14 nominees waited anxiously to hear their name called at the Tennessee Technology Center (TTC) at Chattanooga State’s annual Outstanding Student of the Year luncheon. Each year TTC instructors select exceptional students in their classes to compete for this prestigious honor from. The lucky few are chosen form among over 2,000 TTC students enrolled in classes on the main campus, the Kimball site and Dayton site. Aesthetics student, Mary Kamuiru emerged as the winner from what the judges called an “excruciating decision.”
Upon hearing her named called, Ms. Kamuiru emotionally thanked the judges and told the other nominees, “You’re all outstanding. You’re already winners. The TTC is not the building. It’s the people… the students and faculty.”
In addition to community service, leadership, attendance and performance in the classroom, nominees were judged on a their strength of conviction. Many have faced overwhelming obstacles that had to be conquered in order to complete their TTC training. Ms. Kamuiru, a mother of one, is no exception. Her ailing grandmother in Kenya recently passed away, and she was called upon to lend support to a deeply depressed relative who tired to end her own life. If that wasn’t enough, expensive car repairs have plagued her in recent months. “I didn’t quit, even though most days I didn’t want to get out of bed,” she said.
Ms. Kamuiru and her family came the United States 18 yeas ago from Kenya, in East Africa, to join her father who was attending seminary. Thanks to winning a green card lottery, they granted admission to this country and a chance for citizenship. The family is currently spread out. Kamuiru’s father is currently back in Kenya. Her mother is in Clarksville, Tn., and her brother is in Birmingham. Ms. Kamuiru lives in Chattanooga with her daughter, Rachel. Her youngest sister also lives in Chattanooga.
Ms. Kamuiru earned her RN degree from UTC and has worked part -time in Memorial Hospital’s ER. Currently, she’s working in Chattanooga State’s Enrollment Services Department. Her goal is to become a technology instructor in either practical nursing or aesthetics. Additionally, she would like to own a medical aesthetics business.
She has risen through the ranks of SkillsUSA from local chapter president in 2011 to secretary at the state level. She was elected national secretary in June of this year at the annual SkillsUSA conference in Kansas City.
Next for Ms. Kamuiru is the regional competition in Knoxville on December 6. The regional winners will be announced on Dec. 11. From there the top three candidates will attend the American Technical Education Association (AETA) conference held annually in Chattanooga beginning March 20. The Outstanding Student of the Year winner for the state of Tennessee will be announced at a banquet with an expected attendance of more than 900. The winner receives the keys to a new car. When asked what her reaction would be to winning a new car, she enthusiastically responded, “I would be beside myself, speechless, very excited!”
Other candidates for outstanding student of the year include Misty Smith, who along with Ms. Kamuiru, was nominated by aesthetics instructor Rhonda Castleberry; Andrew Lippard, nominated by automotive technology instructors Bill Heckathorn and Marty Hicks; Kyle Barham nominated by computer operations technology instructors Jill Wentworth and Mike Mercer; David Benton nominated by industrial electricity instructor/industrial electronics Winston Lay; Sarah Carrico, Melissa Hargis, and Lynette Hargis nominated by medical assisting instructor Cindy Quick; Stephanie Lewis nominated by massage therapy instructor Michael Matthews; Jonathan Carmack, Harrison Eller, and Keith Pruett nominated by machine tool instructor Wade Silvey; Kristie McDowell nominated by motorcycle and marine engine instructors Ed Grun and Jimmy Jones; and Ryan Whary nominated by Volkswagen Academy automotive mechatronics instructor Ralph Gwaltney.