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Great Expectations program helps foster kids go anywhere, too

Achieving a college education can be a daunting prospect if you’re a foster kid like Percy Dean.

While many teens view college as the natural next step after high school, for those who age out of the foster care system, the challenges can be staggering.

That’s where the Great Expectations program comes into play.

Now in its 11th year at Virginia’s Community Colleges, the program focuses on building trust and support to transition foster youth to college and help them thrive.

Percy Dean on Norfolk Campus.

Dean, a foster kid since age 13, graduated from Indian River High and is one of many success stories. He is a few classes away from earning his Associate of Applied Science in Management at Tidewater Community College. He will continue at Norfolk State University for his bachelor’s in business administration. The Army National Guard member hopes to become a transportation officer.

Dean, 25, is where he is thanks to Great Expectations, which offers tuition assistance to qualifying students, as well as financial help with books and fees. The program also helps fund emergency needs.

“Great Expectations is way more than free tuition,” Dean said. “It gives you a coach and a chance to focus on your future. With that, you can do just about anything, including earning your degree.

Every year, some 20,000 of the nation’s nearly 450,000 foster kids encounter an abrupt end to support while many of their peers enroll in college.

Lack of financial resources and gaps in life skills are magnified by the absence of a family or network to encourage them to enroll and support their journey.

Dean’s father died when he was 5, and when his family could no longer care for him,  he entered foster care. His foster mom, “Ms. Janette,” helped him find the Great Expectations program at TCC.

“Foster kids go through a lot and often don’t have a voice,” Dean said. “You have to remain focused and have a vision for yourself, something that can be difficult when you have to navigate college life, home life and you don’t have any support.”

Okema Branch, program coordinator of Great Expectations at TCC, became his life line and is part of a network of faculty and staff here that Dean regards as his village.

“We are proud to offer support to foster youth in our community who have experienced hardships and often trauma,” Branch said. “We’re here to help them with their education so they can be independent and lead successful lives.”

In addition to covering the financial burden of college, Great Expectation provides services such as academic advising, tutoring, career coaching, job application help, life skills training and leadership development.

To be eligible for the Great Expectations program, you must:

  • be between the ages of 17 and 24
  • have been affiliated with the Virginia Foster Care System
  • be interested in or currently attending TCC
  • have been adopted from the Virginia Foster Care System after the age of 13
  • maintain at least half-time enrollment in an eligible academic program

Want to learn more?

Students can join Great Expectations at any time by meeting with a counselor. For more information about Great Expectations at TCC, contact Branch at

There’s still time to apply to TCC Accelerated Degree Program

While most of us think of it taking at least two years to receive an associate degree, Tidewater Community College offers an accelerated option that allows you to complete all of your credits in just one year.

TCC is accepting applications for students interested in earning an Associate of Science in General Studies or an Associate of Science in Business Administration through its Accelerated Degree Program (ADP).

Accelerated Degree may be your fast track to a bachelor’s

The ADP satisfies freshman and sophomore general education requirements at most Virginia public colleges and universities. Students who complete the degree and meet the GPA required for admission at their transfer institution will likely be admitted as juniors.

The application deadline is July 26; learn about all the documents necessary to apply here.

The business degree is offered both on campus and 100% online. On campus students must attend classes on either the Norfolk or Portsmouth campuses. They received dedicated advising, including monthly check-ins.

Meredith Pollard, lead counselor and ADP advisor, recommends the program for:

*High achieving students with a clear career path

*Students who already have college credits

*Active duty military and dependents who are stationed in Hampton Roads

Nargis Martin graduated with her accelerated degree in May. “I learn a lot better when it’s going faster, and I’ve appreciated the extra help provided by my ADP teachers and advisor,” she said. Even the monthly check-ins are great because I could express concerns and keep on top of everything.”

Meredith Pollard in the advising area on Norfolk Campus.

Pollard is happy to help. She got her start as an earth science teacher at Booker T Washington High, and while there, found her passion helping students find their career paths. She returned to school for her master’s in high education administration and joined TCC’s advising staff in 2012.

