KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A pilot program at the University of Tennessee is preparing freshmen honor students with a path to leadership.

The Howard Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs is giving honor students the opportunity to get a deeper look at three challenges facing our community.

“Those are, overcoming addiction, strengthening rural communities and advancing K-12 education. The program includes first year honors students who are immersed in learning about those challenges,” Institute of American Civics student engagement coordinator Jordan Smith-Porter said. “They’ll hear from faculty and policy experts around those various challenges and what work is being done to solve those challenges.”

People involved with the program said learning about key issues today will ultimately help them learn how to make a difference in the future.

“The biggest thing is to empower students to get involved in the political process and policy making in order to understand how policy affects all parts of our lives,” Baker School director of undergraduate students Jonathan Ring said. “They should feel like they have the political knowledge and the understanding of the way that our system of government works so they can navigate that.”

According to the Baker School, the semester has five sessions with two required learning engagements where students are asked to connect the challenges to their own lives and academic paths. This is just the beginning of the program and they want their best and brightest students in the program to get the ball rolling.

“I think this is a bit of a pilot. We think that all students should be getting this type of grounded learning environment when they get to UT, Ring said. “Part of it is we are experimenting with Honor students but it’s also great to have students that know the moment they hit campus that they want to make a difference.”

At the end of the semester, students will write about what they learned and an overall report of the program will be created based on those responses.

The program wraps up on December 1st and is called the “Grand Challenges Fellows Program.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated.