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Pionero Scholars Program

Creating a local pipeline of teacher candidates who plan to teach in the Nashville area community.

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.

LES Pionero Group Photo

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.

*NEA Today March 2016IncluCivics Report by Metro Nashville Human Relations Commission, Shanker Institute ReportThe Tennessean

Alondra Pina

Meet your Recruiter

Pionero holds a special place in my heart, not only as the Scholars Recruiter, but as a Pionero Alumni. When I was a student here, Pionero helped me in ways I will always be grateful for. After graduating from Lipscomb, I went on to teach for 3 years in MNPS, so I have an educational and professional background that helps me be a resource for future students. Pionero opened the door to my educational experience and teaching experience as a whole. This scholarship is more than just financial aid, it is a community of students and staff who are dedicated to bringing resources and experiences into the classroom. As a first generation student myself, I know it can get stressful navigating through college. I am beyond excited to extend my helping hand to future generations of Pioneros - whether that be helping you submit your college application to helping you draft your essay or filling out FAFSA or even finding your classes. Never be embarrassed to ask for my help. My job is made for you, so use me as a resource whenever possible. Thank you for letting me be a part of your college experience! I am so thrilled to work alongside you!

In appreciation,
Alondra Piña

Laura Headshot

Meet your Program Director

Thank you for your interest in Pionero Scholars! This initiative by Lipscomb began in the fall of 2015, with the support of a local foundation. Our long-term goal is to create a “grow -your-own” pipeline and graduate more local teachers returning to teach in Metro Nashville Public Schools. We believe that the best way to recruit future teachers is to create a local pipeline of students who have grown up in Nashville and understand our local context.

That’s because Nashville is a unique place! We are a gorgeous melting pot of diversity with large student populations from African-American, Latino, Egyptian, and Somali backgrounds as well as many other immigrant and refugee communities. In the Pionero Scholars Program, we want to increase the number of our students who are local and grew up with this amazing diversity. As a Cuban-American, I deeply believe in the importance of having adults in schools who understand the variety of student cultures, religions, and languages and help every student feel they have the ability to be successful. I had the fortune to engage in activities and camps as a teenager that helped me develop my own sense of Latinidad, but there were few mentors for me in my formalized education. We believe that local students will enter buildings ready for the work and with a deep understanding of the unique strengths of Nashvillians as well as the barriers students face.

At Pionero, we are a mini family and a community. We eat together, study together, and grow together. We explore Nashville, go canoeing, and challenge ourselves to grow intellectually. We want our students to be successful both in college, as individual human beings, and in their careers in the future. There are many extra supports for Pionero students - each Pionero receives a faculty or staff mentor in their first two years, and a current teacher mentor in their second two years. Pioneros also have mentoring opportunities with older Pioneros and upperclassmen. As your Program Director, I am here for any and every question you might have. Please don’t hesitate to ask me - there is no stupid question!

If you are an interested student or community member, please reach out! I look forward to meeting you.

Laura Delgado
Program Director

Meet Our Scholars

Pionero Alex 2021


Meet Alex! He is a graduate of Glencliff High, majoring in English secondary education. Conscientious and dedicated, Alex worked hard throughout high school to be able to pay his own way in college. Alex has seen both the beauty of school, with middle school math and English teachers who made him feel challenged and supported, but also the pitfalls, attending under resourced schools and peers with many barriers. Alex is committed to being a positive force in his future classroom.

Pionero Josue 2021


Meet Josue! He is a graduate Independence Academy High School, majoring in English secondary education. Josue is a Cuban refugee; he and his family came to the United States when he was in middle school. Energetic and intellectual, Josue loves meeting people, thinking about life, and exploring new topics. He is always eager to plug into new adventures and to build new relationships.

Pionero Lissette 2021


Meet Lissette! She is a graduate of Cane Ridge High, majoring in elementary education. Shy and kind, Lissette loves little kids. She became passionate about helping immigrant families through her own experience interpreting for her family at parent-teacher conference nights for her little sister.

