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Graduation speaker wants to make life better for others

Homeschooled Justin Ross was unsure of how he would adjust to a new way of life and learning at Tidewater Community College.

By involving himself in student organizations on the Portsmouth Campus and engaging in the classroom with peers and professors, Ross has thrived.

The student speaker for the Dec. 19 commencement at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, Ross graduates with an Associate of Science in General Studies. He plans to continue at Old Dominion University with a double major in health administration and history.

“The support network here is like a family, a TCC family,” Ross said. “There’s so many resources to help you succeed. There’s always a shoulder to lean on.”

Michelle Woodhouse, provost of the Portsmouth Campus, has been one of those shoulders.

“He is an advocate for all students and a champion for taking action and getting things done,” she said.

“It has been an honor to work with such a humble and dedicated young man. I know he has an extremely bright future ahead of him.”

Ross’ biggest goal while at TCC has been to be that shoulder for others.

Justin Ross next to the Beazley statue on the Portsmouth CampusHe is president of the Portsmouth Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the honor society for two-year colleges. In addition, he has been a senator for the last two years in the Student Government Association and has volunteered for the Rotaract Club.

PTK membership has nearly doubled, and it has more direct involvement in Call to Action rallies in support of college completion held twice annually on the Portsmouth Campus.

Ross is proud that his efforts have paid off. He’s currently working toward another initiative whereby the college would “adopt” nearby McLean Street.

In addition to keeping the sidewalks and street clean, he plans to petition to build a bus shelter that would protect students and other passengers from the elements.

“It’s a small thing, but it can make someone’s life better,” he said. “Each of us has an opportunity to make things better for someone else.”

Ross brings that thinking to his career choice.

Frequent trips to visit his aunt and uncle in a North Carolina nursing home inspired his goal to own and operate an assisted living center.

“I want it to focus on quality, not quantity of beds,” he said. “I want care to be more acclimated to the individual.”

For Ross, graduation will be a culmination of hard work; in addition to his 17 credits this semester and student activities, he works part time.

Parents Bryan and Maria, both TCC graduates who also attended Old Dominion afterward, will be in attendance to share what he believes will be a memorable morning.

“All of the graduates there have made a sacrifice,” Ross said. “Graduation is a recognition of that sacrifice and an acceptance that we’ve succeeded.”

Justin Ross’ Commencement Speech

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