Twenty years ago, Bob Kronick, professor of educational psychology and counseling, envisioned a way to help at-risk youth before they ended up in the system. From that vision, Kronick founded the University Assisted Community Schools (UACS) project.
UACS is a grant-based initiative that serves twelve local schools. The full-service program is an extension of the regular school day for at-risk students. Each day UT students, faculty, and staff provide the children with academic support services and with programs in physical education, music, and art. These programs foster interpersonal and critical-thinking skills and boost the academic success of the enlisted students. The UACS after-school program has served more than 1,200 children in Knox County Schools since 1998.
The program began at Sarah Moore Green Magnet Academy, offering primarily education and music. Today, program activities include academic support services, physical education, gardening, music, theater, and art. Science Saturdays allow participants to perform with UT Haslam Scholars such as building solar ovens. It has been implemented in seven schools since it started.
Over 100 UT students volunteer at UACS schools each semester to enhance educational opportunities and help UACS children succeed in academics, interpersonal communication, and critical thinking. Kronick does not conduct the work for recognition, however his honors include being named a Knox County Schools visionary in 2016 and receiving UT’s Excellence in Academic Outreach Award in 2017. The Carnegie Advisory Committee selected his program as one of 50 exemplary partnerships in 2015.
Kronick has secured more than $1.5 million in grant funding to develop and maintain the program. Roughly a half-dozen universities across the country have developed programs like UACS.
“When I dreamed this idea up, all I wanted was to improve the lives of little ones,” he said. Improving the lives of children started a chain reaction. With vibrant schools, come vibrant communities.
“We’re seeing more people wanting to move to these areas because of the positive changes they’re seeing at the school,” said Kronick. “Our mission is to create challenging learning opportunities for students by providing them a nurturing environment supported by the family, community, staff, and students.”
“It’s all about the kids.”