The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and WNBA star and former Lady Vol Tamika Catchings are teaming up to help at-risk high school students in Knoxville. (utladyvols.com)
The collaboration was announced today at a press conference at UT.
Catchings began "Catch the Stars Foundation" in 2004 to empower youth to achieve their dreams by providing goal-setting programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring.
"I am excited that we can bring this program to Knoxville," Catchings said. "It is so good to come back to the University of Tennessee and be able to partner for this great initiative with `Catch the Stars.'"
UT's College of Education, Health and Human Sciences will help bring Catchings' foundation to Knoxville to help at-risk students through mentoring, leadership development, goal-setting, character development and career exploration.
UT's efforts will begin by focusing on students who attend the new Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy, a school for students needing a nontraditional means of graduating from high school. The school is located in Knoxville Center shopping mall. Named after Kelley, a former teacher, assistant superintendent and school board president, the academy is an Education Resource Center (ERC) operating under a partnership between Simon Youth Foundation and Knox County Schools, with funding also provided by the Great Schools Partnership and the Cornerstone Foundation.
Simon Youth Foundation is a nonprofit organization started by the mall's owner, Simon Property Group, to create mall schools which provide alternative learning environments for at-risk high school students and post-secondary scholarship programs for high school seniors, including ERC graduates.
"The biggest thing UT is going to give them is intellectual capital. Our faculty and our students, including our student-athletes, will become involved with Catchings' foundation to encourage the youth of Knoxville. The Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy gives us a place to start," I-LEAD Director Fritz G. Polite said.
Polite, Catch the Stars Foundation Executive Director Lori Satterfield and Bob Rider, dean of the college, will facilitate the program.
The partnership evolved from the many links between key people involved. Catchings now plays for the Indiana Fever. Indianapolis civic leader and philanthropist Herb Simon is co-founder of Simon Property Group and owner of both the Indiana Fever and Indiana Pacers. Rider formerly lived in Indiana and served on Simon Youth Foundation Education Committee.
Simon Property Group owns or has an interest in 393 properties in North America, Europe and Asia, including Knoxville Center Mall. Simon Youth Foundation currently operates 25 schools around the country.
Catchings is a two-time NCAA Champion (1997 and 1998), a four-time KODAK/WBCA All-American and winner of the 2000 Naismith Award.
She recently was named one of the "Top 5 Most Positive Athletes in the World" by the United Nations NGO Voting Academy. Additionally, she is one of 10 finalists for the Jefferson Awards, known as the "Nobel Prize for community service," that will be announced in March.
After her UT career, Catchings was drafted in the first round by the WNBA's Indiana Fever. She was named WNBA Rookie of the Year (2002), has played in the WNBA All Star Game six times, has been part of the All WNBA team six times and was part of the WNBA All Decade Team. She was named WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010). In 2010, she won the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, which exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court: ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.
Catchings is also a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (2004 and 2008), a World Basketball Championships Bronze Medalist and a World Championships Gold Medalist (2010).