KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new partnership hopes to improve educational opportunities for middle school and high school students in East Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee and the Change Center announced their plan and partnership. The Change Center works to provide recreational, leadership and job opportunities to teens in Knoxville.

The center’s goal was to help curb youth violence in Knoxville.

Tyvi Small, UT vice chancellor for diversity and engagement said, “The Change Center has been doing great work in our community helping young people find direction, get the guidance, and we have noticed their work.”

As part of an initiative to increase opportunities for youth in Knoxville, Change Center and UT are helping students realize their potential after high school.

“We want to do a lot of programming around this idea of how to obtain admissions into college, how to access financial aid, what our scholarship opportunities look like,” Small added.

The Change Center has played an integral part in working to curb youth violence in East Knoxville.

“We do careers, we do communities and we do a collaboration,” said Matthew Best, the Change Center executive director. “So, we’re a great first job placement for high school kids in the neighborhood but in addition to that, because we hire kids as young as 14 and not a lot of places in Knoxville do that, we’re also preparing them for what’s next after high school.”

Those at UT will be there to help guide them to their higher education goals.

“You go to build a pathway, and if you want to recruit students to come to the University of Tennessee or expose them to post-secondary education if you wait until they’re a senior in high school then most of the data shows that, that’s way too late. So how do we connect with communities and families at an earlier age to help build pathways?” Small said.

Students as young as middle school and their parents will be able to learn more about what opportunities they may have after high school.

“There’s going to be some nights where they’re going to do some workshops on financial aid. We’re going to be talking about filling out applications and applying for scholarships. There’s going to be a way for people to connect with professors and connect with programs,” Best said.

The goal is to broaden access to those in East Knoxville and allow teens to realize their full potential after high school graduation.

To kick off the partnership, Change Center and UT will be hosting a family fun fest at the Change Center on Saturday, Aug. 6 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. As an incentive, there will be food, and games and they will be giving school supplies away.