Earlier this year, Nashville city leaders announced an ambitious scholarship program that would pay Metro high school seniors' way through community college.
But organizers say there aren't enough mentors to keep up with the big demand for help, so they are asking for people in the community to step up.
Nashville Achieves is an extension of the Tennessee Achieves program, which offers scholarships to students in 27 of the state's 95 counties.
"We're really trying to change the college-going needle, increase the number of students who pursue post-secondary education after high school," said Tennessee Achieves program director Jackie Hartmann.
Graduating high school seniors can get up to $4,000 a year to attend any of the state's community or technical colleges, paid for by public and private funds.
And it doesn't just benefit the students.
"There's going to be jobs but no one to fill them, so we're not to be able to bring employers into the state if we don't have enough educated adults to work to take those jobs," Hartmann said.
But in order for the program to work, participating students also need mentors, and those are in short supply right now.
When organizers first introduced the program in Davidson County back in August, they estimated about 1,600 students would sign up. Instead, more than 2,800 registered, sending them scrambling for hundreds of new mentors.
With only a few weeks before the deadline, the program still needs about 100 more mentors.
"A lot of these students are first-generation students, and if they hit one roadblock, they'll give up and not go back," Hartmann said.
Kate Derrick signed up to become a mentor and has just received her assignment.
"I'll be that person who says this is something you can do, and I want to help you do that," Derrick said. "It's wonderful for them to have one more champion in their lives and to have someone to really focus just on that for them."
And it's a small investment now sure to return big dividends in the future.
Mentors don't need special qualifications or even a college degree, just a desire to help the students.
If you want more information on how to become a mentor, visit https://www.tnachieves.org/mentor-application.
The deadline to register is Nov. 22.
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