Taking the last step before flight: Local group gives at-risk youth a fighting chance

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville group is doing their part to keep at-risk youth off the street and on the right track.

Penultimate Development was founded by former University of Tennessee athlete, Diondre Jackson. Jackson says his goal is to give young men in East Knoxville a chance at opportunities they might not have otherwise.

Penultimate by definition is the last step. In this case, the name is a tribute to Jackson’s track career at UT, where he was captain and a long-jumper, the penultimate being his last step before lifting off the ground, launching to new heights.

That’s exactly what his 10-month residence program in East Tennessee is doing.

The Penult Leadership program with Penultimate Development is designed to teach at-risk students spiritual, personal, and professional development skills to get them ready to pursue educational or technical career goals.

One of the program’s recent graduates says the program changed his life. Tyquan Rogers grew up in East Knoxville and went to Austin-East High School. Rogers says in the neighborhood he grew up in, drugs, crime, and violence were prominent and he chose to focus on his athletics in order to stay out of those activities.

Rogers says his coach at Austin-East took notice and put him in contact with Penultimate’s founder, Jackson.

Rogers says without Penultimate he wouldn’t be near as successful.

“Growing up on the East Knoxville, it was pretty much set in stone on how you have to be growing up on that side of town. It put me in a situation to where he gave me the opportunity to get back on track with school or whether I didn’t want to go to school to develop a trade skill to develop farther in life. Penultimate is a second chance for those who didn’t have those opportunities growing up,” Rogers said.

Rogers is now a at student at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Va. He is studying in the Physical Therapy program where he hopes to transfer to a four-year university.

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