Monday, April 25, 2022

Vol State Students Compete in SkillsUSA: Off to Nationals

Triple Crown, Hat-trick, Three-run homer… There needs to be a name for winning all three competitions, because that is what Vol State students did two weeks ago!

Eight Vol State students, coached by Bradley Tracy, Tim Anschuetz, and Jonathan Pinkerton, took part in SkillsUSA. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, educators, and industry workers that come together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. They do this by understanding what skills need to be taught for maximum potential in students transitioning out of school and into their careers.

“SkillsUSA allows the students to use the skills they have been learning, and it validates the education they have been getting here at Vol State” said Bradley, Criminal Justice Department Director.

There were a large variety of skills tested, but the students representing Vol State participated in three different sections (all of which they won): Information Technology Services (ITS), Criminal Justice (CJ), and Crime Scene Investigation (CSI). They have been practicing since the fall semester, some prior to that, to be ready for their competition this spring. The level of opportunity for participating students connecting with the workforce was large, and this year there were around 1,800 students taking advantage of it in competition.

Assistant Chief of Campus Police, Tim, said, “When we walked into the exhibition hall, my jaw dropped because there was every competition you could think of in which you can display skills: building brick walls, masonry, construction, aircraft mechanics, creative writing, public speaking, and so much more. Beyond that, the halls were lined with people giving job opportunities.”

Students who participated at the SkillsUSA competition

The participating students at this year’s competition were (pictured from left to right): Chris Montini (1st Place in ITS), Hussein Alhawamdeh, Sydney Mattern (1st Place in CJ), Jacob Garret, Arlett Gonzalez (1st Place Team in CSI), Jasmine Harrison (1st Place Team in CSI), Estela Flores (1st Place Team in CSI), and Iboro Philip. Congratulations to all students for competing and to Bradley, Tim, and Jonathan for coaching!

Listen to students and coaches talk about their experience at SkillsUSA on the Vol State Chat - via Apple, Spotify, Amazon, iHeart, and other podcast sites. First place students will be attending the National SkillsUSA competition this summer, June 20-24, in Atlanta, GA. If you are a student or faculty member who is interested in participating in SkillsUSA next year, reach out to:

-Winnie Combs

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Vol State Student Receives Full-Ride to Lipscomb University

Chloe Espinosa is a Vol State student and President’s Ambassador who is graduating this semester with an Associate’s Degree in Visual Arts. Chloe recently landed a full-ride scholarship to Lipscomb University, where she will transfer this fall.

“I was not very involved at my high school,” she said. “Then when I came to Vol State, I just really took advantage of all the opportunities given to me, whether it was the Ambassador program, or an Honors Program, or a Work Study. And I think because of that, I grew as a leader.”

Chloe describes the President’s Ambassadors program as, ‘really fun.’ “The friends that I've made over there have been people that I will remember for the rest of my life, and being an Ambassador in itself really pushed me while I’ve been at Vol State,” she said.

“I applied to Lipscomb as a transfer student, and then once I had been accepted, I wasn't really seriously considering it just because I knew how expensive Lipscomb would be,” she said.

After reaching out to an advisor with her concerns, Chloe was told about a scholarship opportunity. Chloe applied for the scholarship, participated in an interview, and was awarded a full-ride to Lipscomb University as a transfer student. “I honestly couldn’t believe it,” said Chloe.

Paying for college has always been one of Chloe’s biggest priorities. “The finances of college have always been just so important to me because no one wants to graduate with debt,” she said. “I was just so adamant about just trying my best to find as many scholarships as I could.”

Chloe plans to eventually earn her Master’s degree. Her dream job is to be an art teacher. Chloe is also interested in becoming ESL certified.

“I’m very excited. I’m also very sad because I’ve loved Vol State, but I’m very ready for the next chapter,” said Chloe.

Monday, April 18, 2022

It's Never Too Late to Get Your Degree!

Sonja Burton is an adult student who started school in fall 1981 and is finally graduating this semester with a degree in Business Administration. Sonja dropped out of college to pursue other things when she was 18, but now she’s graduating with her degree at age 59.

“I was an Administrative Assistant for twenty-nine years,” said Sonja. When Sonja began looking for a new job, the process was more difficult than she imagined. “An opening came up in the city for an Administrative Assistant and I applied because I thought my twenty-nine years of experience would outweigh the degree they were requiring,” she said. Unfortunately, Sonja didn’t get the job, so she decided to apply for TN Reconnect.

Sonja has experienced many hurdles while pursuing her degree and working a full time job at the same time. Several family issues even made Sonja reconsider her entire education. “My husband fell and shattered his leg, so I called to see if I could put the TN Reconnect scholarship on hold. Then my brother passed away and my mother passed away,” she said. “It’s been challenging.”

Thankfully, Sonja was able to finish many of her classes online, and is now graduating with her Associate’s degree in Business Administration this semester. Visit our website if you would like to learn more about the TN Reconnect program.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Brianna Bollinger’s Vol State Story Is Not What You’d Expect

Brianna Bollinger is a passionate Music Business major at Vol State who released her debut single, “what did you expect” on April 8th. Brianna is in the Music Business program, but she wasn’t always pursuing a degree.

“Initially, my parents were very open-minded and supportive of whatever I wanted to do. They would always tell me I didn’t need a college degree, so I felt very empowered,” she said. “I took various musical classes without pursuing an actual degree.” However, Brianna later decided to finally work towards a degree in Music Business.

“I figured since I could intern while also going to college, I could learn more about the music business and be more qualified when I pursue my musical career as an artist,” said Brianna.

Brianna has a large variety of musical inspirations. “I like to say I was raised on Taylor Swift,” she said. She also enjoys listening to Guns N Roses, Bruce Springsteen, and Olivia Rodrigo.

