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From here to the Merchant Marines

William Peterson came to Tidewater Community College because he was unsure about the road ahead. Now he’s set for a lucrative career on the high seas.

Peterson, 19, will transfer to the United States Merchant Marine Academy this fall to prepare for a maritime career where he will earn $180,000 a year to start.

“My time at TCC really helped shape my future,” he said. “I took a variety of classes, including engineering, chemistry, business and English. I had a great teacher, Stephanie Tebeau, who showed me the different sides of business, including the supply side. And that interest led me to look into the Merchant Marines.”

“As a student in my advanced composition class, William jumped on every opportunity presented to him,” said Karin Pryor, English professor at the Chesapeake Campus.

“The small classroom environments at TCC enabled him to enthusiastically engage in class discussion, seek help for his questions and papers, interact with faculty, and take a leadership role on campus.”

She continued, “His positive attitude, enthusiasm for learning, and old-fashioned hard work have successfully launched him on an exciting, in-demand, and lucrative career path.”

Peterson’s acceptance into the Merchant Marine Academy in Great Neck, N.Y., included a congressional nomination from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). His scholarship is valued at $225,000. With an 11 percent acceptance rate, the academy welcomes 250 students a year.

“The maritime industry is growing, and when I graduate from the academy, I’m guaranteed a job, pretty much for life,” Peterson said. “I plan to do my five years at sea, and then focus on imports and exports. In total, I’ll do the equivalent of eight years in military-related experience.”

A 2014 graduate of Hickory High School with a 4.5 GPA, Peterson chose TCC over the University of Virginia because of its affordability. “TCC was the best value. It was also a great place to learn and connect with students and faculty interested in similar subjects,” he said. “I’m proud to be leaving TCC debt-free.”

While a student at the college, Peterson was part of TCC Cares, a service organization that connects students with community organizations. “Giving back is important to me, and this was a great way to do that,” he said.

Peterson dismisses any doubts he had about starting at community college.

“Way back, my first thought about community college, was ‘How good can it be?’ Now I know the answer. Every day my teachers brought real-world knowledge to the classroom and were really invested in student success,” Peterson said. “They cared about my education, not just about my grades.”

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