Zennia Nesmith Wins Tennessee Community College Student of The Year

Left-Stephanie Hollis, center-Zennia Nesmith and right-Dr. Amanda Bennett.

Chattanooga State Community College student Zennia Nesmith was named the Tennessee Community College Student of the Year during the College System of Tennessee’s 4th annual Statewide Outstanding Achievement Awards (SOAR) ceremony held March 30 in Nashville. 

Zennia’s personal story is one of resilience and hard work. Although Zennia did not graduate from high school, a year after her daughter was born, Zennia completed her GED and made a decent living working. 

Twenty years later, she enrolled at ChattState at no cost thanks to the Tennessee Reconnect scholarship, a program her husband had recently completed.

Zennia has maintained a 4.0 GPA, joined the Global Scholars Honors program, was awarded the Chattanooga State Foundation Beacon Scholarship, and earned the highly competitive Dream Scholar program where she was one of eight community college students chosen nationwide.

“Zennia is an inspiration to the faculty, staff and students at Chattanooga State,” said Chattanooga State President Rebecca Ashford. “She overcame many obstacles to enroll in college, and she is determined to succeed. She is incredibly deserving of this recognition as the TBR Community College Student of the Year. We at the College are so very proud of her.”

Board of Regents Vice Chair Emily J. Reynolds, who presented the Student of the Year Awards, said students “come to our colleges with a thirst for knowledge and leave prepared to enter the workforce in a job vital to our state or to continue your education. Whatever path you choose, we love the fact that you often come back to your communities as future leaders.”

The College System, governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, is composed of the state’s 13 public community and 26 technical colleges. Launched in 2019, SOAR celebrates the colleges’ outstanding students, employees, colleges, benefactors, volunteers and partnerships.

Zennia is the third Chattanooga State student in the past four years to earn the statewide Student of the Year distinction. Chattanooga State alum Jim Fry won in the inaugural year, and alum Deborah Hale won last year. 

The SOAR Student of the Year award also includes a $5,000 scholarship.