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Almost 6,000 mentors needed for tnAchieves program

NASHVILLE — With the Dec. 3 deadline less than two months away, tnAchieves needs an additional 5,900 volunteer mentors across the state to support TN Promise applicants from the Class of 2022.

Sullivan County needs 158 mentors to meet its goal of 218, while Hawkins County needs 50 mentors to meet its goal of 77.

TN Promise, in partnership with tnAchieves, allows every graduating high school senior the opportunity to attend a community or technical college tuition-free with mentor support.

Mentors spend one hour a month assisting students as they transition from high school to college. In 2022, mentors will have the choice to serve their students either virtually or in person depending on the mentor’s preference.

Many of the students that apply for the scholarship will be the first in their families to at- tend college. Mentors work with students to overcome barriers that previously prevented students from accessing higher education. In 2022, mentors will play a critical role in helping to re- verse negative enrollment trends brought on by the pandemic.

“The Class of 2022 has faced countless obstacles and challenges in their pursuit of a high school diploma,” tnAchieves Director of Mentors Tyler Ford said. “TnAchieves mentors offer the personal support and encouragement many students need to ensure their transition to college is smooth as they begin their post-secondary career motivated and prepared to realize their full potential.”

Graham Thomas, tnAchieves deputy director of partnerships and government relations, said: “Ultimately there is no substitute for a committed, caring local support system. Our mentors offer support to students who may otherwise have nowhere else to turn for guidance through the college-going process!”

Mentors will be provided with online training and a handbook to help navigate the program. Volunteers will also receive weekly updates from tnAchieves and have access to its staff for questions and concerns.

Potential mentors must be 21 and are subject to a background check. For more information or to apply, you can go online to http://www.tnachieves.org/mentors or contact Ford at (309) 945-3446 or tyler@tnAchieves.org.

UVA Wise gets Apple recognition for iPad implementation

WISE — Two years and two months ago, UVA Wise Chancellor Donna Henry was helping pass out about 1,400 brand new iPads to students and staff at the college’s fall convocation.

On Wednesday, after a pandemic and a four-year technology plan that got compressed into two years, Henry and college officials got recognition from Apple Inc. as a Distinguished School for making the devices an integral part of student learning and faculty teaching methods.

Apple executives Anne VanMiddles- worth, Bob Whicker and Jack Burns joined students and administrators for the official announcement of the honor. UVA Wise now is one of more than 30 U.S. colleges and universities with the Distinguished School designation, which means the college has demonstrated innovation and significant progress using iPads and associated technology for education.

The first allocation of free iPads was part of the college’s innovate2eleVAte technology initiative. Henry said studies had shown that about half the students starting at UVA Wise did not have access to reliable internet before coming to campus.

“We had no idea a global pandemic was looming when we distributed iPads to a fanfare of excitement,” said Henry. “When we shut down in-person classes seven months later, the pandemic forced us to be distant and virtual and this iPad initiative was our lifeline.”

Within three weeks of the state order in early 2020 shutting down in-person classes in all state colleges and universities, almost all of UVA Wise’s academic departments were resuming classes using iPads and Zoom conferencing software.

Henry said faculty had begun a trial program months before the 2019-20 academic year to become familiar with iPads and available software and free downloadable textbooks. That workup helped the college finish the year and get ready for the following year’s continuing pandemic challenge.

“The impact was immediate; the possibilities were endless,” said Henry. “Not only were classrooms transformed with Apple TVs so that all iPads could project to TV monitors. I truly believe our entire campus was transformed.”

Henry said students and faculty are using iPads for music, data analysis, art, robotics, textbooks, language studies and a range of academic applications.

Psychology professor Alex Reynolds, one of a team of faculty and staff who worked on the pilot program before the fall 2019 iPad distribution, said she expected to see students use the technology in unexpected ways.

