History

     The ETSU Center for Community Outreach and Applied Research was formally established through the receipt of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Outreach Partnership Center grant received in 1998.  However Center faculty have been involved in service related activities for years preceding the formal establishment of the Center.  The Center as well as Center faculty have been involved in programs dedicated to economic development, welfare services, health promotion, youth services, counseling services, and educational innovations.  For example, in Johnson County the Center established the Central Appalachian Micro-enterprise Project, helped to fund the Tilapia Fish Farm project, and operated a Youth Training program all through funding from the Levi Strauss Foundation, U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U. S. Department of Agriculture, and the North American Development Bank, Community Adjustment and Investment Program. 

     The Center has also received funding for a number of different innovative educational programs.  The Even-It-Up Mentoring program, which began at North Side Elementary School in Johnson City and then followed students into Indian Trail Middle School was a comprehensive program to increase academic interest and performance among children from lower-income families.  The current “Gearing Up Washington County Schools” program is a seven-year GEAR UP grant received from the U. S. Department of Education.  Started in 2005 in various middle and elementary schools with a cohort of 6th and 7th grade students, this project has worked with that cohort through their high schools years at David Crockett High School.  The GEAR UP project has the goals of increasing the graduation rate at Crockett and then increasing the percentage of those graduates who go into an educational or training program beyond high school.  Preliminary evidence indicates that the program has been successful in reaching both goals.

     The largest and most consistently funded programs of Center faculty and The Center for Community Outreach over its history have been welfare related services and programs.  The Center has a long history of delivering services, including a full range of employment oriented job readiness and placement services, individual and family counseling, and business development support services, to low income persons.  In 1990, Center faculty received a grant from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide in-home services for pregnant and parenting teenagers in rural areas. This program laid the groundwork for a contract with the Tennessee Department of Human Services to serve teens with dependent children who received AFDC as part of the JOBSWORK program.  From 1994 through 1998, Center faculty operated the FRESH START program for TANF clients in a multi-county region of East Tennessee.  From 1999 – 2004, the Center operated (with the Alliance for Business and Training, the WIA Administrative Entity for LWIA-1) a Welfare-to-Work Competitive Grant program in five counties that was designed to increase the ability of non-custodial parents to pay child support through various employment and training options. 

     Since the beginning of Families First in 1996, Center faculty and the ETSU Center for Community Outreach has operated employment and training services for Families First clients.  Currently, the Center is one of five Work Activity Contractors for the State delivering case management and employment services to over 4,000 clients per month in 31 counties in eastern Tennessee.  The Center also operates the Family Services Counseling program for Families First clients in 24 counties of east Tennessee, including Knox County.  Both of these programs have the underlying goal of supporting needy families while the parent or parents attempt to move from dependency on state aid to financial independence, usually through employment.