Pionero Karla 2021


Meet Karla! She is a graduate of STEM Prep Academy, majoring in elementary education. Karla is bright and bubbly, and eager to tackle new life skills in college. She’s excited about the freedom to grow personally, spiritually, and intellectually in college

Pionero Lani 2020


Meet Lani! She is a caring and determined Overton High School graduate, thrilled with her future of serving our littlest students in early childhood education. Lani is the child of Mexican immgirants and remembers teaching herself English by watching Sesame Street and other PBS shows. She loved school and eagerly came home to recount her experiences to her mom and her younger siblings. Although she struggled in middle school, Lani’s high school career was changed by her AVID teacher Ms. Plummer who helped her reconnect to her dreams and believe in herself. She can’t wait to do the same for her future students.

Pionero Alondra G. 2020

Alondra G.

Meet Alondra! Shy and kind, Alondra is a determined student who gives her whole heart to any endeavor. A graduate of Cane Ridge High School, Alondra is looking forward to being an elementary teacher. She loves the creativity you can use in classrooms to help students learn from the world around them, and she can’t wait to help her community by mentoring students and encouraging immigrant families to have a voice in the American education system. She remembers the difficulties of the move to the US when her family moved from Mexico and she is planning to be the welcoming host her family so deeply appreciated when she was in elementary.

Pionero Marcos 2020


Meet Marcos! He is a creative, determined Glencliff High School graduate. He is one of two sets of cousins in Pionero! His older cousin Ruby inspired him and he impatiently waited for the moment he could apply for Pionero. Marcos throws himself into everything he does with his whole heart. He was President of Best Buddies in high school on top of a part-time job and his involvement in pretty much every other activity that existed. Marcos plans to be a high school Biology teacher because he finds it fulfilling to spend his days at school helping others. He likens education to a bridge across a river and knows what it’s like to be stuck on one side feeling hopeless about crossing. He will be the bridge for his future students and a role model that they will figure it out.

Pionero Erica 2020


Meet Erica! Positive and vivacious, Erica is a future English teacher, in either middle or high school. Erica is a hard worker and was super involved in activities at her high school. She loves helping others and naturally gravitated towards helping English learners at her high school. She loves the possibility of school to support students in learning skills they’ll use throughout their lives and in finding pride in their heritage.

Pionero Yaire 2020


Meet Yaire! She is a hard-working, reliable student who’s always working hard to do her very best. JD takes life and her responsibilities seriously, and has been pushed to do so by her parents since she was very young. Her parents came from El Salvador and Honduras and were unable to study past middle school, so she represents the hopes and dreams of her family for a better future. JD has many interests but is currently focused on being a high school math teacher. She sees how each skill she has learned in school has built on the next, and how much her high school teachers influenced her career search process. She’s ready to do the same for the next generation of students first in their family to go to college.

Fatima Headshot


Meet Fatima! She is a graduate of MLK High School and a PreK-3 and Special Education double major. Thoughtful, creative, and sensitive, Fatima loves animals, small children, and helping others. She is fascinated by psychology and child development and is good at finding joy and wonder in the everyday world. Teaching runs in her family; her older sister Elisa was a member of Cohort 1 of the Pionero Scholars and Fatima is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps!

Sandra Headshot


Meet Sandra! She is a graduate of LEAD Academy High School and still determining what she wants to teach, though she is focused on middle school. She is the first in her family to go to college and determined to make the most of it! Taking care of others is something she just has a natural inclination for; she has two little sisters at home that she is always taking care of and has a part time job as a CRN at a retirement home. She is shy, but when she opens up she has so much to say and so much to contribute to the world!

Layla Headshot


Meet Layla! She is a graduate of Antioch High School and an English Teaching major. She is the oldest of five siblings and the first in her immediate family to attend college in the US. She is expressive and open-minded, and loved art and creative writing in high school, as well as volunteering at her mosque. College is a big adventure for her and she is still determining what experiences to take advantage of and how to find her place in the world. She is a critical thinker who loves discussing and analyzing ideas, and she wants to be a role model for other girls in her community.

Britney Headshot


Meet Britney! She is a graduate of Knowledge Academies and a K-5 and Special Education double major. Britney was always helping in her high school community as well as with her family and community – she was on several student committees and babysits her little brother and her neighbor’s kids. She is persistent and independent; her curiosity leads her to sign up for new things and not be afraid to adventure out a little bit. Britney had a particularly special 7th grade math teacher who a mentor and a friend and made school cool and fun; she is ready to do the same for all her future students!

Jillian Headshot


Meet Jillian! She’s a future English teacher who loves getting involved and helping others. She loves to volunteer at a local elementary school, and attend events on campus. She has a love for classical music because she used to play an instrument. She may be quiet at first, but she is an inquisitive soul at heart who likes meeting new people and understanding what makes them work. In another life, she would have made an excellent journalist. She’s approachable and kind and her future students will love her!

Emily Headshot


Meet Emily! Emily graduated from Smyrna High School and had the joy of interning at Smyrna Primary through her Teaching as a Profession class. She fell in love with the kids and loved seeing them grow and get excited about new topics. Emily can sometimes be shy but she has a lot of ideas about how to make the world a better place and the determination to keep going until we get there. She deeply cares about having more kindness in the world and she starts with herself and trying to shed a little love every day to those around her.

Katerina Headshot


Meet Katerina! She is our resident perfectionist and academic. She’s a diligent student who is quietly getting everything done and making sure its done right. She’s a homebody at heart because she loves her home and her family and all the support she received in school along the way. She can’t wait to return and teach in her home district - she knows how much she struggled to find her own sense of confidence as a shy child, and she wants every student to be able to see their own strengths in her classroom.

Kimberly Headshot


Meet Kimberly! She is incredibly hard working and responsible; she’s basically the mother hen of her year mates. She is always on top of all her work and making sure that everyone is doing okay too. She really cares about making school a fun place to be so that students are excited to come to school. She remembers struggling as a young English Learner and she wants to ensure all of her students feel welcomed and included. She knows how important she will be as a bilingual teacher and she can’t wait to be the teacher who makes every immigrant student and family feel safe at school.

Tomas Headshot


Meet Tomas! He and his family migrated from Colombia when he was a teenager. He loves soccer and many different subjects in school. He had a hard time deciding what to major in until he got to spend a week in an elementary classroom at Pionero Summer Camp and he fell in love with younger students. His ready smile and ability to talk to pretty much anyone is going to make him a beloved teacher!

Leslie Headshot


Meet Leslie! She is quiet, determined, and hard-working. She loves elementary students and manages to keep her peace and calm presence depsite the chaos around her. She finds their antics adorable which shows why she was meant to work with littles. She loves all things psychology and human development, and is eager to apply all that she’s learning about people and how the brain works to her future classroom.

Nayeli Headshot


Meet Nayeli! She can be shy but she has a lovely smile once she opens up. She manages to make her way gracefully through life without complaining or stirring up trouble. She is kindness embodied. She will be an amazing role model for her future elementary students on how to work hard and persevere. She is rightfully proud of all that she has accomplished to make it to college and to succeed here at Lipscomb.

Pionero Scholars Alumni

Pionero Grad Angie


Angie originally planned to be an elementary teacher, but while student teaching with Lipscomb alumni Ms. Piña and Ms. Leon at McMurray Middle, she fell in love with older students, and will be teaching high school EL students. Angie has a deep heart for her students and goes above and beyond in building relationships, creating a safe space in her classroom, and advocating for students to reach their potential.

Pionero Grad Ashly


Ashly is still seeking her passion in education and is thrilled to begin her career as a College Access Coach at OASIS Center, returning to serve high school students with case management and programming that were the same things she so loved in high school. She can't wait to create a safe space for students to ask questions and get inspired about their future.

