NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Getting into college is confusing – ACTs and FAFSA - and so many deadlines. Think of what that’s like for a first-generation college student.

Tennessee has a program that pairs volunteer mentors with high school seniors.

Zead Gad is from Egypt. He’s finishing his first semester at Nashville State Community College while working with his mentor, Tess Stovall. They started working together when Gad was a high school senior. They text each other at least every two weeks.

"When she started texting me, ‘Oh, thank God. I found somebody to help me,” Gad said.

"He is a rock star, not only because he responds to my texts, but he reaches out to me with questions," said Stovall, Gad’s mentor.

The Tennessee Promise program gives students financial aid to go to a community college or trade school. But students often need more, so the non-profit Tennessee Achieves program pairs them with mentors. There are now some 9,000 mentors statewide. The mentors keep up with four or five students, reminding them of deadlines and answering questions.

"Being a mentor, we are only asking for one hour a month. You go to two in-person meetings with the students, one in the spring and one in the fall, and otherwise we just ask that you reach out every couple of weeks,” said Graham Thomas, deputy director of outreach for Tennessee Achieves.

Stovall said she loves to help her students meet their goals. Gad, 19, wants to be a surgeon.

"Right now, I study ESL classes to improve my English. I want to study medicine,” he said.

The deadline to sign up to volunteer as a mentor is Dec. 6. Those interested can register online. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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