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Scholarship Success Story

Overcoming Adversity; Pursuing Opportunity: Nicole Tharp Strides Forward

A student studying Manufacturing Automation at Truckee Meadows Community College, Nicole Tharp is slated to achieve her associate degree in the coming months. Her path has not been traditional – or easy by any definition.


“I didn’t attend high school – I just went to work. After an abusive relationship, I had lost so much of myself. I lost sight of myself – I had no idea where I was going.”

After a period of illness, she went to a vocational rehabilitation center. “They asked me: ‘do you want a job, or do you want a career?’ I really liked the idea of a career!” The center introduced her to Truckee Meadows, where Nicole took a tour of the technical campus. “I wanted to try everything! When I saw the robotics lab, I knew it was something I wanted to do. It piqued my interest entirely.”

Nicole has received two scholarships from the SME Education Foundation, and credits that assistance as important in allowing her to focus on her studies. “The Foundation, and SME, have been wonderful. When I joined SME, I realized how much they had to offer. They’ve been so supportive of my education, and toward helping me become a part of manufacturing.”

The school has been supportive as well. “I’ve had some of the best instructors. They work with me, support me – are willing to make time for one-on-one help. It’s always been ‘Whatever you need, just ask: we’re here to help.’”


Nicole describes her path as one of constant exploration. “At first, I was going for a certificate. Once I had that, I wanted to learn more; it wasn’t enough. Now, with my two-year degree nearly complete, I still don’t want to stop. I’ll begin my bachelor’s program – I want to keep going.”

Reno, Nevada is home to warehousing as well as manufacturing – Nicole senses opportunity close to home. “I want a forever career, a place to stay and grow as I help the business grow. I want to achieve – and help my organization to achieve.”

In addition to working as she pursues her studies, Nicole finds time to explore her artistic side. “I love art. Drawing and painting are my release.”

Justifiably proud of what she’s accomplished, Nicole sees achievement as a path; a journey.

“I won’t be held back. My challenges and setbacks don’t define me. I’m independent, driven and am defining myself now: it’s all coming together.”

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