Pionero Grad David


David is a middle school math teacher who is chill and laid back and helps students feel that math is accessible, and maybe, could be, fun!? David will be a role model for a lot of shy, nerdy young men who see in him an example of someone who is always comfortable being themselves, and who went to college and succeeded.

Pionero Grad Verna


Verna is one of several Pioneros who has returned to teach at her alma mater, Antioch High School. Verna student taught with her own senior English teacher and accepted an offer to teach English just down the hall. In her first semester, Verna inspired one of her own seniors to apply to Pionero to become a teacher! Verna is petite but forthright and sets a powerful example for her students on how to excel while still taking care of yourself.

Pionero Alumni Ruby 2021


Ruby is a member of the founding cohort, Cohort One. She was an English Teaching major at Lipscomb, graduating in December 2020. Ruby is an ELA teacher at her alma mater, Glencliff High School, where she has immediately made deep connections with her students, who bring by their friends and even their relatives to get help or advice. Ruby saw how Pionero poured into her in a moment where she didn’t believe in herself, and she is determined to be that same source of confidence and support for her community. 

Pionero Alumni Alondra R 2021

Alondra R

Alondra R is a member Cohort Two. She was an elementary education major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2021. Alondra is a 4th grade teacher at JE Moss Elementary, which is just up the road from her home. Alondra is petite but fierce; she tackles every single lesson with excellence, and has an unparalleled drive to succeed. 

Pionero Alumni Bana 2021


Bana is a member Cohort Two. She was an English Teaching major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2021. Bana is an English teacher at Hume-Fogg High, and as the first hijabi teacher in her school, she provides a safe space for other Muslim students, who know there is always a prayer mat waiting for them in her classroom. Bana really prioritizes self-care and mental health, and she builds in small centering activities to each lesson to help bring a sense of peace to her stressed out students.

Pionero Alumni Edith 2021


Edith is a member Cohort Two. She was an English Teaching major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2021. Edith is a 7th grade ELA teacher at Apollo Middle.  Edith is bubbly and vivacious; there’s always a smile on her face and a silly pun coming out of her mouth. Despite this, Edith knows how to give tough love to her students and to remind them of how capable they truly are. She is determined to impart a love of reading to each of her students, and to help them find themselves be that in YLA, manga, or graphic novels.

Pionero Alumni Jackie 2021


Jackie is a member Cohort Two. She was an elementary education major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2021. Jackie is a PreK teacher at Casa Azafran Early Learning Center. Jackie has a huge heart and a devilish sense of humor. She loves welcoming her littles into their first school experience, and helping their families feel excited about their new adventure. She is an artist at heart, and does graphic design on the side. This artistic spirit shows up in her classroom and in her lessons.

Pionero Alumni Kathy


Kathy is a member Cohort Two. She was an elementary education and middle school math double major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2021. Kathy is a 7th grade math teacher at Rocky Fork Middle. Kathy is steady as they come, which is a good trait for the nerves and hormones of middle school! Kathy always has a smile and an idea on how to solve a problem.

Pionero Alumni Yamilex 2021


Yamilex is a member Cohort Two. She was an elementary education major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2021. Yamilex is a 2nd grade teacher at Cole Elementary. Yamilex is quiet and resourceful. She put herself through college completely on her own, and is grateful for the love and support she received along the way. She wants to pay that forward to her students and their families, and takes great care to select lessons and activities that make her students feel seen and welcomed.

Pionero Alumni Ahmedina 2020


Ahmedina is a member of the founding cohort, Cohort One. She was a History Teaching major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2020. Ahmedina is a 7th grade social studies teacher at STEM Prep Academy. She loves bringing history alive for students, like making them lay under their desks and practice drawing upside down to understand the skill required to paint the Sistine Chapel. She loves the quirky humor of her middle school students, and is an advocate for supporting students who are immigrants and refugees just like she is.

Pionero Alumni Alondra P. 2020

Alondra P.

