PAWS started as a vision of the program’s Executive Director, Ms. Sandy Cole. Ms. Cole initially wanted to start programming with middle-school aged children, however, through conversations in the community she was encouraged to start earlier with elementary school students. As of 2013 there exists no federal funding for college outreach programs that target elementary school students. Because of the lack of funding available, Ms. Cole looked at various grants that would help target juvenile delinquency for elementary students. PAWS was first established in 2007 through a $40,000 grant from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth (TCCY) program. The purpose of TCCY is to “oversee resource mapping of all federal and state funding streams that support the health, safety, permanence, growth, and development and education in Tennessee” (http://www.tennessee.gov/tccy/). To remain in compliance of the grant, Ms. Cole referenced the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to find a researched, proven model to use with fourth and fifth grade students. The curriculum first used in the program was Positive Action With Success. The name of the curriculum is how the program first derived its name.

a paws kid wearing a previous paws t-shirt

All About Me Collage Activity

Faith, a 2010 and 2011 PAWS participant

In partnership with Brown International Academy, PAWS began as an after school initiative where UTC students served as mentors in the program. UTC students were a welcomed part of PAWS as they applied to volunteer to provide mentoring to the fourth and fifth grade participants of the program. UTC mentors were responsible for delivering the programming by means of facilitating activities from Positive Action, providing homework assistance, panels, campus tours, and other special events.

As time followed, PAWS started growing not only by reputation, but also by volunteers and participants. Partnerships with Education, Social Work, and Psychology departments were fostered and it is through these partnerships with those departments that students benefited by serving as mentors in order to complete the field placement component or for the practicum, or intern or volunteer experience in Think Achieve program.

Goals continued to evolve in the program. As Ms. Cole noticed the fascination PAWS students had in learning about college from their mentors. PAWS evolved from being a program focusing on lowering juvenile delinquency to a program keen on helping elementary-age students explore their postsecondary options. In 2010 the PAWS abbreviation shift emphasis from “Positive Action With Success” to “Postsecondary Awareness With Success.”

PAWS ceased operations in the Fall of 2019 to increase focus on the expanding CK, Now! program. Where PAWS served under 50 children a year for 12 years, CK, Now! serves over 2,000 children a year. As of December 2019, over 11,782 children have attended CK, Now!

We would like to thank the many UTC students mentors that served PAWS. Many of those children have moved on to postsecondary education, thanks to your guidance!

a PAWS mentor with a paws kid