- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Officials say the Tennessee Promise program needs to recruit thousands more volunteer mentors for the state to hit its goal by a Nov. 20 deadline.

The Tennessean (https://tnne.ws/1MZiyWq ) reports about 6,100 mentors had volunteered to work with the next class of Tennessee Promise students by Thursday morning. That leaves about 3,000 more needed in three weeks. To reach the goal, a team of recruiters is crossing the state for a blitz of events and speeches.

The scholarship program provides two free years of tuition to community or technical college. Gov. Bill Haslam has said more mentors could be a key to the success of the program’s second year.

Williamson, Rutherford and Montgomery counties all need more than 100 mentors apiece.

Recruitment events last week targeted large employers across the state, including Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Unum in Chattanooga.

Mentors are “what allows this program to work,” Graham Thomas told a group of about 30 employees during a visit to AT&T; Tennessee.

Thomas works for tnAchieves, the nonprofit that recruits and trains most Tennessee Promise mentors.

“It’s what allows us to do this at a state level,” he said.

Daniel Hayes, the company’s director of public affairs, said encouraging the volunteering opportunity “fits completely with our company culture.”

Thomas planned to do another round of business visits, but he said he’d also reach out to civic groups and other organizations.

“Anyone that wants to listen to us, we’ll talk to them,” he said.

Shelby County, which includes Memphis, accounts for about a third of the state’s gap, according to Thomas. The county still needs almost 1,000 mentors to reach its goal.

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Information from: The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com

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