CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) Office of Adult Education is pleased to announce its 2022 student and program awards. The recognitions were a part of the recent Adult Education Conference held in Charleston (September 12- 16).

Each year, the WVDE Office of Adult Education, in conjunction with the West Virginia Adult Education Association, recognizes students and programs for exceptional achievement, dedication, performance and outcomes. Students are honored for rising above challenging circumstances to earn their high school equivalency and/or certifications that increase their opportunities for employment and improve their standard of living. Adult Ed programs are recognized for their enrollment in the programs, contact and distance education hours, percentage of measures met, serving those most in need, and retention and obtaining industry-recognized credentials.

Awards include:

Adult Education Student of the Year

Jerica Hickman, Ritchie County

Jerica Hickman completed 31 trainings and certifications including her West Virginia Welcome, Customer Service I and II, and Computer Essentials Gold certificates while also encouraging her mother to improve her own computer skills. Additionally, Jerica encouraged her oldest son, who left high school before graduating, to earn his high school equivalency diploma. She was recently hired for three positions in the West Virginia school system, a substitute cook, custodian and teacher’s aide.

English As A Second Language Student of the Year

Trihas Kefele, Hardy County

Trihas Kefele came to the United States as a refugee from the East African country of Eritrea. She faithfully attended English classes during the day, while working the night shift at a Moorefield, W.Va. poultry processing plant and raising three children with her husband. Trihas completed the Hospitality and Tourism Integrated Education and Training program and she has also earned her West Virginia Welcome certificate. She has not only been an ambassador for her native country and culture but she will also be sworn in as a United States citizen in the near future.

Spokes Student of the Year

Bridget Underwood, Harrison County

Strategic Planning in Occupational Knowledge for Employment and Success (SPOKES) is an academic and job preparation skills program. Along with job readiness, students receive computer skills, soft skills and the opportunity to obtain a portfolio with various industry-recognized certifications.

As a single mother of two, Bridget Underwood completed numerous trainings and certifications, including the West Virginia Welcome, and Money, Work and Computer Essentials. She also received the Platinum Level – National Career Readiness certificate. Additionally, Bridget participated in every Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action (KISRA) class, including PREP 8.0, Parenting, Domestic Violence, and Financial Peace. She was then hired as an instructor in Harrison County and recently taught her first hybrid class.

SPOKES Program of the Year (Large & Small)

The SPOKES Program of the Year Awards recognize class completion, enrollment in post-secondary education or training programs or graduating students beginning unsubsidized employment.

  • Monongalia County, Small Program
  • Wood County, Large Program

Adult Education Program of the Year (Full & Part Time)

  • Mineral County, Part-time
  • Raleigh County, Full-time

Collaborative Partner of the Year Award

Karen Spencer, Jackson County Career Connections Youth Program

This award is given to an individual who is employed by a West Virginia agency that provides, through a collaborative effort, a network of services to adult learners. They support the philosophy behind adult education and demonstrate outstanding contributions to adult education in West Virginia.

Career Specialist Karen Spencer quickly made a mark on adult education students with her vibrant personality and impressive skills. Thirteen students signed up to work with her organization, Career Connections, since she began in December 2021. She has been a trusted and supportive advisor of adult learners, encouraging them to utilize the resources of West Virginia Adult Education and Career Connections.

“Our programs are lifelines for people who desire to change course but are not exactly sure how to begin that journey,” said Director of Adult Education programs Mendy Marshall. “There are resources that are close to home and free for students so they can reach their goals and create their own sense of success.”

West Virginia Adult Education programs build skills for success by providing adults with the opportunity to acquire and improve functional skills necessary to enhance the quality of their lives as workers, family members, and citizens. These programs play an important role in fostering productive employment, effective citizenship, personal and family growth, self-esteem, and dignity for adult learners.

To learn more about West Virginia Adult Education programs, please visit WVAdultEd.comor call the hotline at 1-800-642-2670.

For media inquiries, contact Christy Day, West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications, at 304-558-2699 or

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