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Celebrating a decade of First College success

For 10 years, Tidewater Community College’s First College program, which allows qualified high school students from Portsmouth the opportunity to earn college credit at a reduced cost, has thrived, producing 1,140 scholars.

TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani; Michelle Woodhouse, provost of the Portsmouth Campus; and Mayor Kenny Wright celebrated the collaborative effort between the college and Portsmouth Public Schools at a breakfast on May 8 at the Portsmouth Campus Student Center.

“It takes a village to make this partnership work,” Baehre-Kolovani said. “Today we celebrate a visionary initiative.”

The breakfast commemorated the architects behind the program:

  • David Stuckwisch, the former Portsmouth Public Schools superintendent, an energetic supporter who advocated for division-wide participation in First College. Said Woodhouse, “He took a hands-on approach, participating in the details and the big picture.”
  • Terry Jones, former provost of the Portsmouth Campus, considered “the mastermind and visionary behind First College,” Woodhouse said. “Dr. Jones had a vision to see the future.”
  • Judge Richard Bray, president and chief executive officer of the Beazley Foundation, which underwrites the program for qualified students. The Beazley Foundation has provided approximately $460,000 in funding in the last decade for First College. Said Bray, “It’s all about the kids.”
  • Rosa Wells-Garris, TCC coordinator of the program, “the backbone of First College,” said Woodhouse. Wright presented Wells-Garris with a proclamation declaring May 8, 2015, “Rosa Wells-Garris day in the city of Portsmouth.”

The former Wilson High School principal, who will retire from TCC at the end of the semester, credited her mother for being an inspiration. “My mother said to me, ‘It’s not the material things that matter in this world; it’s the heart,” she said. “She instilled in me and all my siblings a work ethic, integrity and desire to do all we can possibly do.”

Norcom’s Johnessa Richard also received the Governor’s Medallion at the event, signifying she earned an associate degree from TCC while taking part in the college’s dual-enrollment program. Richard, 17, will graduate from TCC with an Associate of Science in General Studies and enter Old Dominion University this fall as a junior with plans to major in biology. Richard will be the youngest graduate at TCC’s commencement on May 16.