Dolly Parton’s ‘Dollywood’ To Pay 100% Tuition, Fees, And Books For Any Employee Pursuing Higher Education
PIGEON FORGE, TN - 1993: American singer and songwriter Dolly Parton poses for a portrait with her guitar at Dollywood circa 1993 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
(Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images)

Dollywood Parks and Resorts announced this week that any part-time, seasonal, or full-time employee wanting to further their education can apply for Dollywood’s parent company’s GROW U program and be eligible for 100% funding of tuition, books, and fees associated with schooling. The announcement was made Tuesday by Dollywood’s parent company, Herschend Enterprises, which owns 25 resorts and attractions across the country and has more than 11,000 employees.

In a press release issued by Herschend, the company announced that “Herschend’s GROW U. will officially launch on February 24, 2022, for all seasonal, part-time, and full-time employees across its 25 US attractions including The Harlem Globetrotters, Dollywood Parks & Resorts (Tenn.), Silver Dollar City (Mo.), Adventure Aquarium (N.J.), Newport Aquarium (Ky.), Kentucky Kingdom (Ky.), Wild Adventures (Ga.), and Pink Adventure Tours (Ariz., Tenn., Nev.).”

The company is partnering with Guild’s Learning Marketplace to make the program happen. Here are the details:

Herschend’s GROW U. offers 11,000 eligible seasonal, part-time and full-time employees and hosts more than 100 fully-funded (100% free) diploma, degree and certificate programs across 30 learning partners in Guild’s Learning Marketplace, including programs in high-demand fields such as business administration and leadership, culinary, finance, technology and marketing. Additionally, the company will provide partial funding, up to $5,250/year, for 150 additional programs in fields including hospitality, engineering, human resources and art design.

Dollywood opened in 1986 and was started by world famous singer Dolly Parton. Parton has dominated the country and rock and roll music scene for decades. Recently, it was also announced that the singer of “9 to 5” was nominated to host the 2022 Academy of Country Music Awards. She was also nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022.

The Grow U program is not the first time Parton has been associated with an educational program. In 1995, Parton launched The Imagination Library, a charity that sends one book a month to children up until the age of five. The program was inspired by her father. Despite being a very intelligent man, he did not learn to read as a child.

“The Imagination Library came from a very serious place in my heart. My dad and a lot of my relatives that grew up hard too, big families, they couldn’t actually get a chance to go to school, because they had to work,” Parton explained to CNBC in 2016.

“My daddy couldn’t read and write, but daddy was so smart, he could just do numbers in his head,” she continued. “But my daddy then after he was grown, he couldn’t read or write; he thought that it was just too hard to do.”

“When I decided what I was going to do for a great charity, then I thought well I’m gonna do this: to get books in the hands of children, because if you can learn to read, if you can read, you can self-educate yourself,” Parton added.

As for Herschend’s new educational program, the CEO of the company, Andrew Wexler, explained that he wanted his employees to be free from the burden of student debt.

“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,” Wexler said in a statement. “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.”

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