographers, and for free transportation by ETHRA paid for by the grant, but the most exciting thing was that I was chosen to go on WBIR and talk about the UPEP program.”

“Joyce Brumbaugh, who is a career liaison specialist for UPEP, called me and asked if I would be interested in explaining the program on TV. I said I needed time to think about it. When I decided to do it, I called Joyce and asked her if she still was looking for someone because I wanted to do it,” Jack explained.

“When I was thinking about going on TV, my family encouraged me to go before the camera. They were excited for me,” he continued.

“Jack was selected to be a mentor by the entire UPEP staff,” said UPEP Director Indira Richardson. “He was in the charter class when we decided to start the mentoring program.”

“LaKietha Jackson, our community liaison specialist, asked Jack to participate due to his academic achievements and because he had completed a year in the UPEP program as a very active, positive participant,” Richardson said.

During the fall 2016 semester, Jack had two students to mentor, but during the current term he has four people he mentors.

“UPEP has two students majoring in photography who wanted a mentor who was a photographer, so I agreed to help them,” Horsley said. “As a mentor, I check to see how they are doing in their classes. I help them decide what is necessary for them to earn a UPEP scholarship and I try to answer any questions they have, but, most importantly, I try to be their friend.”

Two of Horsley’s favorite UPEP workshops have been “Teamwork” and “Self-Advocacy.”

“Teamwork showed me how to get things done together as a team. It taught me how to work together in the right way,” he said. “It has to do with sharing.”

Horsley said that the “Self-Advocacy” workshop taught him to be organized, to take responsibility, to take care of himself, and to be very focused on his goals.

This summer, Jack will become the first UPEP participant to travel overseas through the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies (TnCIS) program, which is headquartered at Pellissippi State. He will be taking a “Nature and Travel Photography” course, which will take him to Scotland for three weeks in May and June. The class will visit Oban, Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh.

“It’s a big accomplishment. I’ve never been on an airplane before. I’m going to have a great time!” Jack said, excitedly. “I’m going to take some great pictures and find out who I am as a photographer.”