For the past six Thursdays, I have had the privilege of joining an excellent group of Knoxville’s finest on a different adventure around our great city through Introduction Knoxville. From the Tennessee Theater, to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Fulton High School, we explored some fabulous Knoxville destinations learning about a new aspect of our area’s culture along the way. Each week features a theme for the evening such as: the political and economic community, the educational community, innovations and cooperation, the healthy and caring community, and the arts and cultural community with the first night dedicated to a bus tour around K-town. As a Knoxville native, I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed the bus tour. My first thought was, “Really, a bus tour of Knoxville?” Let me just say that I learned more about our history during that bus tour than I have my whole life here in Knoxville. I think it’s great to know where you came from especially your own city.
The list of places we visited is worth noting because of just how great each one is. Here is a list of each one of those places: Tennessee Theater East Tennessee History Center Scripps Networks Headquarters Fulton High School Knoxville Convention Center Oak Ridge National Laboratory Beck Cultural Exchange Center The Emporium.
The Political and Economic Community session stood out to me for the fact that we really got down to the nitty gritty of Knoxville politics and economics. Speaker Frank Cagle, Columnist and Political Analyst for MetroPulse, talked about the history of politics in the area, the move of development to West Knoxville and its effect on the city, and what would need to happen in order for Knoxville to move to metro government. I really wish that some of these topics would be discussed in Knoxville schools. I feel behind for the fact that I’ve lived here for as long as I have and really knew none of this. It gives you such a different perspective on the area and your role in the community. More importantly, how your role in the community really is integral to the success of our region.
Fulton High School was an eye-opening experience. Their new class structure to include schools of learning much like a college or university seems like a huge step in the right direction. This is only the second year of this new program, but they have seen around a 10% increase in graduation rates from before implementation to after one year of the new program. That’s an amazing jump! I value education as a priority number one for all individuals. I think it is amazing how an educational setting can change you as a person from day one to final exams for a single class. As a product of Knox County public education, I really want to see our schools succeed and want to be apart any way that I can. Some great community outreach ideas were proposed to the group, and I hope to get involved even more in the educational community of Knoxville.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory was an absolute treat to be able to explore. Seeing the world’s fastest computer, the Jaguar, up close was amazing in itself. What I’ve always known Oak Ridge for is Big Ed’s pizza. From childhood, this was a place we would visit as a family, especially for birthdays and during the summer when we would stop by Oak Ridge pool or one of the nearby parks. I always remember hearing about ORNL as a child, and when I would hear people talk about it, there was always a sense of mystery around the place. I was so excited to see the place for myself, tour the facilities, and hear about the rich history of the lab and what it has meant for our nation. It blows my mind that we have such an amazing, innovative place right in our backyard!
My favorite night by far was the Arts and Cultural Community at The Emporium. This was definitely a celebratory night with great food and great performances. We were so blessed to see performances by the following groups: Keith Brown Jazz Trio, Knoxville String Band, African Drum and Dance, Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble, Carpetbag Theatre, Knoxville Opera, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Spoken Word by Stephen “Seed” Heathcock, and The Black Lillies. I loved all of the performances, but my heart is certainly with The Black Lillies. I saw them perform last year at Tennessee Shines at the Bijou Theater. As a bluegrass, Americana, folk music lover myself, I was in awe getting to see them perform again. They are a very special band, and they exemplify the true talent in our great city.
We visited some great places and got to see amazing things. However, the coolest, and long lasting aspect of Introduction Knoxville is the people you meet and the friends you make. I know for certain that I have made some friends for life out of this group. Everyone is so smart, ambitious, with huge hearts for the Knoxville community. I look forward to working with many of them in our area giving back to a city that has given so much to us. I highly recommend Introduction Knoxville, and suggest you check it out. If anyone from the class is reading this, what was your favorite night or aspect of the class? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.