“Let me just say that our faculty, staff and students have absolutely surpassed all of my expectations, which were quite high, over the past two years,” said Reynolds. She cited one example where the pandemic did not allow traditional anatomy classes, during which students would examine lab samples, including brains. A three-dimensional anatomy app allowed students to examine the brain’s structure and perform virtual dissection.

“I was here two years ago when the first iPads were handed out,” VanMiddlesworth said. “Not every place has magic, and I’m going to say to you all, this place is magic. This team — the leadership team, the academic team, the IT team, the student team, the athletic team, the staff team — came together to create something really special at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.”

“This has been a crazy two years,” VanMiddles- worth added. “Because of you, it worked.”

“When we looked at out four-year plan for the Apple Distinguished School application, we found that we’d actually completed everything in the plan in two years,” Henry said of the pandemic’s effect on the innovate2eleVAte program.

Scott Bevins, the college’s chief information officer and provost for information services, credited college IT staff and Apple support personnel with making a smooth transition to a campus-wide iPad environment.

“The students have been great to work with and the IT staff has enjoyed it,” Bevins said.

Naya Davis, a senior physical education major, said the iPad has been integral to her academic work and campus jobs as a sports videographer and freshman Expedition program leader.

“My computer died on me just as the (2019) school year was starting,” said Davis, “and the next day they gave us iPads to get to know and learn about them for a week. I loved it and I haven’t bought a computer since. I use it almost all day, every day.”

Senior art major McKenzie Dykstra got to work on her iPad when she was asked to work on an iPad user guide for students and staff. While she was used to going through several logins and document downloads for graphics projects before she got her college iPad, Dykstra said that process became turning on her device and going to work on graphics and animations for the guide.

Incoming classes since 2019 now have the iPad cost included in their tuition and fees, Henry said, but the devices form a common educational platform for faculty and students.

“I was hopeful we would really embrace this and it might change the way we teach and the way our students learn,” said Henry, “and I think that’s happened. “The faculty and students now expect to use the iPads. The faculty know the students have this technology now so it’s easier for them to use it. I’m excited where we are and I’m excited to continue and see where it takes us.”

Pound Town Council scheduled to meet Friday – in court

WISE — A judge will hear motions Friday in the latest lawsuit filed against Pound Town council members by a council candidate and nine town residents.

Candidate Leabern Kennedy and residents Melissa Boggs, Scotty Cox, Brenda Crawford, Finley Jackson, Shandolyn Johnson, Janet Meade, Dianna Smith, Vernon Tompkins and Lynette Wells filed suit on Sept. 28 against the town, council members Glenn Cantrell, Danny Stanley, Clifton Cauthorne and interim appointee James Pelfrey over a Sept. 14 meeting.

The suit alleges that Town Attorney Cameron Bell had given a written opinion that three council members were required for a quorum to hold a meeting. However, only two members — Cantrell and Stanley — opened the Sept. 14 meeting, according to official council minutes from that meeting.

The suit calls for the invalidation of Pelfrey’s appointment and all council actions taken after he was sworn into office and voted in subsequent meetings.

Cauthorne and Mayor Stacey Carson were absent from the Sept. 14 meeting, where Cantrell claimed Town Attorney Bell told him it was all right to hold a meeting with only two members of the statutorily designated five-member council. Upon convening, Cantrell and Stanley voted to appoint Pelfrey to replace Marley Green, who resigned this summer.

Bell instructed town staff in September not to provide copies of documents under a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request by the Times News regard- ing his legal advice to the council leading to the Sept. 14 meeting.

Bell, claiming attorney-client privilege on the advice regarding holding the meeting, later confirmed that the documents included three pages of documents and a one-page email.

Green’s seat was the second unfilled council slot this year. A substitute judge earlier this year invalidated the appointment of interim member Susan Downs-Freeman, who was appointed on a tie-breaking vote by Cauthorne, Green and Carson.

Downs-Freeman filled the seat vacated by Phill Cantrell Jr. — Glenn Cantrell’s brother — in February after his resignation.

