onations, mostly to local groups throughout Tennessee, from her Dollywood Foundation but it is her latest philanthropic adventure that may take the cake – a Dolly Parton tuition.
Country singing legend Dolly Parton is not only well known for her numerous hit country songs, but she is also well known for her philanthropy. The country music icon gives away over $1 million annually in donations, mostly to local groups throughout Tennessee, from her Dollywood Foundation but it is her latest philanthropic adventure that may take the cake – a Dolly Parton tuition.
The announcement came out from Dollywood, Parton’s family amusement park that resides in Tennessee, that any of its employees that wish to continue to pursue their education or a college degree, Dollywood will foot the bill. Not partially, but 100%. Not just full-time employees, part-time and seasonal as well.
Herschend Enterprises is the operating partner that controls Dolly Parton’s Dollywood, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, Dollywood’s Splash Country, Dollywood Cabins, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, and Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, and they were the announcers of the Dolly Parton tuition. This new perk is part of a new pilot program called GROW U and it will launch on February 24, 2022. For those who wish to take part, the tuition program covers 100% of school tuition, any fees associated with school, and books.
This new Dolly Parton Tuition program does not only apply to employees currently working at Dollywood and her many locations, but also to any brand-new employee as it is available their very first day of work. GROW U is set to cover costs for employees who enter diploma, degree, or certificate programs through one of the 30 learning partners Dollywood has teamed up with. Some subjects include culinary, finance, technology, business administration and leadership, and marketing.
Along with covering 100% of the expenses, the Dolly Parton tuition program will also allow for partial funding of up to $5,250 a year for an additional 150 programs. These include fields such as engineering, human resources, art design, and hospitality.
“We know when our hosts are happy and feel cared for that they are going to pass that along to our guests. The creation of the program allows another avenue for us to care for our hosts,” said Eugene Naughton, president of The Dollywood Company, to Vanity Fair. He then continued, “One of The Dollywood Foundation’s key tenets is to ‘learn more.’ This program is created with that very tenet in mind. We want our hosts to develop themselves through advanced learning to fulfill the foundation’s other tenets: care more, dream more, and be more. When our hosts strive to grow themselves, it makes our business and our community a truly better place.”
As one may imagine, this undertaking could add up to an expensive price tag. Not only will the Dolly Parton tuition program cover Dollywood employees in and around the Dollywood Parks and Resorts in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, but the offer will also be extended to employees at the Pink Adventure Tours in Tennessee, Arizona, and Nevada; Wild Adventures in Georgia; Silver Dollar City in Missouri; Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey, and the Kentucky Kingdom and Newport Aquarium in Kentucky. All toll, there will be over 11,000 employees who will be given this opportunity.
“Whether it’s to pursue a new dream or advance their career with us, we care about our employees’ personal and professional growth, because we believe that their futures should be grown with love, not loans,” said Andrew Wexler, CEO of Herschend Enterprises, to WATE News. “Our team members’ success is our success – and that’s why we’re thrilled to make this benefit available to all, regardless of their role in the company and without the burden of debt.” The timing couldn’t be better as college enrollment numbers have dropped significantly over the past two years.
As mentioned, Dolly Parton is no stranger to philanthropy. She provides free, high-quality books every month to children through her Imagination Library. Her generosity was also seen to the tune of $1 million, which she donated to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to help fund the development of the Moderna vaccine to help fight the COVID pandemic.
This Dolly Parton tuition program, though, is a different beast altogether. Her offer to cover full tuition and other related expense for any employee is not only generous but goes to the heart of who Dolly Parton is as a person. She is truly one of a kind.