ACE Names West Virginia Resident Tara Turley 2016 Student of the Year
February 15, 2017

​Tara Turley, a single mother and electrician who employed her skills to assist her flood-ravaged West Virginia community, is ACE's 2016 Student of the Year.

Turley, 37, of Tornado, WV, will be presented with the honor at ACE2017, ACE’s 99th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, during the March 13 morning plenary session.

The Student of the Year Award, formerly the Adult Learner of the Year Award, is presented annually by ACE to an individual who has benefited academically or professionally from the use of ACE credit recommendations for workforce or military training. Recipients must demonstrate outstanding achievements in their community or workplace while successfully balancing demands such as family, career and education.

Turley is currently finishing a five-year apprenticeship with the Charleston (WV) Electrical Apprenticeship Program.

A high school graduate who lost her corporate management job five years ago as a result of company downsizing, she used ACE credit recommendations to gain college credit for many of her apprenticeship courses. Combined with credits from college courses taken in previous years, this helped Turley to obtain a Board of Governors Associate in Applied Science degree in 2016 from BridgeValley Community and Technical College (WV), where she also attended classes. She now plans to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“I couldn't let my children see me as a failure, and more importantly I wanted them to learn how to overcome adversity,” Turley said. “With the help of ACE’s college credit recommendations, not only have I been able to achieve degree completion, but as an electrician, I have learned many new skills that I have been able to put to use at home and in my community. I hope my journey will show others that nothing is impossible, no matter their age or what life has handed them.”

Last June, when Clendenin, a community near Charleston, was hit with devastating flash floods that killed nearly two dozen people and left thousands homeless, Turley was quick to volunteer her time and electrical skills to help neighbors rebuild. She has also been committed to serving a local program that helps adult women find jobs in the construction industry and registered apprenticeships, according to the Charleston Joint Local Apprenticeship Committee, which nominated her for the award.

“As a single mother with two kids, Tara somehow has kept top grades and perfect attendance with both her employer and the apprenticeship. Her higher education is frequently expressed by her professionalism and her leadership skills,” said Thomas Samples, director of the Charleston Electrical Apprenticeship Program. “She now acts as an informal ambassador at our apprenticeship for ACE’s services by encouraging many of her fellow apprentices to also pursue their college degrees.”

ACE's College Credit Recommendation Service and Military Evaluations are forms of credit for prior learning. The programs evaluate employers' workplace education and training programs, or military courses and occupations, and recommend academic credit when that learning is college level.

“Tara’s dedication to her family and community and determination to set high goals and persevere in the face of challenges exemplifies the qualities we seek in ACE’s Student of the Year,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “Tara’s commitment to her education should serve as an inspiration to nontraditional learners everywhere.”

Turley will receive a $1,000 scholarship to help continue her education.

The 2015 award was presented to Mario Sankis, a retired police officer and cancer survivor from Illinois.

ACE2017 opens at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 11, with events that include the International Welcome and Networking Reception, the Reception for Presidents and Chancellors, and the ACE Women’s Leadership Dinner.

Click here to visit the ACE2017 website for more information and to register. Join the conversation on Twitter at #ACE2017DC.

Eunice Bellinger, president, BridgeValley Technical and Community College; Tara Turley; Thomas Samples, director, Charleston Electrical Apprenticeship Program.