KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – She’s made it her mission to mold young minds. Laschinski Emerson quit her job as a chemist at ORNL to create her vision: after-school programs focusing first on academics, then showing a way to make learning fun.

Laschinski’s efforts have earned her a spot in our Remarkable Women top four.

Whether it’s walking and talking one-on-one with a student in the hallway or conducting extra-curricular activities like robotics, Laschinski puts her all into the education of young minds at Vine Middle Magnet School and Austin East Magnet High School , through A1 Learning Connections.

It’s a non-profit tutoring program.

“This has to be an intentional day-by-day program working with these kids until they get to the point where they can do it on their own,” she said. “They need us in a bad way.”

13-year-old Jermysha Stripling says the after-school robotics program at Vine has opened her world.

“It helps me use my brain in a way I don’t use it all the time,” she told us.  “It helps you think more and build more skills in computers and using your brain for different things: strategy and teamwork.”

The program doesn’t only focus on kids but the entire family.

“We want our families to thrive; be productive community citizens which I know they can be,” Laschinski said.

Jermysha’s grandmother Latanya Moore, who is raising her, said Laschinski reinforces what she tries to instill at home. “She has been very encouraging, and she just pushes us to do, you know, to grow,” Latanya said.

A1 Learning Connections is also credited with an increase in standardized test scores for many of its students including the Austin East football team and cheerleaders.

“What I’m hearing from one of the coaches,” Laschinski said, “is that scores really went up. It’s really working.”

Not only that, but this dedicated educator has also been known to pay for student’s A-C-T tests and other scholastic needs if they’re not able.

“A lot of the parents can’t pay for this testing, so I don’t want to put a burden on anybody, because I know that it’s proven that if you really just take the extra time with them, they can get these scores up.”

Her husband of 34 years nominated Laschinski for our Remarkable Women campaign.

“Anytime you have a heart for children,” Gary Emerson said, ” and her heart was borne from her parents who are both educators, and she takes that passion on, this is truly her calling.”

With gun violence hitting Austin East hard in recent years, Laschinski digs in even deeper to reach kids at risk.

“Having programs like A1 for them, you know, to come , to be able for them to have mentors, somebody that just says, ‘man , I love you. This is not a sustainable lifestyle for you. Now if your plans are to go to jail or be killed, then you’re on the right path,’ ” she said.

Learn about A1 Learning Connections.

She added, “it’s not too late to change. It’s not too late to turn around if you dropped out of school. We can help you get a GED. You need a job, you know we need to have jobs available for our students to go to,” she said.

Meet the nominees for Remarkable Women 2022

Remarkable Women 2022 airs each Tuesday in March, highlighting women nominated by our community. Stories air on WATE 6 and online.