By Betty A. Proctor
Zennia Nesmith, a 2022 Chattanooga State Community College graduate, was recently honored with House Joint Resolution 1128 commending her unflagging commitment to academic excellence, exceptional resilience, and immeasurable contributions both as a student leader and within the community, and as someone who actively demonstrates her passion for advocacy, service and justice.
Presented to Nesmith on July 20 by state Rep. Greg Vital, the resolution he crafted was inspired by the selection of Zennia as the 2022 Tennessee Community College Student of the Year during the Statewide Outstanding Achievement Awards (SOAR) earlier this year.
“It is an honor to recognize an individual like Zennia who has overcome challenges in life with determination and personal desire to improve life for herself and others,” said Rep. Vital.
Nesmith’s journey to this point was long and arduous, “full of twists, turns, and bumps along the way,” as stated in the resolution. She survived early family trauma triggering psychiatric hospitalization, became a mother, and earned her GED.
Several years later, a car accident that resulted in the traumatic brain injury of her daughter and the loss of her grandmother, led Nesmith to discover her life’s purpose by founding a nonprofit organization called Empowered Connections with Siskin Hospital to support other families who have children with physical and intellectual disabilities.
Empowered Connections made Nesmith realize that she needed a college degree to expand the work of her nonprofit, but finances were a definite roadblock until she discovered the Tennessee Reconnect Grant.
Nesmith began classes in the spring of 2020 at no cost. “When I said yes to education everything just fell into place,” she recalled.
“Zennia’s story is one of transformation,” stated Dr. Rebecca Ashford, Chattanooga State president. “She overcame a challenging beginning and redefined her life through hard work and education. She is an inspiration to all of us at Chattanooga State, and she embodies the calling that we have to work in community college education.”
Nesmith said her educational experience at Chattanooga State “was more than good grades… it was an awakening.” Availing herself of every opportunity, she joined Global Scholars, served as Student Government Association president, made the Dean’s List, received the 2022 President’s Award, and was named one of eight national Dream Scholars by the Achieving the Dream (ATD) network, all while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.
The House of Representatives resolution notes that Nesmith’s dedication to excellence is clearly deserving of the respect, admiration and commendation of the members of the 112th General Assembly, concurred by the Senate.
“She represents Chattanooga State and the College System of Tennessee in such an admirable way,” stated Rep. Vital.