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Doubling in size: BlueSky Institute commits 30 students to its second class

On Saturday, April 23, a large group of students took the stage at the BlueCross Chattanooga headquarters to formally commit to attending the BlueSky Institute.

Family, friends and VIPs from across the region were in attendance to support and cheer on these students for the special “signing day” event.

In August, these students will join the 30 “Cohort One” students already on campus to begin our one-of-a-kind workforce development program.  Developed with East Tennessee State University (ETSU), BlueSky Institute offers a path to a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a job offer in just 27 months. 

“It’s really exciting to ‘level up’ and double the number of students we’re serving,” says Bradley Leon, executive director of the BlueSky Institute.

“We’ve learned so much with the first cohort, and we’re looking forward to applying those lessons and experiences to support everyone in this expanding program.”

Melissa Graham, student success manager for the BlueSky Institute, agrees.

“I hope that they come in and continue what the first class has started – staying focused while having fun and becoming embedded in BlueCross culture,” she says.

Hope for the future

BlueSky Institute is designed to develop locally the advanced technology talent BlueCross needs to serve customers, communities and business partners, with an emphasis on engaging students from diverse backgrounds.

Students progress through an accelerated version of ETSU’s accredited computing curriculum and gain real-world experience with BlueCross EIT and professional mentorships along the way. Qualified graduates have the opportunity to launch their career with BlueCross upon successful completion of the program.

“Technology expertise continues to be a constant and growing need for BlueCross from a talent perspective, and it’s been gratifying to see this program become a reality,” says Roy Vaughn, BlueCross senior vice president of human resources. “Ultimately, we hope to develop BlueSky graduates into future leaders for our organization.” 

Voices from the second class

This latest class of the BlueSky Institute includes graduates of schools across the Chattanooga area, as well as one student from outside the region.

Elvin Domingo Puac, recent STEM School Chattanooga graduate and BlueSky Institute signee 

Elvin Domingo Puac, a recent STEM School Chattanooga graduate, was introduced to BlueSky Institute by a friend who kept talking up the concept.

“I was lost on the path of where to actually go for college, and whether to take a gap year or not,” Elvin says. “But when I heard about the program, took the tour and participated in a game-design challenge, I saw it was just a marvelous opportunity that I really wanted to get into. It truly touched my heart and inspired me to research blogs, news, everything I could find about BlueSky.”

What excites Elvin most about the program is that it only takes just over two years to complete.

“I really want to jumpstart my career,” he says.

“My biggest dream is to travel around the world and get to know other places and cultures. So having the opportunity to not only graduate early, but to start working sooner and work my way toward that dream is amazing.”

Jerry Fuget, a recent graduate of The Howard School, had a similar introduction to BlueSky Institute. A mentor took the tour first and convinced him to look into it.

Jerry Fuget, recent graduate of The Howard School and BlueSky Institute signee

“With the way the program is set up, I’m going to get more and more experience day by day and learn new skills,” Jerry says.  “I love computers, and I love working with technology. More importantly, I love working with people with technology.”

“BlueSky’s a ‘can’t say no to this’ type of deal,” he adds. “It’s definitely unique compared to a typical college experience.”

“BlueSky sounds like it’s going to be tough, and it probably will be. But I couldn’t be any happier for the opportunity.”

About Alison Sexter, Communications Specialist

A photo of the authorAlison has been a member of the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team since 2015. A Chattanooga native, she has a decade of health care communications experience including writing, editing, public relations and social media.

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