Fundraising effort helps Karns students take AP exams

Fundraising effort helps Karns students take AP exams

Karns teacher B.J. Arvin and junior Lyndsey Dodge helped raise funds to offset the cost of Advanced Placement exams at the school.

A fundraising effort at Karns High School is working to broaden access to Advanced Placement classes. 

The initiative was sparked last year, when social studies teacher B.J. Arvin heard about a Karns student who had completed an AP class, but chose not to take the exam because of the cost. 

When he learned of the situation, Arvin recalled later, he thought to himself “We’re not going to have this happen again.”

The result was a fundraising campaign which led to:

  • A $1,500 donation from TVA Employees Credit Union;
  • A $500 grant from the Junior League of Knoxville; and
  • A Homecoming campaign by KHS junior Lyndsey Dodge, which netted $750.

Dodge sold items including hair ties and bracelets as part of her campaign, and has also taken several AP classes during her academic career.

While the classes are more rigorous than a standard high school course, a good score on the AP exam can lead to college credit for high school students.

  • I know how beneficial AP programs can be for college and for peoples’ future,” Dodge said. “So I figured I would help out.”

AP exams cost $96, although discounts – at a price of $62 – are available for students in financial need. But Arvin pointed out that many students take multiple AP classes in a year, and the testing costs can add up.

He said that in his AP Human Geography class, every student was able to take the test this year, and another fundraising campaign is planned for next year’s Homecoming.

  • “The ultimate goal is we do this for a few years, word gets out, and then we start getting kids who maybe wouldn’t normally take an AP class because of the financial aspect of it – they start enrolling.”

Digital Upgrades Improve Accessibility For ELL Families

Digital Upgrades Improve Accessibility For ELL Families

Several new features on the KCS website and YouTube channel will make it easier for students and families to receive updates, find information and learn about their school.

Earlier this month, “Translate” buttons in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Swahili were added in the upper left-hand corner of, as well as on school websites. This enhancement makes it easier for users to access those languages, while a drop-down menu with dozens of additional languages continues to be provided.

In addition, KCS recently launched, a condensed version of the district website that highlights areas of high importance, including:

  • Enrollment;
  • The Family Portal;
  • District governance; and
  • School zone maps.

The district has also launched a series of videos on YouTube that highlight Spanish-speaking students and families; profile Spanish-speaking employees; and provide updates about important topics.

“It is very important that all families have access to important information about their child’s education, even if they are still learning English,” said Superintendent Bob Thomas. “This enhancement of our website will make it easier for families to stay informed, and I am grateful that we are able to implement these changes.”

More than 5,400 students within KCS are from families where these languages are spoken at home:

  • Spanish – 4,740
  • Arabic – 326
  • Chinese – 204
  • Swahili – 186
Gibbs Students Earn DECA Honors

Gibbs Students Earn DECA Honors

Gibbs High School teacher LeeAnne Kepper, freshman Mary Anne Cooper and senior Sidney Vass helped the school’s DECA Club gain national recognition this year.

A campaign to promote Career and Technical Education (CTE) helped students at Gibbs High School earn some national recognition in recent weeks.

The school’s DECA club — which prepares students for business-oriented careers — was the only one in Tennessee to earn the DECA Advocacy Award, in honor of a promotional campaign to highlight the value of CTE programs. The campaign included:

  • Digital marketing on the school’s electronic marquee;
  • Social media marketing;
  • Interviews with CTE teachers; and
  • Promotional messages on the school’s morning announcements.

Sidney Vass, the club’s president and a senior at Gibbs, said it’s important for students to find activities they’re passionate about, and that the club has helped her make new friends.

  • DECA’s helped me reach out to other people and experience a whole new, different world — finding other people that are passionate about wanting to help people and also go into the marketing field or the business field.”

The Eagles also gained recognition for their Chapter Campaign and took steps to boost school spirit this year, including a Valentine’s promotion that provided candy to faculty and staff, and a carnation sale — in partnership with the Future Business Leaders of America — which benefited cystic fibrosis philanthropy.

9th-grader Mary Anne Cooper said it can be hard for students to find their place in high school, but DECA helped her make connections.

  • “I’ve met a lot of really diverse, different people in our group. It’s not just like one grade, it’s not just centered around one certain group of people … I’ve gotten to meet all kinds of different people that I wouldn’t have gotten to meet otherwise.”

Students do not have to enroll in marketing classes to join DECA, and teacher LeeAnne Kepper said she tries to emphasize that students can participate in the club while also participating in other activities such as sports or dance.

Kepper said she is also proud of the efforts club members make to show kindness and to reach out, adding that “We just have a lot of fun.”

South-Doyle Students Explore Career Options

South-Doyle Students Explore Career Options

Students from South-Doyle Middle School explored careers, practiced elevator speeches and learned how to dress for success at a career-themed event this week!

The “Get Hired” field trip included a career fair at the Sarah Simpson Center and programming at UTK’s Haslam College of Business, along with a scavenger hunt.

8th-graders Tamahj Martin and Benjamin Collins learned about careers including professional photography, and Collins said he wants to be a lawyer if a basketball career doesn’t work out.

  • Asked about his elevator speech, Collins had a strong pitch to potential employers in the legal field: “I’m very good at arguing. I like to help people get through stuff that’s hard for them.”

The event was led by the KCS CTE Department, Junior Achievement of East Tennessee and the Haslam College of Business, and the Tennessee Department of Education provided grant funding.

Weightlifting Club Builds Strength And Confidence

Weightlifting Club Builds Strength And Confidence

Auriel Canales Rojas says the Iron Rangers club at Northwest Middle School helps him feel more confident.

Auriel Canales Rojas has been waking up with some aches and pains in recent weeks, but he isn’t worried about it.

The 7th-grader at Northwest Middle School is part of the Iron Rangers, a weightlifting club that aims to help students gain confidence, develop relationships and foster self-discipline.

The club meets after school on Wednesday afternoons, and Canales said KCS social worker Brian Tunstall – the group leader – has reminded them that the soreness means they’re building muscle.

  • It makes me build strength and makes me feel confident every day,” Canales said.

A version of the Iron Rangers has met at Northwest intermittently for several years, but more recently the initiative has expanded.

  • An Iron Falcons club launched at Fulton High this year, and an Iron Navigators club is in its second year at Richard Yoakley School. New clubs are expected to launch at Holston Middle, South-Doyle Middle and Carter Middle next year.

In addition to the weekly meetings, participants get a t-shirt and a certificate of completion.

During a recent meeting at Northwest, Tunstall asked participants about their goals, which included losing weight, being able to focus and improving their grades.

The social worker encouraged the boys with a car metaphor, saying that working out can be a vehicle that helps you reach your goals. In an interview, he said the opportunity to connect with kids is “what makes my heart happy”:

  • Middle school is a hard age for young men. They’re trying to find their identity and where they fit in. Weightlifting is a big confidence and self-esteem booster.”