This is the first major gift associated with Advance Bristol,” stated Mitch Walters, Advance Bristol board member and Friendship Automotive Enterprises president and CEO. “Advance Bristol is a newly formed economic and community development foundation that encourages the private sector to provide financial support and collaborate with the public sector on great projects such as Viking Academy.”

BRISTOL, Tenn.—September 1, 2021—The Mitch Walters family and Friendship Automotive Enterprises announced today that it is donating its more than 24,000 square foot facility located at 1855 Volunteer Parkway to Bristol Tennessee City Schools (BTCS) to expand educational and workforce development opportunities for students in Bristol Tennessee City Schools. 

The site will serve as the future location of the Friendship Career Center, which will house Viking Academy, an off-site, work-based learning program for Tennessee High School and Tennessee Middle School students. The Viking Academy programs, which will include automotive, MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing), and agriculture, will be an extension of the existing Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. 

“We know there is a great need for skilled workers in our region; including automotive technicians,” said Mitch Walters, president and CEO of Friendship Automotive Enterprises. “We are very proud of this partnership and excited about this opportunity to help the next generation have the very best career opportunities possible. Danea and I raised our family in Bristol and both of our sons graduated from Tennessee High School. They had a wonderful childhood growing up in our city and received an excellent education. It is an honor for us to give back to a school system that gave us so much.”

In May, BTCS was the recipient of a grant for a new Innovative High School Model program. The state grants are intended to foster local community partnerships that boost student readiness and prepare students for jobs and careers in their local communities. According to the Tennessee Department of Education, the goal of the Innovative High School Models program is to encourage strong, strategic and innovative partnerships between Tennessee public school districts, postsecondary education institutions and local employers to reimagine how to prepare students for success after high school. 

“The donation of this facility from Walters family and Friendship Enterprises is a monumental step in our commitment to provide access to high-quality, relevant programs to all students, regardless of their career paths,” said Annette Tudor, director of schools for Bristol Tennessee City Schools. “On behalf of our students, families and school board, I offer my sincere gratitude. Our students will now have access to even more programs to prepare them to succeed in high-demand careers, which will mean a brighter, more secure future for them and our entire Bristol community.” 

“The Tennessee High Viking Academy program has the support of a dedicated administrator and career coach who will collaborate with all stakeholders to develop Academic Career Plans for students. This customized planning will address student interests and aptitude, hard and soft skill gaps, and barriers to equitable access for students,” said Deidre Pendley, CTE director for Bristol Tennessee City Schools. “There will be opportunities for extensive career exploration with strong family directed involvement, high-quality traditional and CTE coursework, industry credentials, early post-secondary opportunities, work-based learning experiences, and pre-apprenticeship opportunities. Our goal is to provide high-quality CTE programs to prepare a skilled workforce in a variety of high-wage, in-demand, and/or growing careers available in our Bristol area.” 

Additional Media Coverage

Bristol Herald-Courier

Former Friendship dealership to transition to Tennessee High School vocational center


Friendship Automotive donates facility to Bristol Tennessee City Schools for work-based learning