Alumni Spotlight: Preston Abbott

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Serving the community for 25 years has allowed Emerald Youth to see many of Knoxville's youth go through our programs and develop into young adult leaders. This series will highlight their stories and their achievements.

Preston is a Fulton High School and University of Tennessee graduate and has been part of Emerald Youth since his middle school years. Since the beginning of his time with us, our staff and volunteers saw great leadership qualities within him, and we couldn’t be prouder of all that he’s achieved.

During his high school years, Preston went through some of the most significant and hardest times of his life after his father passed away. “There are many splits in life where you can go on a path that you don’t mean to, but because God, my family, and the people at Emerald surrounded me and helped me push through, I was able to not let it be what defined me,” he said.

He credits staff members like Susie Worley, Cory Carmichael, Cedric Jackson, and Tara Haun for helping make a big difference in his life during those times.

Preston also recalled a trip he took as an Emerald Youth Fellow to Chicago, which helped him see that there are other places in bigger need than where he comes from. The trip helped him understand that he could make a difference where he was. Seeing the business owners hustling throughout the city also made him want better for himself and has helped give him motivation to push forward in his career.


“If you’ve never seen the opportunities of who you could be, then you never know what to strive for and that helps perpetuate a cycle. Emerald helps combat that with the different programs, trips and experiences it provides.”

Preston also credits people at church, like Larry Cox, who helped him see there are many opportunities that exist. Preston wants to help others the same way that he was helped, and thus create an exponential effect that can transform this city.

College was a difficult transition for Preston, but he hit things head on and made the best of it. He took a big workload which he says, “Kept me busy and out of trouble!” In addition to a heavy course load, he was accepted into the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, played in concert band and had a full-time job.

Not only was Preston able to balance all those responsibilities, but he used his leadership skills in band to earn a promotion to Squad Leader, where he later became a “Black Suit,” which had him working in direct contact with band directors and serving in a leadership role on Tennessee football game days. (For readers unfamiliar with the Tennessee football traditions in Knoxville, his “Black Suit” was a big deal!)

His band director, Dr. Michael Stewart, shared this about Preston:

“Preston displayed Godly relationships in the way he interacted with the staff and his peers, which is why it was one of the reasons we put him in a leadership position early in his career. He was the type of person you want to be a model for others on and off the field, especially in the settings the band goes to, settings that are very public, high stress and it’s easy to lose your cool. We never had to worry about that with him. Those leadership roles that he displayed are vital, they mentor those youngers students coming up and peers his age, Preston did an amazing job at that. We never second guessed our decision by any stretch…Preston took all constructive criticism and handled it very well. He really stood out as a leader within the group and we are grateful he spent that time with us.”

Preston is currently the general manager of the Slate at 901, a luxury apartment complex on Cumberland Avenue, near the UT Knoxville campus. Managing an entire building is a big responsibility, but the leadership skills and work ethic he has built throughout the years have prepared him for this role.

We look forward to all that Preston will accomplish in the future!