Knoxville College is working to bring vibrancy to both its name and its long-vacant campus, and the city of Knoxville is helping with $200,000 to renovate a building housing the college’s workforce development program.
“This is the most Knoxville College has been awarded from a government agency in years,” President Leonard Adams told Knox News.
In fact, its been so long that he doesn’t even know the last time the college received government funding. The $200,000 grant will come from the city’s Community Agency Grant program to kick-start renovations to the existing Alumni Library.
Adams said the grant is just the beginning as administrators continue to secure funds from a variety of sources so the building eventually can be converted into training and office spaces.
The historically Black college was founded in 1875 and thrived west of downtown until it was shuttered in 2017. Students are taking classes online, but there’s a renewed effort to bring them back to campus.
“We are happy to help support the renovations at Knoxville College to house workforce development opportunities and partnerships right in the heart of the city. I am hoping this investment and continued community support will help revitalize the beautiful Knoxville College campus to once again serve students and surrounding neighborhoods,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said.
Adams and Dasha Lundy, the college’s chief operating officer and a Knox County commissioner, say bringing life back to the college is key to solving some of the systemic inequities that harm the city’s Black communities.
Roughly 17% of Knoxville’s population is Black, but according to 2019 Census figures, the city’s Black poverty rate is 31.4%, which is one of the highest in the region.
“Our vision for Knoxville College is to make sure that we educate, empower and elevate the Black community through workforce development programs,” she said.
Twenty-four years ago, the once-thriving institution just a few miles from the University of Tennessee lost its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. After years of leadership changes, Adams said the school is on track to once again apply for accreditation.
Adams said one of his top priorities has been to find funding to support the college. Administrators also are securing money for the installation of a modular classroom building.
“This award speaks volumes and reflects Mayor Kincannon’s support of Knoxville College and commitment to education and workforce advancement. We will use this grant to assist us in making capital improvements to our buildings and grounds,” he said.
Through the Community Agency Grant program, the city provides funding for both capital and operating needs to qualifying arts organizations and social service agencies that operate within Knoxville city limits and have been a nonprofit for at least five years. Priority is given to proposals that promote public safety; healthy and connected neighborhoods; sustainability and thriving businesses; and good jobs.
Angela Dennis | Knoxville News Sentinel