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Student speaker discovered the value of education at TCC

When Tammy Forbes Gül delivers the student address at TCC’s commencement on Thursday, she will talk about the importance of hope, perseverance and determination. Her knowledge is firsthand. She needed all of those to achieve something that means so much to her, “I have a hard time putting it into words,” she says.

Gül graduates from TCC with an associate of science degree and a 4.0 GPA. She will continue her studies at Regent University in January.

“Graduating means everything to me,” Gül says.

More than 3,100 TCC students will earn associate degrees or certificates at TCC’s 55th commencement at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Scott Rigell, U.S. Representative for Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, will deliver the keynote address; Gül will speak for the students.

For 17 of her 35 years, Gül battled drugs and alcohol. She was in and out of jail. She tried to end her life more than once. She resisted help repeatedly at treatment centers. When her family lost patience, her support system began to crumble. During her final jail stay, she picked up a Bible and read it – cover to cover.

“It took me four months,” she says. “And it changed my life forever.”

The faith she found within herself gave her the confidence to follow her sister, Shelley, to TCC. Shelley was a single mother and a student at the college; Gül realized education was the only way she could move forward in her own life.

“I began my amazing journey at Tidewater Community College in January of 2010,” Gül says. “Because of my previous lifestyle, my self worth was zero.”

Nurturing relationships and academic success at TCC changed that.

Gül credits Tom Ellis, her English professor, and Scott Melson, her math instructor, for providing exceptional support. Gül wasn’t an avid reader prior to Ellis’ class. Now she enjoys poetry and credits him with changing her perspective on literature. Melson took extra time to work with her in math, even after she completed his class.

“He met with me all the time, even when I hadn’t taken his class for a year,” she says.  

Gül joined Phi Theta Kappa and achieved the President’s Honor Roll four times.

“I have always felt right at home at TCC,” she says. “It really helped that I was able to take advantage of online classes when my son was born. I could not have received a better education anywhere else.”

Gül will study psychology at Regent with plans, she says, to “give back what has been given to me.” She wants to be a substance abuse counselor who works with young people in an attempt to deter them from the reckless lifestyle that destroyed her for so many years.

Graduation has special meaning for her. Husband Ercan will be there along with her parents and many from her extended family. She is honored that she was chosen as the student speaker and looks forward to inspiring others with her story.

“I have loved every minute of it here,” Gül says. “If people know there is hope, they can turn their life around.”

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