Carrington Fox, a Nashville journalist and mother of three who returned to college to pursue her lifelong dream of building, was named the College System of Tennessee’s Outstanding Technical Student of the Year today.
Fox, who graduated in December in the Building Construction Technology program at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Nashville, was selected by a panel of judges from among nine regional finalists and announced during the awards ceremony ending the annual three-day SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference at the Chattanooga Convention Center and Chattanooga State Community College.
The Outstanding Technical Student of the Year program was created nine years ago by the Tennessee Board of Regents to share the value of technical education. The Student of the Year is an ambassador for technical education, speaking at schools, civic clubs, conferences, meetings, economic summits and other opportunities. The Board of Regents governs the state’s 40 public community colleges and colleges of applied technology.
Fox, who earned her undergraduate degree at Princeton University and a master’s in business administration from Vanderbilt University, told more than 1,400 high school and college students and their advisors attending the SkillsUSA conference that she decided to return to school after about 25 years and her journalism career to learn building construction -- which she said was something she wanted to do since childhood. She writes a blog about her experiences and her diverse group of fellow students called Build Me Up, Buttercup after one of her favorite songs.
The nine Regional Outstanding Students of the Year – all students at Tennessee’s community and technical colleges – competed at local and regional levels across the state. The panel of judges represented the Board of Regents, business and industry. The panel heard presentations from all nine students Tuesday and followed up with interviews of each finalist. "The judges were looking for the best representative of technical education in Tennessee – a student who is vocal about the benefits of their technical training," said Boyd Hestand of TBR, the SkillsUSA Tennessee director.
The Outstanding Student of the Year wins a new 2018 Nissan Versa. Nissan is a major sponsor of SkillsUSA, and the car was donated by Nissan, Amatrol and Reletech. All nine finalists were awarded an iPad and a Silver Pin during a dinner in their honor Tuesday night.
Accepting her award, Fox thanked her TCAT Nashville instructors and fellow students. “For as long as I can remember, I wanted to build buildings,” she said. After describing her Ivy League background and her journalism career, she said, “In the blink of an eye, 25 years passed, and I told my family I’m really not doing the work I want to do… I changed the path of my life in technical school and I had the time of my life doing it,” she said.
The regional finalists all appeared on stage at the ceremony for the announcement. The second place award went to Shania DeRusha, a nursing student at Columbia State Community College, and third place was awarded to Kevin Moton, an industrial electricity student at Tennessee College of Applied Technology Chattanooga. The other regional finalists are:
Chelle Travis, a TBR associate vice chancellor and outgoing state director of SkillsUSA, congratulated all nine. “You are all truly outstanding and are excellent ambassadors of technical education,” she said.
Kevin Smith, Nissan North America’s manager for manufacturing learning pathways and one of the Student of the Year judges, said, “This was a very tough competition. As judges, we all wish we could give out nine students of the year cars.” Smith and Wayne Ellington, maintenance supervisor at Nissan’s manufacturing plant in Smyrna, helped hand out the awards.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.