Dane Bradshaw and Carol Ergenbright have never played basketball on the same team, but they were on the same page on June 5.
Bradshaw, a University of Tennessee basketball standout, was keynote speaker for the Adult Education Foundation of Blount County’s third annual fundraising breakfast, organized by the Rotary Club of Maryville.
The point they shared was simple: Adult learners and basketball players sometimes just need a second chance to get to be successful.
Ergenbright, director of Blount County Adult Education, said the mission with teaching the adult learners is simple: Give the students opportunities and a second chance by offering skills so they can be successful in life. “Those phrases say what we’re all about,” she said. “We specialize in second chances. Most folks in life need a second chance.”
Ergenbright said the individuals they serve are all ages. “Our adult learners range from 17 to 85,” she said. “Most of our students are from right here in Blount County. They’re your friends, neighbors, employees and co-workers.”
Ergenbright said seeing the adults coming into the Everett Learning Opportunities Center on Jett Road is inspiring. “One of the things that impresses me so much is their determination to learn,” she said. “They are there because they want to learn and improve their lives. We’re there to give them the chance to succeed.”
Bradshaw said that just as adult learners simply want a second chance, when coach Bruce Pearl arrived on campus at the University of Tennessee, the basketball Vols on the team wanted a second chance.
“You talk about opportunity and second chances. Everybody was underachieving, and people were down in the dumps,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said the coach restored the players confidence in part by setting higher standards for his players. Even as prognosticators were saying UT would finish fifth in the SEC East Division in the upcoming 2005-06 season, Pearl was setting the bar higher. The team ended up with a 22-8 record.
“It was about setting higher expectations. Only the mediocre are always at their best. It’s about raising the bar of expectation. If we set average goals, the best we can do is average results.”
Bradshaw said often it is simply about believing a person can succeed. “Of course you experience failure, but it’s not the final destination,” he said.
Ergenbright was pleased with the support shown by the individuals who filled the room at Green Meadow Golf and Country Club. “Seeing all these people…makes it worthwhile,” she said.
Ergenbright said fundraising from the community is important because funding from the county and state is down. “We’re going to receive $37,000 less this calendar year than last,” she said. “If we don’t receive additional funds, we’ll have to cut back on our programming.”
Ergenbright expressed thanks for the support from the Adult Education Foundation of Blount County. “The Adult Education Foundation makes a huge impact,” she said. “We also appreciate help from the Blount County schools.”
June was a big month for the Adult Education program. Following the breakfast in the first week, the second Friday was graduation for those in the program receiving their Graduate Equivalency Diploma. The ceremony was at William Blount High School and attracted dignitaries, family and friends.