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Chesapeake students share their stories with delegates and senators in Richmond

Thirteen Tidewater Community College students clambered aboard a bus before 6 a.m. on a chilly February morning for a trip to the Capitol in Richmond. Despite the freezing temperatures, students were all smiles – excited to visit the General Assembly and share their community college stories.
Portsmouth Campus students
Students Katie Lange, Raven Brinkley, Joshua
McCarter, Hezroy Hammil, Claire Hays, Raenell
King, Mark Maddison, DK Walton, Percy Dean,
Ashley Louis, Lutesia Dorman, Siobhan McFarlane,
Alexys Dawson pose on the steps of the Capitol
with the chaperones.

The Virginia Community College’s “Legislative Days” event offers students the opportunity to talk with delegates and senators in Richmond and explain how community college has shaped their dreams.

The day began with a welcome from VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois in the Patrick Henry Building. A community college graduate, DuBois encouraged students to engage with their politicians. “These representatives really do want to hear from students,” he said. “When they ask you about your teachers, your classes – tell them your experiences.”

From there, students made their way to the General Assembly Building for appointments with Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Chesapeake), Del. James Leftwich Jr. (R-Chesapeake), Del. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake) and Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake).

“If you had told me I would be attending college in my 50s, I would have told you that you were crazy!” Claire Hays told Leftwich. “But the financial aid and support at Tidewater Community College gave me the ability – and now I’m here.”

Leftwich asked how the students were enjoying the “beautiful spaces” in their new Chesapeake Academic Building and offered a brief lesson on the complex behind-the-scenes workings of the General Assembly. “In class you learn that a bill becomes a law in a few simple steps,” he said. “But what they often gloss over is the complex path a bill has to take through committees and readings.”

“Delegate Leftwich really explained the workings of government, which were way more complex than we learn in the classroom,” said Ashley Louis. On Leftwich’s candor, “I was impressed by his honesty and openness.”

Students with Del. Leftwich
Del. James Leftwich with TCC students.

Cosgrove, a TCC alum, entertained students with his story. “I went to the Virginia Beach Campus and got an amazing education,” he said. “When I transferred to ODU and talked to students there about calculus, they told me their calculus course had 200 people in it. At TCC, my calculus class had 20 students. Not only do you get a great bang for the buck – you get a much better class size.”

Student Hezroy Hammil, a computer science major, extended his gratitude to Cosgrove for his continued support of community colleges and asked him for future support of a STEM building on Chesapeake’s campus. As the only engineer in the Senate, Cosgrove was eager to voice his enthusiasm, which Hammil appreciated. “Without you and the work you do here, higher ed would not have been accessible to me,” he said.

Veteran and student Mark Maddison expressed his concern about vet benefits to Cosgrove. “I know a bill is coming up soon to extend veteran education benefits,” he said. “Those benefits made it possible for me to come back to school. Next time that bill comes up for approval, please think of students like me and vote for it.”

The final activity of the day was a Capitol tour led by Jim Hines, a TCC staff member and history buff. Hines led students through the building – touring the gallery outside the governor’s office, pointing out historically significant sculptures and walking through the old Virginia House of Delegates and Senate rooms.   

“What caught me off guard was that Senator Cosgrove was a TCC alumnus,” Hammil said as the bus loaded up to head back to Chesapeake. “If he can come from the same place, I came from? Anything for me right now is a possibility.”