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Mayor Mitch Ingram signed a proclamation recognizing May 19-25 as Emergency Medical Services Week. Mayor Ingram presented the proclamation to EMS Director Randy White at the Madisonville EMS Station. (From left) Eddie McCormick, Joe Hall, Mayor Ingram, White, Michael Dalton, William Cross and Mark Cansler.

Holston Foundation gives $100,000 to support transfer of Hiwassee Dental Program to TWU

The Holston Foundation recently gave $100,000 to Tennessee Wesleyan University to support its acquisition of Hiwassee College’s dental hygiene program.

Tennessee Wesleyan University announced the transfer of the dental hygiene program on May 3, one week before Hiwassee College closed its doors with a final commencement ceremony on May 10.

“We are thrilled to welcome the current dental hygiene students and the faculty to the TWU family,” said TWU President Harley Knowles. “Careers in this field are growing rapidly, and there is a high interest for incoming students.”

Paul Bowman, Holston Foundation executive director, said the $100,000 gift was the largest in his organization’s 38-year history.

“Through this gift, the Holston Foundation is able to directly support both Tennessee Wesleyan’s future and Hiwassee College as it prepares to close its doors,” Bowman said. “We are proud that this single gift can strategically impact two of the three Holston Conference colleges.”

Tennessee Wesleyan, based in Athens, and Hiwassee College, based in Madisonville, are 18 miles apart. The third United Methodist-affiliated college related to Holston Conference is Emory & Henry College, located in Emory, Virginia.

Randa Colbert, director of Hiwassee College’s Dental Hygiene Program, said the 15 rising seniors had experienced a “mixture of emotions” since Hiwassee leaders announced the closing on March 28.

“They were confused, incredulous, saddened and also angered by the sudden announcement and the ramifications of the decision to close,” Colbert said.

The students and faculty were “ecstatic” to learn of Tennessee Wesleyan’s sponsorship of the program, Colbert said. “We were all relieved the program would be able to continue, but we were overjoyed the students would be able to graduate on time next May,” she said. “We are immensely grateful and look forward to becoming part of the TWU family.”

Hiwassee College’s Board of Trustees stated that the closing of the 170-year-old college was due to “financial reasons.” Enrollment this year was 225.

Robin Tricoli, Hiwassee president since 2010, made the following statement: “The Hiwassee College Board of Trustees and I are extremely pleased that our students will be taken care of and that this program will continue to thrive under the TWU umbrella of health-profession programs.”

Tennessee Wesleyan will seek accreditation approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, according to a statement from the college. The Hiwassee program is already fully accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association. A request to change sponsorship from Hiwassee to TWU has been submitted for approval.

Hiwassee’s dental hygiene program is one of two bachelor’s degree programs in East Tennessee, along with East Tennessee State University, Colbert said. Associate degree programs exist at Roane State Community College and Chattanooga State Community College.

The Hiwassee program is designed for graduates to receive an entry-level Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene upon completion of two years of general education and two years of the dental hygiene curriculum. Program capacity is 20 students in a class, for a total maximum of 40 students in the junior and senior years.

The dental hygiene program will temporarily remain on the Hiwassee campus in Madisonville, Colbert said.

“The intent is to move the program to Athens as soon as possible, but the agreement allows for the program to remain on the Hiwassee campus for up to two years,” she said.

The Holston Foundation’s financial gift and Tennessee Wesleyan’s acquisition ensured that the “in-demand program” would remain in the region as an option for students, according to a statement from the Foundation. The program “will continue to train students to serve underserved areas.”

The Holston Foundation is a frequent supporter of higher education, Bowman said. In 2018, the Holston Foundation awarded a total $122,700 in scholarships, including $38,900 to seminary students.

In 2018, the Holston Foundation awarded $257,845 in grants for mission and ministry to local churches and other United Methodist groups.

The Foundation’s office is located in Alcoa.

County hits record-low unemployment rate

Monroe County just registered its lowest unemployment rate in 20 years of record keeping coming in at 2. 9 percent for the latest month recorded, Monroe County Economic Development Director Richard Kirkland announced.

Kirkland verified the record low rate for the month of April with the state officials and said local companies are still looking to hire.

“This is great news for Monroe County,” he told The Advocate & Democrat. “To compliment that, Monroe County’s industry and retail businesses are still looking to hire additional people.”

Unemployment rates for 94 of Tennessee’s 95 counties dropped in April according to data released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD).

Ninety-four counties have rates lower than 5 percent and only one county’s rate is higher than 5 percent.

Unemployment in Williamson County dipped below 2 percent in April. The county’s current rate of 1.9 percent marks a 0.5 of a percentage point drop from the previous month.

Davidson County’s unemployment rate hit a record low during April; it dropped by 0.5 of a percentage point and now sits at 2 percent. Rutherford County followed at 2.1 percent, while Cheatham, Wilson, Moore and Sumner counties each recorded a rate of 2.2 percent in April.

Along with Davidson County, Wilson, Sumner, Smith, and Hickman counties marked record low unemployment. Rutherford County tied its all-time low rate.

“County unemployment rates continue to be extraordinarily positive,” said TDLWD Commissioner Jeff McCord in a press release. “Across our state we are now seeing unemployment rates at or below 5 percent become the norm.”

Clay County has the state’s highest rate in April at 5.6 percent, which is a 0.4 of a percentage point decrease from the previous month. Hancock and Rhea counties have the next highest rates at 4.9 percent. Those rates represent a 0.9 of a percentage point drop for Hancock County and the rate is 0.8 of a percentage point lower in Rhea County when compared to the previous month.

Statewide, unemployment remains at Tennessee’s historic low of 3.2 percent. It is the third consecutive month the rate has been at the record level.

County unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted, while the state and national rates use the seasonal adjustment to eliminate outside influences on the statistics.