Hats Off to Hattanooga

A community working together can make a greater impact on the local education system than any one person or organization.

And since we want to build the smartest community in the South, it’s a good thing we’re all working together here in Chattanooga.

In the next few years, nearly 10,000 new jobs will arrive in Hamilton County as a result of the rapid expansion and relocation of major companies, but we have a workforce problem.

Only 38% of Hamilton County residents have some type of post-secondary credential that they will need to fill these new jobs. And only one in three students in our public schools is on track to obtain this essential level of education.

There is great opportunity now, and more is coming. But we have lots of work to do to help our students get ready for the jobs of tomorrow.

Countless local leaders throughout our city are stepping up to the plate and committing to improving education, because a quality education is what leads our children and our next generations towards opportunities for success.

With programs like Chattanooga Basics and Baby University that focus on the first 1,000 days of life, we are helping our children get a more equal start in life and hit critical development benchmarks during these precious first days.

For students in high school, Step-Up Chattanooga is connecting local businesses and schools to ensure students have access to internships that will help them prepare for the workforce and seamlessly enter the job pipeline.

We’re also supporting our college-goers. In Hamilton County alone, over 300 individuals have volunteered to be tnAchieves mentors, helping to guide students attending college under the Tennessee Promise program through the college application process and through their first day in class.

There is a strong desire among community members to support our local schools.  For example, the Interfaith Council does a great job of connecting local church congregations with their neighborhood schools.  Church members ‘adopt’ these schools by providing material needs and volunteering in many of the support roles that otherwise go unfilled.

But in K-12, we have a funding problem, and we’re losing school programs that help our children learn and grow.

Some Chattanoogans are thinking outside the box to find ways to do more.

Olivia Connor was a resident in the local Project Inspire teacher residency program when she realized the need for more funding for Chattanooga’s public schools so that students have every possible opportunity to learn inside and outside the classroom.

She and her husband Ty came up with a creative, innovative way to add more funding to the Hamilton County Department of Education– and make a big impact on our local schools.  It’s called ‘Hattanooga’.

As you might guess, Hattanooga is a hat company, one with great purpose and passion for giving back to the community.

United behind the same vision as local education initiatives like Chattanooga 2.0, the Public Education Foundation, and so many other organizations, Hattanooga is putting their money where it counts.  For every hat sold, Hattanooga gives $5 to support Chattanooga-area schools and programs through microgrants.

Since they launched their website in November, Hattanooga has already sold more than 150 hats and plans to soon begin selling in local stores.

Ty and Olivia Conor are helping shine a light on a need and actively working to address it. Together, we can build the smartest community in the South. Our community is leading the way to help secure the life-changing education programs and opportunities that make such a positive difference for our kids.

Hats off to Hattanooga. We need more like you.

Miles Huff is the Community Relations Specialist at Unum and also serves on Leadership Chattanooga.


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