In 1996 former Tennessee Valley Authority Director William H. Kennoy, founded the Weekend Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee. TVA is a federal corporation, the nation’s largest producer of electricity, a regional economic development agency and a steward of the Tennessee River basin. TVA is governed by a three-member Board of Directors that are nominated by the President of the United States. Director Kennoy realized that TVA and other companies have a responsibility to serve as exemplary models of corporate citizenship. Demographic research showed that the greatest level of economic need was in the central city adjacent to TVA’s headquarters. Intent on making a difference, Director Kennoy focused attention on inner-city children, the future leaders and workforce of their downtown communities.
In response to Director Kennoy’s interest, TVA University, TVA’s corporate training organization, was asked to develop the Weekend Academy as a corporate citizenship initiative designed to connect resources of downtown employers with the children of their neighboring communities. A planning committee comprised of TVA employees, education and community leaders was assembled to give input to program development.
Since 1996 the program has expanded to Chattanooga, Memphis, and Nashville, Tennessee. TVA has provided major funding of approximately $50,000 per site per year and use of appropriate TVA facilities. In each city 50 inner-city children are selected by their respective school system to participate in educational and enrichment opportunities led mainly by TVA and community volunteers on weekends in the downtown headquarters of local businesses. Children in the 3rd through 5th grade are shown that there is a place for them in the future of their community. This age range was selected based on research that showed it to be critical to future academic success.
Highly interactive participatory sessions on topics including science, mathematics, computers, and cultural diversity are held twice a month in all four major Tennessee cities. Field trips are planned to augment learning sessions. Since its inception in 1996, more than 400 children and their families have benefited from the program. At least 100 TVA employees have donated approximately 500 hours of volunteer time to Weekend Academy students. Since 1996 TVA has also awarded graduating Weekend Academy students surplus computers for their use in pursuing academic goals.
Evaluation of the Weekend Academy is continuous and is managed through TVA University. School principals and teachers report that students have achieved greater academic success as a result of their Weekend Academy experience. Parents speak of improved self-esteem and excitement regarding learning. Longitudinal tracking to students sustained progress as a result of the Weekend Academy is planned. Early results are overwhelmingly positive.
TVA has supported the transition of the Weekend Academy from a TVA-sponsored program to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.