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His high school GPA wasn’t flashy. Now alum is on path to a doctorate

When Kevin Zerbe graduated Bayside High School, his GPA was 1.8.

Today he is a PhD candidate at Montclair State University.

Zerbe, 31, is grateful for the second chance he found at  Tidewater Community College.

Admittedly, it wasn’t the academic offerings at TCC that led him here. When his friends attended TCC, he essentially tagged along. He explored a photography major and later liberal arts, but neither stuck. Then Zerbe switched to a social science path, immersing himself in philosophy, literature, psychology and sociology classes.

He was hooked.

” I was taught to think critically, to reason and to apply logic in real-world scenarios,” he said.  “I learned to vocalize my thoughts and arguments in constructive, informative ways. And I was taught to listen to others do the same. I read some of the world’s most amazing poets, novelists, and thinkers.”

But mostly, he said, “I learned that there actually was a place for me in higher education.”

With his Associate of Science in Social Sciences in hand, Zerbe transferred to San Francisco State University. “I used to tell my friends, ‘Yeah, you really can go anywhere,’ ” he said.

He went on to work as a climate change adaption specialist in Seattle and held a job with the City of Norfolk, helping to develop a natural disaster recovery plan in the event a Hurricane Sandy-level storm ever makes landfall here.

When Zerbe completes his doctorate, he plans to continue working in the fish and wildlife field, focusing his efforts on restoring rivers to help protect aquatic animals.

“I don’t think I’d have done any of it if I hadn’t first gained the confidence in my ability to think critically and ask the right questions,” he said. “If nothing else, TCC gave me the extra time I needed right after high school to figure out, not only what I wanted, but what I was capable of, too.”