December 7, 2020 | Betty A. Proctor | Internal Press Release
After being selected as the Tennessee Board of Regents SOAR Student of Excellence award winner at Chattanooga State in October 2020, Deborah Hale was named an institutional finalist during the Statewide Outstanding Achievement & Recognition (SOAR) awards competition on November 13.
Three years ago, at age 50, Deborah began her educational journey following unexpected life circumstances and quickly learned that she lacked the skills necessary to support herself and her family; however, her experience with, and love of children, fueled her desire to pursue a career as a teacher. Like many individuals facing inadequate financial resources, Ms. Hale feared that attending college was impossible until a friend told her about the Tennessee Reconnect Grant program.
“I hadn’t been in a classroom in more than 30 years, and truthfully I was terrified,” shares Ms. Hale. Relying on faith and receiving encouragement from family and friends, Deborah entered Chattanooga State in the fall of 2017 as a part-time student pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education. “I’ve had challenges along the way, but I haven’t had to face them alone,” states Ms. Hale. “Family, friends and Chattanooga State staff members have been beside me at every step, and each member gets just as excited as I do, each time I get one step closer to achieving my goal.”
SOAR is designed to recognize a student who has displayed exemplary service at their institution and throughout the community. The student must also have exemplary academic accomplishments during their enrollment.
“Deborah is an intelligent, caring, and hardworking student with exceptional leadership skills and a strong will to succeed,” states Marsha Barker, Chattanooga State Adult Services director. She carries a 4.0 GPA and membership in Phi Theta Kappa and National Spire Honor societies as well as CADRE Adult Student Club. On campus, Ms. Hale has organized food pantry drives, led student chat sessions, served on panels especially for adult learners, mentors on a regular basis, and recruited other adult students for the Tennessee Reconnect program.
Actively involved in the community, Ms. Hale twice spearheaded the Bethel Bible Village Food Drive that provides Thanksgiving dinner for the families of children living at Bethel Bible Village and participated in activities at The Bethlehem Center and North River YMCA. Serving as a Sunday School teacher, AWANA leader, nursery care worker, and Pre-K teacher, Deborah also participated in several mission trips with her church to Peru and Abaco. Providing an excellent example of what it is like to truly work hard for your goals inspired her oldest daughter to enroll in Chattanooga State’s nursing program.
As one of more than a dozen statewide finalists, Deborah will compete for the title of Community College Student of the Year in Nashville. The annual competition, organized by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), is scheduled to be held in March 2021.