Skip navigation

Laid off after two decades, first-generation graduate finds a career and a future at TCC

Linda Stokes has a message for students learning remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Online learning may be the new norm, but don’t be discouraged or afraid of it. Even in my 60s, I’ve been online for my entire degree, and it was a great education.”

Stokes graduated from Tidewater Community College in May with an associate degree in Administrative Support Technology.

She came to TCC after being laid off from a job she held for more than two decades.

The Norfolk native graduated from Booker T. Washington High with a diploma that included a specialization in basic business skills.

“I knew my parents couldn’t afford college, so I took that diploma and went to work,” she said. “I looked at education as a steppingstone to employment, so when I got that first job, I never looked back.”

In 2012, Stokes’ organization downsized, leaving her without a job.

“I was applying everywhere and getting no interest,” she said. “I didn’t look qualified even with my experience,” Stokes said. “With my TCC degree, I’m on equal footing with anyone coming out of college.”

Stokes chose TCC because she wanted to get a degree quickly. The Administrative Support Technology program offers a solid foundation in basic administrative skills with advanced training to prepare students for high-tech offices.

“At 62, I needed to find a way to keep going and support myself,” Stokes said. “And the two-year degree sounded better to me.”

Stokes found support through the Open Door Project (ODP), a federally funded program that provides resources for first-generation college students.

“The people of TCC, no matter where you go from the testing center to financial aid to student services, they are pulling for you and encouraging you,” she said.

From the start, Stokes connected with Kay Williams, the ODP director at the Norfolk Campus, who became a mentor and friend.

“Ms. Kay helped guide me and when I was struggling with math; she provided a tutor,” Stokes said. “All along the way, she celebrated my successes.”

Stokes also credits her favorite professor, Peggy Scott, with helping her on the journey. “She was always reaching out to see if I needed help and was there providing positive feedback,” Stokes said.

Scott helped Stokes update a resume that helped her land her current job with Norfolk Public Schools as an in-school suspension supervisor.

Stokes graduated with a 3.7 GPA and is proud of her membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools. She plans to pursue her bachelor’s in general education.

“It wasn’t a must to go to college in my day, and some people still think they don’t need to go,” she said. “But I’m here to say that you do. It’s higher education, and it makes you more employable and professional.”

Stokes added, “I’ve met so many people who start in college and then drop out because of their social lives. I encourage everyone to make it their goal to finish what you start.”