Glenn Cantrell said Wednesday that a public notice was posted to advise that council members would be together at Courtroom Two in the Wise County Courthouse when a judge hears motions in the case. Kennedy and the other plaintiffs are being represented by Jonesville attorney Sidney Kolb.

Cauthorne on Wednesday said he had not received the notice.

Cantrell and Stanley’s handling of the Sept. 14 meeting is also the subject of a request for a state attorney general’s opinion on the quorum issue.

Watch now: Sharing the sweetness: Shipley Soda Company looks to treat Kingsport

KINGSPORT — Ryan Shipley is ready to share the sweetness of Shipley Soda Co. with Kingsport.

Shipley, 26, opened his ice cream and soda shop at 2641 Fort Henry Drive about a month ago. He and his wife were inspired to bring a dessert shop similar to a former place in Nashville, he said, to the heart of Kingsport.

“We saw a need in the area,” Shipley said on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. “There’s really no dessert or ice cream places in Kingsport. We travel frequently and one of the places we go to in Nashville is called the Soda Parlor that was extremely similar to this. We said, ‘Let’s do a soda parlor.’ ”

The shop specializes in waffle sundaes, which consist of a freshly made Belgian waffle, two scoops of ice cream and toppings.

“It’s kind of like a dinner,” Shipley said of the hearty sundaes. “It’s a lot.”

Marina / MARINA WATERS mwaters@timesnews.net 

The Cookie Butter Waffle is among the favorites at Shipley Soda Co.

Shipley said he aims to use small-scale or local ingredients as much as possible.

The waffles are made in-house while the ice cream comes from Homestead Creamery in Wirtz, Virginia. He said the brand is also used by Blackbird Bakery in Bristol, which also made him opt for the Virginia brand of ice cream. Meanwhile, Shipley’s Rocky Mountain Soda Company drinks hail from Denver. The dark glass bottles range from peaches and cream to root beer, among other flavors.

“We try to keep it handcrafted and homemade,” Shipley said. “I have known the people that have Rocky Mountain Soda Company for a while. They are very much a mom-and-pop organization. It’s really good. We’ve sold out of the root beer.”

The shop has been busy, Shipley said. He has already hired several part-time workers to help at the soda shop — for which he received more than 100 applications. But he’s also already looking to his future in Kingsport.

The shop is located next to Gypsy Circus Cider Company, with which the couple hope to partner to create their own soda for Shipley’s shop within the next few years.

“We are trying to navigate what that would look like,” Shipley said. “It’s totally different from cider. There are a ton of different (aspects to soda). But we’re pretty excited about it.”

Marina / MARINA WATERS — mwaters@timesnews.net 

Ryan Shipley’s soda company opened a few weeks ago at 2641 Fort Henry Drive in Kingsport. The soda parlor is open Monday through Saturday.

Though Shipley is eyeing ways to create a new soda for the shop, he might be most passionate about keeping his roots in Kingsport. Shipley said he aims to land a location downtown where patrons can stop in for a cold drink or sweet treat.

“That’s where we gravitate to,” Shipley said. “I worked in downtown for over five years and we live in Fairacres. Downtown has nothing but a ton of potential for people to invest in businesses. We have such a huge draw to downtown.

“We love Kingsport,” Shipley said. “We see a ton of potential in it. Kingsport has such a strong community, but no one takes the initiative to actually do something rather than just talk about it. That’s kind of where we were. There is room for a dessert or ice cream shop. So we just did it.”

Shipley also said he’s hoping to see more eager business owners ready to add to the business culture in downtown and beyond.

“It’s going to take people who have been in Kingsport for an extended amount of time, know that their roots are in Kingsport and that they’re going to stay here and put up a business,” he said. “Things are here if people work for them.”

Shipley Soda Co. is open from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 3 to 9:30 p.m. on Fridays. The shop is also open from noon to 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays and closed on Sunday. For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/shipleysodaco/.

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launches carrying passengers William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.