Brianna has a lot of good things to say about going to a community college. “So first of all, it's been phenomenal to go to a college where it's affordable. That's a big plus. The proximity to my home is also amazing because it's very close. I also like that it's a smaller institution,” she said.

Brianna has big plans once she graduates. “Once I get my degree this fall, I definitely want to release more singles this year. I would also love to get a publishing deal as a songwriter to write songs for other artists, and possibly get a job in the music industry. I just want to see where life takes me.”

Brianna is an intern at Carnival Music in Nashville, and she has written over 100 songs. You can listen to Brianna’s debut single, “what did you expect” on YouTube. And be sure to visit her website.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Adult Student Finds Her Voice At Vol State

Kathryn Hoxie, professionally known as Kfhox, found her voice at Vol State. Literally. “From the time I was little, everything was a song or a commercial. Everything was my microphone,” said Kathryn. “And so, from a pretty early age, the woman that helped raise me put me in voice lessons.”

Kathryn grew up playing drums, singing in choir, and performing in a jazz ensemble. She even had the opportunity to record in Bob Marley’s studio in Kingston, Jamaica, where she recorded a reggae remix of one of her songs. She later wrote a children’s book based on that song, called Screaming To Be Free.

“It's just always been a part of who I am. I just don’t remember my life without music.” she said.

Kathryn studied several subjects in college, but she still felt like something was missing. “My undergrad is in Political Science and Pre-Law. I have an MBA and a Masters of Management. But even after all of that, I just felt like I was fighting myself and my purpose and my path,” she said.

“I had attempted to come [to Vol State] a few years back after I moved here, but my mom got really sick and she passed away,” said Kathryn. “Especially after I lost my mom, I realized the importance of living for myself and my purpose. You don’t realize how precious life is until you lose someone- especially a parent.”

Kathryn finally decided to enroll in the Music: Associates of Fine Arts program at Vol State, and had to overcome a new hurdle.

“I literally lost my voice for like, months. I could barely talk,” she said. “I literally felt [like] I couldn't tell people that I sang.” Kathryn practiced meditation and enrolled in voice lessons at Vol State to regain her voice. 

“I was super thankful to start classes because I started voice lessons. I mean, I’ve been in and out of voice lessons my whole life, but it came right on time,” said Kathryn. “Honestly, since I started school, my voice is back and I’ve been doing shows again.”

Kathryn is continuing her education in the Music program at Vol State. She currently has several albums out on streaming platforms. Her book, Screaming To Be Free, is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and more. To keep up with Kfhox, click here:

- Chloe Duvall

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Upcoming Vol State Play Explores The Relationship Between Mother and Daughter

The Vol State Theatre explores the relationship between mother and daughter in their upcoming performance, A Daughter’s A Daughter by Agatha Christie. The play is a three-act psychological drama about mother Ann Prentice and her daughter, Sarah Prentice.

“‘A Daughter's A Daughter’ explores a mother-daughter relationship in which each is highly opinionated and dependent on one another,” said Assistant Director Brendan Tramel. The play, which was written under Agatha Christie's pseudonym, Mary Westmacott, is divided into three acts. Each act represents a different level in Ann and Sarah’s relationship. “Though the show itself is set post War World II in late 1940s London, the issues the characters face still resound today,” said Brendan.

“I believe people should come see this play because it really speaks to the relationships we all have with our parents versus our parents' relationships to us,” said Audrianna Fizer, who plays Ann Prentice. “It really speaks to the vulnerabilities that have always existed between mothers and their children throughout the times.”

“I think people will walk away from this show with a newfound love for Agatha Christie and how realistic the show is,” said Kyra Siciliano, who plays Sarah Prentice. “And it’s definitely going to make everyone want to go hug their moms.”

The show is happening on April 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 9th at 7:30pm in the Caudill Hall Auditorium on the Gallatin campus. The show is also happening on April 3rd and 10th at 2:30pm at the same place. The show is open to the public. Tickets are $5 at the door (cash only), and Vol State students can attend for free with their student ID. The show is directed by Edmon Thomas and assistant directed by Brendan Tramel. The play features adult themes and is recommended for a PG-13 audience. Viewer discretion is advised. For more information, visit the Vol State events page or contact

- Chloe Duvall

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Vol State Adoption Story: A New Beginning for Two Students

India Goostree and Karlee Marbry are both students pursuing a degree in the Human Services field here at Vol State, but they have a unique story beyond that, one that goes deeper than students in class together. India is an adult learner who has returned to school to finish up her degree in sociology, and Karlee is in the middle of her second semester at Vol State hoping to work towards a career in social work.

Karlee was in a youth group led by India’s husband, and that is where they first met. Over the past six months, they have built a deep relationship that has led them to become a family. India and her husband are now in the process of adopting Karlee. Marbry was the last name given to Karlee at birth, but she desires a last name representative of her new family. “Marbry is part of my testimony.” Karlee said. “I got confirmation from God saying, ‘it (Marbry) is part of who you are, and this (Goostree) is who you are going to be.’”

Between the time of meeting Karlee and her moving in, India and her husband lost contact with Karlee after she graduated high school, because she was no longer in the youth group. India and her husband hosted an event last August for the students in the Vol State Collegiate Ministry Club, and that is where they reconnected with Karlee. India said, “If it was not for me being a student at Vol State, having a heart for Vol State, and Karlee being at Vol State, I do not know if we would have ever connected again. God used Vol State to intersect our story, and it is so fun because now we go to Vol State together.”

India and Karlee are currently in statistics class together. “It just so happened that we would be in school at the same time, which is just absolutely wild” explained India. “What is beautiful too is that I was already feeling called to do foster care and orphan care (as a career focus), and now that Karlee is in our home, she has realized she wants to do it too for people who have her story.”

- Winnie Combs