Deborah Hale, a Chattanooga State Community College Pre-K education major, was named Student of the Year during the third annual Statewide Outstanding Achievement Recognition (SOAR) Awards ceremony on March 25. The College System of Tennessee SOAR program honors outstanding students, faculty and staff members, colleges, philanthropists, volunteers and partners who support them.
Ms. Hale, a Tennessee Reconnect student and mother of four children, returned to college after 32 years to pursue an associate of science degree in early childhood education. “She is a 4.0 student who is intelligent, caring, and hardworking with exceptional leadership skills and a strong will to succeed,” said Marsha Barker, director of Adult Services. Ms. Hale stays extremely busy juggling work, family, and school, but still finds time to participate in campus activities including Phi Theta Kappa and Spire Honor Society for Non-Traditional Students, and the C.AD.R.E. Adult Student Club.
As a future educator, Ms. Hale is an active volunteer at Chattanooga State, in her church, and in the community. Deborah’s positivity also inspired her daughter Emmaline to enroll at Chattanooga State last fall. "My mom is such an inspiration and the best role model I could ever ask for,” said Emmaline. “I have never met anyone who is more dedicated to her schoolwork and she provided such a great example of what it is like to truly work hard for your goals.”
“All of us at Chattanooga State are so very proud of Deborah. She is a shining example of a community college student,” stated Dr. Rebecca Ashford, Chattanooga State president. “She came back to college as an adult with life experience, and the experience and enthusiasm she brings to the College has made Chattanooga State a better place.”
Each of the system’s 40 colleges nominates a student, faculty member and staff member for the individual SOAR awards. The nominees participate in regional judging among their community or technical college sector in East, Middle and West Tennessee. A total of 18 regional finalists – six students, six faculty and six staff members – advance to the state level. A panel of judges conducted virtual interviews with the 18 finalists to select the Outstanding Students, Faculty and Staff Members of the Year for community colleges and technical colleges.
Participating remotely, Governor Bill Lee said: “The SOAR Awards recognize outstanding students and faculty and staff and philanthropists and volunteers at Tennessee’s community colleges and colleges of applied technology. Whether you’re a traditional student, an adult learner, or a veteran acquiring new training for today’s job market, our community and technical colleges offer a variety of opportunities for Tennesseans.”