Alondra is a member of the founding cohort, Cohort One. She was an English Teaching major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2020. Alondra is a 6th grade ELA teacher at McMurray Middle School. She was so excited to build her classroom library and bring in texts from black and brown authors for her students.  Alondra is first in her family to graduate from college and in her time at Lipscomb she founded and ran a ballet folklorico traditional dance group. Alondra is petite but fierce, and a poet at heart. She was so excited to call all the families in Spanish to welcome them to school and to bond with her students over eating the same Mexican foods and candies at home.

Pionero Alumni Angel 2020


Angel is a member of the founding cohort, Cohort One. She was K-5 ELL major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2020. Angel is a 1st grade teacher at Hickman Elementary. Angel was thrilled to welcome her students with a bilingual book “I like myself! / Me gusta como soy!” so they can build strong relationships and emphasize the importance of self-love and self-esteem. Angel is an only child who sought to say yes to all of life’s adventures in college, and it took her far abroad to Chile and Australia. Angel is loving how much she bonds with her students, even if it means teaching them how to mute themselves on virtual school!

Pionero Alumni Elisa 2020


Elisa is a member of the founding cohort, Cohort One. She was a PreK-3 early childhood education major at Lipscomb, graduating in May 2020. Elisa is a 2nd grade teacher at Glenview Elementary. Elisa is shy and loves working with kids more than she does speaking with adults. Elisa comes from a big Mexican American family that proudly supports her, and the entire family joined her graduation broadcast from their home! Lipscomb was a wonderful experience to grow her confidence and professionalism and she is grateful to the examples of Dr. Duncan and Dr. Stewart as she begins her career. She’s been using FlipGrid to get to know her students and loves exchanging short video messages with them.

Cicela Headshot


Cicela began her senior year as a Spanish Teaching major but slowly discovered a spark to work with younger students and English Language Learners. As a student teacher she taught one Spanish placement and one elementary EL placement. In her elementary placement, she truly began to shine and found her place; it was clear to all including her mentor teacher and the elementary principal. Cicela is moving to Houston after graduation where she will be a 3rd and 4th grade EL teacher serving immigrant students there. Her calm spirit and warm smile will make all her students feel welcome in their school!

Erikka Headshot


Erikka is a quirky goofball at heart who loved high school and wants other students to feel that is their home the way she did. She loves mentoring students and helping them feel comfortable in class. She is honest and down to earth, which makes her really accessible to teenagers. She will be a great role model for her middle school students at Wright Middle School who are trying to find their way into adulthood and academic and personal maturity.

Karen Updated Photo Alumni


Karen is an elementary teacher, gifted with guiding young students to blossom and find their purpose. She has a beautiful mind and a knack for planning out lessons to challenge and uplift students. Her kind heart and warm spirit make her a wonderful teacher; students find her a gracious hostess they can confide in. She accepted her first teaching position at the very elementary she attended as a student, Norman Binkley Elementary.

Dulce Pionero Alumni


Dulce is a high school Spanish teacher. She is no nonsense and down to earth, and a fighter. She’s a great match for the antics of high school students and can ride through the chaos with a calm spirit and a smile. She says that she herself was a “no sabo” kid growing up and glad she had the chance to learn about her heritage language and culture at school. She wants to provide that safe space for Latinx students in her classroom. She loves her language and her culture and brings a sense of Mexican spirit to her work.

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, Cheatham, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Wilson, or Williamson counties
  • 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

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.

The Pionero scholarship invites students graduating from a public high school in Davidson, Cheatham, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Wilson, or Williamson counties to apply!

You can apply for the Pionero scholarship along with other College of Education scholarships through the Lipscomb Educator Scholars process! This streamlined process means you apply once and are then evaluated for all scholarships the College of Education has for which you may be eligible! 

Each student is asked to:

  • Submit an online application through the Lipscomb Educator Scholars single-application process.
  • If requested, submit a supplemental short essay

Apply Now

Please note that students who have NOT submitted a complete application to Lipscomb for general admission when the Selection Committee meets cannot be considered for the scholarship.