One chapter ends – and a new one begins.

The students who graduated from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Morristown campus at the Class of 2019 commencement at Manley Baptist Church in Morristown embark on a new journey, using their new degrees and certifications for skilled employment in Hamblen County and the surrounding areas.

Students earned degrees and credentials in a wide array of fields, including but not limited to, administrative office technology, aviation maintenance, collision repair, cosmetology, machine tool technology, practical nursing and HVAC.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment to start a new life in your chosen field,” said featured speaker Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain.

“A milestone is not a place you reach. It’s a place that points to somewhere else,” TCAT-Morristown President Jerry Young said. “Be looking for what’s next.”

Many of the students were able to complete their education through programs such as Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect, the Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant (Lottery Grant), Federal Pell Grants, Veterans Benefits and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

Young touted his schools’ academic prowess. Seventy-five % of students enrolled in the various programs offered complete their programs by the targeted date. Ninety-seven % of those graduates will be employed in their field of study, and 99% will obtain licenses in their field of study.

“It’s easy to see, with the faculty and staff like we have, why it is that 75% of our students graduate,” Young said.

Tennessee Board of Regents members Danni Varlan and Emily Dollar were in attendance as special guests. Varlan told the graduating class to tell the story of TCAT to everyone who wants to better their situation.

“Do me a favor,” she said. “Share with others the great opportunities that are available here at Morristown, and at our other 40 institutions across the state.”

Young said he is proud his school’s graduates will leave without the burden of student loan debt.

“Our graduates will graduate with zero debt. Our grads only have to look forward to their lives,” he said. “I’m proud to live in a state where students can get a free education.”

There were few seats to be had at Manley Baptist, as family and friends packed the auditorium to see their loved ones receive their associate’s degrees and professional certifications. Young said many of the graduates would not have finished their training without support from those closest to them.

“I want to thank the families who were involved in our graduates’ education,” said Young. “Whether you were babysitting, cooking supper, giving (the students) rides to class or waking them up for class, you made a big difference in their education,”

Brittain said while professional certifications and associate’s degrees are valuable and important tools to succeed in the future, students shouldn’t stop there.

“Don’t stop learning. Be a lifelong learner – and continue to add to that tool belt,” he said.

Brittain also said he touts TCAT-Morristown to whoever will listen in the area – and hopes the graduates will do the same.

“TCAT is a great place to start. I hope you recommend it to family and friends who may be struggling finding their paths,” he said. “I have a grandson who will be starting TCAT in the fall.”