On May 16, Johnessa Richard will graduate from Tidewater Community College. On June 12, she will graduate from Norcom High School in Portsmouth.
Richard, 17, is TCC’s first Governor’s Medallion recipient, meaning she earned her associate degree from TCC thanks to the college’s dual-enrollment program, which allows students to earn college credit while attending high school. The Portsmouth Campus’ First College program is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Richard graduates with an Associate of Science in General Studies and plans to transfer to Old Dominion University this fall to major in biology. She would like to be a neurologist, as, not surprisingly, “The brain fascinates me,” she said.
She is the youngest of the more than 1,700 May 2015 graduates. Her parents and grandparents will be at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on May 16 to watch her cross the stage.
Richard credits her mother, Rosa, with inspiring her to think beyond the typical high school diploma.
While traditional dual enrollment students take as many as 18 credits, Richard completed 68 credits to earn her associate, taking advantage of summer, night and Saturday classes. She began taking classes the summer before her junior year.
“I had history classes at 10 o’clock at night,” said Richard, whose final load included psychology, music appreciation, advanced composition and mathematics in liberal arts.
Johnessa Richard in her own words
Rosa Richard, an eighth-grade math teacher at Waters Middle School, instilled the importance of learning in her daughter at a young age, reading to her regularly. “I’m proud of her all the way around,” she said. “She’s always been that special kind of child.”
Though she jokes about being Johnessa’s chauffeur, as her daughter doesn’t yet drive, she said she is especially pleased that Johnessa is engaged in the community. She works with the Boys & Girls Club at Waters and is active in New Weeping Mary Missionary Baptist Church. She was also captain of Norcom’s Scholastic Bowl team.
Johnessa cites College Chemistry I as her hardest class and lists public speaking and Zumba as favorites. History professor Alden Watts was one of many favorite teachers.
Time management has been key in balancing the load and forgoing sleep has been a necessity at times. “It’s been overwhelming sometimes,” she said, “but worth it.”