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From here to Virginia Tech to electrical engineer

Rebekah Youngk cried her eyes out when she got the rejection letter from Virginia Tech.

Two weeks later, she discovered Tidewater Community College had a guaranteed admissions agreement to Tech. Today the Hokies graduate, who earned her Associate of Science in Engineering, works as a process control engineer at the United States Gypsum Company. She reflects fondly on her time at both of her alma maters.

TCC Engineering alumna Rebekah Youngk talks with TCC student Mike Collins at a 2014 engineering panel.
TCC Engineering alumna Rebekah Youngk talks with
TCC student Mike Collins at a 2014 engineering panel.

“TCC invested so much in me that I just kept going,” Youngk said.

Homeschooled, Youngk earned her GED at 15. After some initial classes at Danville Community College, she applied to Virginia Tech, where she was denied admission.

“I thought it was the end of the world,” she recalled.

During a visit with her grandmother in Suffolk, Youngk learned about TCC’s engineering program on the Virginia Beach Campus. Encouraged, she enrolled, enjoying the interaction with students young and old. She developed a particular affinity with engineering professors Paul Gordy and David Ekker.

“They had the biggest impact on my career because of how much they invested in me,” she said. “When I started taking classes, I remember thinking, ‘I’m in pre-algebra. I’ll never get to calculus.’ Once I started, many TCC professors helped me stay the course. I had the makeup to major in a math-focused field, but the professors kept me in it.

The acceptance letter into Virginia Tech was “an amazing feeling,” she said, but she recognized the value of the smaller class size TCC offered. “Freshmen and sophomore classes at Tech were something like 400 people,” she said. “I definitely felt like TCC gave me a better experience because they were one-on-one with me, even in the classroom.”

Youngk earned her bachelor’s in electrical engineering in 2013. Three months later, she accepted a job at USG, where she managed plant projects. Ten months after being hired, Youngk was promoted to process control engineer, where she oversees the Department of Process Control Programming. Often this calls for her to troubleshoot automation systems and improve human interface applications.

Her advice to wanna-be engineers at TCC is simple. “Persevere. Be persistent. Keep going, and when it’s hard, keep looking at the next equation. There’s an end goal. You won’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s there.”

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