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Pionero Scholars Program

Creating a local pipeline of teacher candidates who plan to teach in Davidson county communities.

The Pionero Scholars Program is a scholarship and outreach program at Lipscomb that seeks to increase the number of local students who enroll at Lipscomb, with the long-term goal of creating a local pipeline of students returning to teach in their home communities.

In the News!

Recruiting teachers in general must become a focus for Colleges of Education – enrollment in teacher preparation programs is at its lowest point in 45 years. (1) Each year Metro Nashville begins the school year with over 100 empty classrooms as there is a mismatch between teachers graduating with degrees and the needs of the district. Beyond that, the diversity of our teaching population is an important topic nationwide – low-income students, first generation students, students of color, male students, and English Language Learners need role models in their schools who understand where they come from and the challenges they are overcoming.

In Metro Nashville Public Schools, only 20% of teachers in 2015-2016 were male. (2) In terms of racial & ethnic diversity nationwide, while the numbers have steadily improved, nationwide teachers of color only make up 17% of the workforce. Meanwhile, the population of students of color is growing even faster – minority students now account for more than half of all public school students. (2) Also, almost one in four (12 million) schoolchildren ages 5 to 17 speak a language other than English at home, according to an analysis of census figures. (3) In Nashville, we are home to a vibrant and rapidly growing immigrant and refugee population, with sizeable communities of Kurdish, Egyptian, Mexican, Central American, Somali, Sudanese, Burmese, Thai, Laotian, and other nationalities from around the world. There are over 24,000 English Language Learners in Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the most diverse high school in the state of Tennessee, Overton High School, boasts over 60 languages spoken. (4)

Research has demonstrated that as a teacher population in a school becomes more diverse,  all students in the school show positive gains in test scores, attention, retention, and college persistence. (Pitts, 2007). We believe that local students who grew up in Nashville have a unique perspective on working in communities with so much religious, ethnic, nationality, income, and linguistic diversity. We believe that local students, regardless of their own background, will ready to hit the ground running as teachers, confident in the context and strengths of their community.


  1. NEA Today March 2016 
  2. IncluCivics Report by Metro Nashville Human Relations Commission
  3. Shanker Institute Report 
  4. The Tennessean

Meet Our Scholars

Pionero Scholars Alumni

Pionero Scholarship


About the Scholarship

Each year, the Pionero Scholars Program awards three to six students an academic merit renewable scholarships of up to $10,000 per student. In order to be considered, students must meet the listed qualifications and complete the application and interview process listed here on our website.

During their undergraduate career, Pionero students participate in fun group activities, receive academic support, and are provided with an on-campus upperclassmen mentor as well as a faculty mentor. As upperclassmen, Pionero students receive a mentor that is a current or former classroom teacher to help them navigate Education specific courses and decisions.

To maintain the scholarship, Pionero students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and meet program requirements such as attendance in group meetings, support with recruitment events with the Pionero Program, and complete 5 service hours per semester.

Applicant Qualifications

Students must:

  • Be a graduate of a public high school in Nashville/ Davidson County
  • Have an interest in being a future teacher
  • Be a US citizen, permanent resident, DACAmented, or other status with work authorization
  • Be admitted to Lipscomb University
  • Testing requirements: either a) score a minimum of a 21 on the ACT or b) take one of the CORE Praxis exams required to become an Education major (you may select reading, writing, or math). If you did not score a 21 on the ACT, please contact Ms. Laura Delgado for help with the CORE Praxis exam; the exam is free to you!

Preference will be given to: 

  • students with a socio-economic disadvantage, taking into consideration such factors as the net income and net worth of the student's parents or guardian(s); the occupation(s) of the student’s parents or guardian(s); the structure of the student’s family, the academic quality of the secondary school from which the student graduated, and the quality and average income level of the neighborhood in which the student’s family lives;
  • students who are among the first generation in their family to attend college; and
  • students who are under-represented in the Lipscomb student body population.

Current Cycle

The application process for the Pionero Scholarship for Fall 2023 admission is currently closed. It will open on December 1, 2022. Please contact Program Director Ms. Delgado at if you are interested in applying or learning more.

Application Requirements

In order to be considered, each student must submit the following items to the Pionero Scholars Program, either by using the links at the bottom of this page, or emailing by emailing

  • Email with your intent to apply, listing what high school you attend(ed) and your admission status at Lipscomb.
  • Complete our bio form and attach a photo of yourself.
  • If you did not take the ACT or did not score a 21+ composite, contact Ms. Laura about an additional step to take.
  • Compose a brief essay (between 500 - 1,000 words, single spaced, 12 point font) that thoughtfully considers one of the questions below. Our goal is to understand you and your story, and the path that has led you to teaching.
    • What made you want to become a teacher?
    • Why does education matter for your family and your community?