Beene earns Presidential Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award

When it comes to academic tutoring and preparation for the ACT test, perhaps no name is better known in Tennessee than Alex Beene. For his dedication to helping students improve their academics, he was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Lifetime Achievement Award on Feb. 20.

The award is based on exceptional service and dedication to making a positive impact on society with more than 4,000 hours of public service. It recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to volunteerism and have made a significant impact on their communities and beyond.

“This is a great honor,” Beene said. “It is great acknowledgement for our programs, great acknowledgement for our students. The great thing is that it has opened up more people to knowing about our programs.”

Beene works through the UTM Office of University Outreach and is an adjunct teacher in general studies at some of UT Martin’s regional centers.

“It’s been 14 years since I started in education,” he said. “Eleven of those years have been with UTM, and they have been just the best years ever for someone who is an educator because it has allowed me the flexibility to teach ACT, to help the schools with college prep, to be able to assist students with anything connected to going to higher ed or getting into a career.

“I have taught ACT prep through UTM for all of these years, but I have also helped schools and all types of nonprofits and other entities throughout West Tennessee get to where they need to be.”

Beene has been the general studies and test preparation instructor at UT Martin since January 2013 and has been the assistant administrator for the State of Tennessee Adult Education program since December 2023.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in 2008 and master’s degree in 2010 in journalism and mass communications from the University of Mississippi and certification in teaching English as a second or foreign language from UCLA in 2014. A native of West Tennessee, Beene graduated from Chester County High School.

Beene has helped more than 7,500 students in his career, and earned the 2023 Outstanding Teacher of the Year award from the Coalition On Adult Basic Education.

Beene’s educational achievements have seen him in a wide variety of buildings and facilities, including schools, churches, jails, rehabilitation centers and mental health facilities.

“Some of those have been for people to earn their high school equivalency, or General Educational Development (GED) test, and others have been for career readiness and college readiness, ACT prep,” he said.

“I get a lot of calls from folks who say, ‘We’ve got a group of students who want to further their education, they want to get a better job or they want to go to a college like UTM.’ Any time we’ve gotten those offers, we just jump on them because it’s exciting to be in front of a group that wants to learn.”

Beene’s mother, Deidra Beene, came to UT Martin in 2004 and spent a decade as the director of the UTM McNairy County Center-Selmer. She died in 2014.

“As her son, growing up, I spent a lot of time there,” Beene said. “As I got older, I would go to (the University of Mississippi), and I would see her in the summertime to help out. I would see students who came into her office who had no clue as to what they would do with their future.

“After an hour with her, they would leave that office with a big smile on their face. They would be really excited about the path that lay ahead. I think that was just the beginning of sowing the seeds for me getting in (educational assistance) because it is very fulfilling work – not just in terms of the people you’re serving, but in the feeling it gives you. You really feel like you’re moving the conversation socially and economically forward in West Tennessee when you are able to do that.”

Beene said the Office of University Outreach has been responsible for more than $500,000 in scholarship money obtained by the students it has served.

“That’s through money that students have gained by taking our programs,” he said. “That’s by increasing their ACT score or passing a GED exam – doing something that increases their scholarship amount or their take-home money.”

Beene said that he and Jennifer Cooper, the director of the Office of University Outreach, consider themselves to be “the best-kept secret in terms of increasing wages in West Tennessee.”

“Any dollars that you get to save through scholarships is money that you’re not going to have to pay back,” he said. “That’s more money that you can keep in your own wallet when you start making money.

“And, if you’re able to further your education by getting a diploma, that amount of money is infinite in terms of what you can get. We’ve had some people go from making minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, to now making $28 an hour, and that’s real money that they can help their families with.”

Beene said he “felt blessed” by being able to help people with their education and said being given the President’s Volunteer Service Lifetime Achievement Award was exciting but was not his goal.

“It’s more about helping,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. I don’t sit around looking at the award every day. I like my calendar to be full and being able to go out and help other people. I could not see working in another line of work.”

Beene said the most exciting moments are when he sees the light go off for a student regarding a career path.

“It’s when you can see the gears turning for what they want to do next with their life – that’s the coolest part,” he said. “When you’re talking with them about a career they’ve never heard of or you say, ‘If you’re good in geometry, you may be an excellent engineer, and they make a lot of money and they get to do some cool stuff’ – those, to me, are the most exciting moments.

“That’s when you realize that you may have changed the trajectory of that student forever, and that’s a great feeling.”

For more information about the President’s Volunteer Service Lifetime Achievement Award, visit

For more information about the UTM Office of University Outreach, visit and search for “Office of University Outreach.”

Photo: Alex Beene is shown speaking at the WestStar ALStar Conference in Jackson in February 2023. Beene was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Lifetime Achievement Award for his service in helping traditional and nontraditional students further their education.

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