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Forest Park Student Earns National PTK Honor

May 28, 2013

Tamala Turner does not like to brag about her accomplishments. During a candid conversation that touched on everything from internships to the current state of public education, Turner failed to mention anything about the rather large crystal statue tucked in the crook of her right forearm. Sandra Knight, Phi Theta Kappa sponsor, had to point out that Turner was PTK’s distinguished regional and national member for 2012-2013 before she even bothered to look down at it.

PTK Tamala Turner  
Tamala Turner

“Oh yeah,” she said apologetically.  “I forgot about that.”

Turner, a human services and health information major at St. Louis Community College, was honored for her contributions to PTK’s Honors in Action Project, which focused on college success in a culture of competition.

“Talent is overrated,” she said. “There are students here who think that to be academically successful you have to be gifted and must do it alone. No, you don’t. It takes practice and a supportive learning environment.”

For their project, Turner and the PTK team worked with developmental students in the Forest Park Smart Start program. Smart Start is designed to help new students successfully transition to St. Louis Community College by building upon knowledge acquired in the New Student Registration Workshop and New Student Orientation.

With the help of Gary Forde, a psychology professor, the team was able to structure a study that divided two Smart Start classes. One group represented individual competition and the other represented collaborative competition. Each group participated in a Jeopardy game crafted from their Smart Start routine. Students in the collaborative group outperformed their counterparts in the individual group.

“You learn more in a cooperative environment than in an individual one where no one is cooperating with each other,” she said.

Though she will not say so, Turner has an impressive academic and professional track record. She holds a master's degree in education from Washington University and a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has been an advocate for women and children throughout her 20-year social service career.

Currently, she works part time in the campus’s office for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. Her passion is to help students who have trouble studying realize their true academic potential.

Turner, who has a 19-year-old son, says that she learned a valuable lesson from the study.

“I am an introvert,” she said. “Working on this project helped me to see while that has its benefits, knowing how to collaborate with and learn from others is equally important.”

Turner says the success of PTK’s honors in action program is due entirely to the teamwork of its members, faculty advisors and Knight. She expressed heartfelt gratitude towards fellow PTK member Latasha Brown for encouraging her to get involved with the project. She also thanked all of her fellow PTK member and Knight for voting for her and writing letters of recommendation on her behalf.

When asked how she sees herself moving forward, Turner said she would like to continue working with students.

“I really want success for our students,” she said.

-- Written by Daphne Rivers, Public Information and Marketing intern