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BlueSky Tennessee Institute Recognized as One of Ten Exemplars in Education with Grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York

A new philanthropic initiative supports local leaders collaborating across public and private sectors to create career pathways for young people, strengthen civic engagement, and reduce political polarization


New York, NY – Today, Carnegie Corporation of New York announced BlueSky Tennessee Institute as one of 10 winners of a new initiative to support outstanding local partnerships that educate youth, bolster the workforce, and demonstrate the power of working together.

Profiles in Collective Leadership provides $200,000 grants for nonpartisan collaborations that serve as education and economic bridges in a range of communities across the country. The philanthropic initiative draws on the strengths of local government, education, nonprofit, business, and health care professionals to create career opportunities for young people and encourage civic participation. The 10 recognized partnerships in 8 states will act as exemplars, sharing what they have learned with each other and with the public.

By funding these collaborations in urban, suburban, and rural areas, the Corporation seeks to reduce political polarization and support civic engagement, community cohesion, and trust in public institutions. The Corporation aims to help young people from all backgrounds move from the classroom to meaningful careers, spurring the socioeconomic mobility necessary to create a thriving economy and sustain a healthy democracy.

The Corporation, in partnership with the education nonprofit Transcend, identified candidates through a competitive national process. The winners were selected by a panel of jurors comprised of a broad range of leaders in business, higher education, and philanthropy.

BlueSky Tennessee Institute is a partnership between BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) and East Tennessee State University (ETSU) that offers students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in computing in 27 months and receive a job offer for a competitive position with the company upon graduation. Although students are free to seek employment where they want after completing the program, BlueSky Institute’s aspirational goal is to graduate and hire as close as possible to 100 percent of its students after graduation.

In addition to focusing on BCBST’s workforce needs, BlueSky Institute addresses a community challenge: fewer than 40 percent of Hamilton County’s residents earn a postsecondary credential within six years of beginning their college career, and economic growth in the area has not been equally distributed across socioeconomic lines. While open to all students, BlueSky Institute prioritizes recruitment at six Hamilton County high schools in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with high proportions of low-income students and with low college-going and completion rates. The program also intentionally targets groups who are traditionally underrepresented in information technology fields.

“We designed the BlueSky Institute to address both our company’s desire for highly skilled, future leaders and the broader community’s need for more viable career paths for disadvantaged students,” said BCBST president and chief executive officer JD Hickey. “With the right exposure and support, we believe any student can succeed in these high-paying tech careers. BlueSky provides an accelerated, zero tuition path to a guaranteed job in these lucrative fields.”

BlueSky Institute has enrolled two cohorts of students to date, with 30 students in each cohort. The first cohort is halfway through the program and has maintained a 91 percent retention rate. BlueSky Institute’s percentage of women and students of color outpace the national average in this degree (35 percent versus 19 percent and 42 percent versus 20 percent, respectively).

“Our goal is to graduate students who are able to seamlessly transition from enrolled to employed and are ready to make a difference in the world,” said Brian Noland, president of ETSU. “Our university has a long-standing tradition of working with employers to deliver skilled graduates with the knowledge to excel in the workforce and the connections to serve and lead in their communities. Our partnership with BCBST on the BlueSky Institute is a shining example. It is a challenging program capable of producing life-changing results for the students who complete it, and we are pleased to see the Corporation’s recognition of the value we believe it can –– and will –– deliver.”

In addition to the $200,000 grant, winners will receive opportunities to document and share their story nationally and participate in a community of practice committed to highlighting and replicating these approaches and solutions.

“We launched Profiles based on our belief that communities across the country are working to create opportunities for economic and social mobility as well as civic engagement irrespective of red, blue, or purple politics — and we want to listen and learn from them,” said LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, vice president of the Corporation’s National Program and program director of Education. “BlueSky Tennessee Institute is a leading example of this type of collaborative work on the local level, and our hope is that by spotlighting and funding their efforts, we can ultimately influence the field to work in new and collective ways that also mitigate the impact of polarization.”

Learn more about the Profiles in Collective Leadership initiative at

About Carnegie Corporation of New York Carnegie Corporation of New York was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Carnegie considered of paramount importance: education, international peace, and a strong democracy. As a leading philanthropic funder of nonprofit education programs, the Corporation supports organizations working to ensure that all students are prepared with the knowledge, skills, and motivation they need to fully participate in democracy and thrive in the global economy. @CarnegieCorp


Celeste Ford | Carnegie Corporation of New York | Chief Communications Officer

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