“My greatest joy is to see students graduate after they’ve been told that they can’t do it,” she said. “I see so many small successes day by day, and that’s what excites me about my work. Every day there are new challenges and a chance to change someone’s future.”

For more information, email

Pollard’s top tips for all students:

*Come to campus well before the semester starts. Giving yourself two or three weeks of lead time will help when applying for financial aid and ordering books and supplies.

*Meet with an academic advisor from the start so you don’t waste time taking classes outside of your degree track.

*Review class offerings and understand the difference between taking classes on campus and online.

*Know how you are going to pay for college. TCC is one of the most affordable options.

*Do a little bit of research on possible fields of study and think about where you may like to transfer.

*Don’t worry if your path is unclear. Community college is an ideal place to find your path.

*Know that TCC offers different class offering with 16-, 12- and eight-week classes.

Trio of Portsmouth high-schoolers bound for college as juniors thanks to dual enrollment

Gabrielle Hutchings, Brandi Porter and Jaylyn Richard trade stories about night classes, chemistry homework and not enough hours in a day to complete everything on their to-do lists.

The teenagers also revel in an achievement that will allow them to enter four-year colleges as juniors thanks to already earning associate degrees from Tidewater Community College.

Norcom High’s Richard is 17; Hutchings and Porter, both from Churchland High, are 18. They will receive the Governor’s Medallion, awarded to those who complete associate degrees by taking part in a dual enrollment program where they earn four semesters of college credit while in high school.

TCC’s Norfolk Campus awards its first Governor’s Medallion. Norfolk’s Jay Sellers earns an Associate of Science in General Studies.

Porter is bound for the University of Virginia, Hutchings, deferred at Princeton, is headed to San Diego State, and Richard will transfer to Old Dominion University. The three will wear their medallions as part of their academic regalia when they graduate from high school in June one month after graduating from TCC on May 12.

“My high school approached me for this and thought I was a really good fit,” said Hutchings, graduating with an Associate of Science in Science and planning to be a dermatologist. “I couldn’t deny that being two years ahead going into a four-year school wasn’t a good fit. This was going to be the hardest pathway I could take, and I know that’s what they’re looking for in college.”

Porter is blunt about her reasons for tackling a load that requires year-round and evening classes. “Saving money,” she said. “I had to think long term. If I didn’t do this, I would have looked back at all the money I could have saved.”

Porter, who will graduate with an Associate of Science in Social Sciences, wants to work at the Pentagon and is considering a public policy major.

Richard had an example to follow in her sister, Johnessa, the college’s inaugural Governor’s Medallion winner in 2015. Jaylyn remembers watching Johnessa grind through her challenging schedule and told herself “not me” at the time.

Then the cost savings hit home as did watching Johnessa shine. “At graduation time, I watched her and thought, ‘This is so amazing. I want to do that.’ ”

Richard was able to combine her load at TCC with playing soccer in high school and being active in DECA and Future Business Leaders of America. She credits improving her time management skills with helping her complete an Associate of Science in Science.

“I write to-do lists out every single week,” said Richard, who has applied to a scholarship program at ODU that would allow her to join the Coast Guard this fall.

All of them tout the diversity of ages they found in the TCC classroom and cherish the mentoring relationships they formed with favorite professors, too many to name.

“I have a list,” Hutchings said.

While they will leave for their next step with an associate in hand, they talk most about the confidence gained from reaching that milestone.

Hutchings admits college in California would have daunted her prior to attending TCC.

“I proved to myself I could do this,” she said. “Getting over all the hurdles and proving that I could be successful in college before having to leave my mom and move across the country is huge.”

Plenty of days, they had doubts, but each persevered.

“You have to tell yourself in the end, it’s going to pay off,” Porter said.

“It’s a lot of sacrificing,” Richard agreed. “You have to learn to forgive yourself and treat yourself. Every time I would pass a big test, I would go to Starbucks.”

Added Hutchings, “You’re not always going to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you do this. There’s a little bit of a leap of faith that has to occur. It’s not for everybody. But it’s definitely worth it if you can do it.”

Generally speaking, you can’t beat this transfer degree

And the most popular associate degree at Tidewater Community College is . . .?

