COCKE COUNTY—A total of 69 students graduated from Cocke County and Cosby High Schools in May 2021 with a Work Ethic Diploma.

Begun in 2015, the Work Ethic Diploma came about after local business and education leaders from Hamblen, Grainger, and Hawkins Counties began to work together to seek ways for students to graduate from high school more “work ready” and to be able to put their knowledge into practice.

Cocke County teacher Love Henderson oversees the program locally. Cocke County’s participation in the program began in 2016. That year 14 students, 10 from CCHS and 4 from Cosby, completed the requirements. That number jumped to 84 the second year.

A total of 180 students graduated with a Work Ethic Diploma in May 2019. The number that year was the highest out of the Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Greeneville, Hamblen, Hawkins and Sevier County school systems.

A student must earn a minimum of 20 points and a regular high school diploma in order to qualify for a Work Ethic Diploma. There are 14 standards by which a student can earn these points.

These include attendance, absence, tardiness, discipline, overall grade-point average, drug free, CTE course work, CTE competition, TN Promise, Dual Enrollment/Credit, Industry Certification, Enrollment in Post-Secondary, Career Readiness Certificate and Industry Awareness.

Nearly 40 area industries, including three in Cocke County, guarantee a student earning a Work Ethic Diploma a job interview. These include American Appliance Products, Inc., Phoenix Closures, Inc., and Eastern Plating, all in Cocke County, as well as Ball in Chestnut Hill.

The program is now carried statewide thanks to a grant which was awarded to the Niswonger Foundation. The Niswonger Foundation has been a major supporter of the Work Ethic Diploma. The foundation has made a substantial investment in a website dedicated to promoting and tracking student progress toward earning the required points to receive the distinction.

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