If you answered general studies, well done! TCC’s Associate of Science in General Studies makes the transfer process easy with all your credits applied to your four-year university of choice.

Students follow a flexible curriculum that allows them to be a junior in college upon completion.

Here’s why more than 5,000 students at TCC are pursuing the general studies associate:

The buzz on this degree

You design your schedule by taking classes in all of the major disciplines, including science, history, social sciences, mathematics and the humanities, giving you the broadest possible foundation for your future.

“I recommend the general studies degree because it can be customized to meet specific requirements of four-year schools. We can match class for class and make college transfer a really smooth process,” said Rhonda Goudy, the transfer counselor at the Chesapeake Campus. “We can also clean up errors if a student chose a wrong class before seeing an advisor.”

General Studies sounds so, well, general. Could it work for me?

 The broadness of the degree makes it an ideal option for bachelor’s degrees at universities requiring specific coursework or prerequisites. The associate can pave the way for work in any area from law to psychology to political science to mathematics and management.

Here’s what our students say:

Chidinma Owuama

Childinma Owuama

The Navy spouse selected general studies because it provides a seamless transfer to Old Dominion’s bachelor’s in nursing. “It’s very good to be able to pick the classes you need. It has been awesome, but not easy. With a lot of hard work, determination and commitment, you can get there.”

Owuama hopes to be a physician’s assistant.

Kayla Hood

Kyla Hood

“I came here so I could save money on college. I really like the flexible classes and enjoy going to the gym in the student center whenever I’m on campus.”

Hood plans to transfer to a university to study special education.

Vance Reynolds

Vance Reynolds
“I decided to take this route because universities are more expensive. I’m getting my general requirements out of the way before moving to Old Dominion to study cybersecurity.”

Reynolds plans a career in homeland security.

Salvador Fuentes-Calderon

Sal Fuentes-Calderon
“I chose general studies because I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school, and this seemed like a good way to get started. I’ve really enjoyed the variety of courses, from world religion to sociology to psychology. This degree introduced me to new concepts and experiences that I’m taking with me.”

Fuentes-Calderon plans to complete his bachelor’s at Old Dominion and apply to the Chesapeake Police Academy.

About the curriculum

You will complete 38 credits of general education, including English, math, science and history. You will fill in the degree with 21 hours of humanities, social science and other approved electives. Along the way, you will gain an education that builds communications and critical thinking skills and research, analysis and problem-solving skills. Complete the 61 credits in as little as four semesters or take classes part time.

In addition, you can take day, evening and online classes on any TCC campus, or you can complete the program 100 percent online.

Where can you go?

 As we often say, from here you can go anywhere. With the required GPA, you can take advantage of transfer agreements with nearly every public college and university in Virginia and many private colleges, including:

  • University of Virginia
  • James Madison University
  • Old Dominion University
  • Virginia Tech
  • Norfolk State University
  • Regent University
  • Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Liberty University

Bonus: First-time college students who meet GPA and other requirements may qualify for a two-year transfer grant of up to $1,000 applied toward tuition for their junior and senior years.

Questions?  Contact TCC’s New Student Support Team at 757-822-1111.

The bzzzzzz on the fun of engineering from one of TCC’s own

In case you haven’t heard the buzz, it’s National Engineers Week, a seven-day celebration of all that engineers do to make our world a better place.

Take Tidewater Community College student Daniel Howard, for example, who not only wants to make his career in engineering, but has an innovative idea that could improve environmental sustainability.

The Ocean Lakes High School graduate, working toward his Associate of Science in Engineering at TCC, is also a beekeeper.

Daniel Howard and neighbor Clinton Noble capture a swarm of bees in Norfolk.

Howard’s interest in honeybees dates back to his family starting a farm in Appomattox, where his dad continues to grow hundreds of fruits and vegetables. The more plants you grow, the more that require pollination, which honeybees provide.

“If you have more pollinators, the hopes are that you’ll have more food for your crops,” he said. “Quicker pollination also helps the fruit grow faster.”

It’s estimated that in North America roughly 30 percent of the food humans consume is produce from bee-pollinated plant life.

In addition to maintaining a hive on the farm, Howard keeps 11 hives in the backyard of his Norfolk home. Here’s where the engineering part fits in.

With the help of TCC Professor Kenneth Grimes, Howard is working to design a more efficient foundation, the part of the frame on each individual hive where the queen lays her eggs and the bees build their comb.

The typical foundation sold by retailers contains hundreds of hexagon cells, 5.2 millimeters each. Using Inventor software and a 3-D printer, Howard’s prototype foundation contains even smaller cells, 4.6 millimeters to be exact, which, he said, are closest to the natural size and possibly more efficient.

It’s a trial-and-error, time-consuming process that puts his critical thinking skills to the test.

Close-up of Howard’s prototype foundation. 

“I don’t think there’d be any opportunity to do this at a bigger university, to foster this type of creativity,” Howard said. “I had this idea and Professor Grimes has worked with me.  It’s been a giant challenge.”

But the problem-solving aspect of engineering is why Howard went into engineering in the first place. After he earns his associate degree, he will go for his bachelor’s in civil engineering at Old Dominion University.

Bees, he hopes, will continue to be a hobby. Not surprisingly, he’s been stung, more times than he can count.

“Pretty much any time I go around the bees, I get stung, whether I’m suited up or not,” he said. “But it’s no big deal.”

Accelerated Degree puts your education in high gear

Interested in fast-tracking your education? Tidewater Community College’s Accelerated Degree may be for you.

TCC is accepting applications for students interested in earning an Associate of Science in General Studies in just one year through its Accelerated Degree program. Upon completion, students may transfer their credits to a four-year college or university to work toward bachelor’s degrees.

This five-session program satisfies freshman and sophomore general education requirements at most Virginia public colleges and universities. Students who complete the degree and meet the GPA required for admission at their transfer institution will likely be admitted as juniors.

“The Accelerated Degree gives students the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree in three years,” said Jeffery Boyd, provost of the Norfolk Campus. “It’s a great fit for recent high school graduates and adult learners who are motivated and disciplined.”

Accelerated Degree students attend classes in eight-week sessions on the Norfolk Campus for nearly one year to earn the necessary 61 credits. Classes are tentatively set to meet Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The academic schedule is:

Session I: Aug. 20 – Oct. 15, 2018
Session II: Oct. 17 – Dec. 14, 2018
Session III: Jan. 14 – March 11, 2019
Session IV: March 18 – May 11, 2019
Session V: May 13 – July 9, 2019

Students who participate in the accelerated program can save thousands by completing two years of college at TCC versus a four-year institution. In addition, students receive personalized attention with a low faculty-to-student ratio and regular academic advising.
Want to know more?
Prospective students must complete admission requirements that are specific to the Accelerated Degree. The first step is to apply for TCC admission, and then contact Cassandra Small for more information. Small can be reached at 757-822-1723 or

Need more help? Contact TCC’s new student support team at 757-822-1111 or

Visit for details.
Here’s what recent graduates are saying about the Accelerated Degree

James Pettway

James Pettway came to TCC after serving as a hospital corpsman in the Navy for five years. He selected the program because he wanted to get through school quickly. “I grew up poor and was the definition of, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I never even considered college before. I didn’t have the ambition or the drive. My first and only job before the Navy was at Walmart.”

While in the Navy, Pettway discovered his passion for medicine. At TCC, he learned he could be successful in the classroom. “When I got through those first courses, I realized that I was capable. I applied the same ambition and focus I used in the Navy to be successful. I did it because I put my head down and believed I could.”

Pettway is now at George Washington University studying nursing.

Stephanie Leggett graduated from Granby High in 2016, and while she took AP classes, she didn’t make the grades. She learned about the Accelerated Degree program from her high school guidance counselor.

Stephanie Leggett

“This program has shown me that I can accomplish great things,” she said. “I can get a degree in one year and things can get better. For me, it was important to be challenged so I wouldn’t get bored.”

Leggett excelled in the classroom and jumped into campus life. “The college is really diverse, and there’s a lot going on outside the classroom,” she said. “I see things differently now and believe anything is possible.”

Leggett transferred to Old Dominion. She wants to be an attorney to advocate for social justice.