Skip navigation

TCC professor writes book about school safety

Antonio Passaro Jr., Ph.D., started as a TCC student and is now the department chair and professor of TCC’s Criminal Justice program. He is also a published author who recently celebrated a book release.

Passaro was a first-generation college student who started his education at TCC and credits the school as being the reason for where he is today. “I know the foundation I got at the college set me on the path for my career success,” he said. “TCC also fostered my lifelong love of learning.”

After receiving his associate degree from TCC, he followed his passion for criminal justice. He had a 16-year career in law enforcement before returning to school and eventually earning his doctorate in Higher Education Leadership with a secondary concentration in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University.

Throughout his time in law enforcement, Passaro learned that it is important to plan for every circumstance whether it be obtaining a search warrant or protecting schools from danger. This concept inspired him to write a book titled, “Investigating the Design and Implementation of Operational Safety Plans for Crisis at Higher Education Institutions.” The book focuses on the importance of having a safety plan for higher education institutions and regularly practicing what to do in case of an emergency.

Colleges have safety plans in place for a variety of circumstances, but Passaro says the plans are worthless if they are not practiced. “When the safety plan is practiced regularly, faculty, staff and students will know exactly what to do if an occasion arises,” he said. “They will be able to act immediately in an efficient manner that keeps everyone safe.”

The biggest challenge that Passaro faced when writing this book was the lack of existing research on the subject. He was able to overcome this challenge and become one of the first authors to publish a book on his topic. While being a trailblazer can be daunting, Passaro urges students aspiring to become authors to “move their fears away and be led by their dreams.”

“Once I found my passion, my education became the most fascinating ride of my life.” – Shelby Ouellette

Shelby Ouellette was working at Starbucks when the store hosted “Coffee with a Cop.” She enjoyed the interactions with police officers and the community so much she decided to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice.

“That day just sparked something in me that I wanted to do something to effect positive change,” she said.

Shelby, 21, selected Tidewater Community College because it was affordable and close to home. She began taking classes in December 2019.

Two years and a pandemic later, Shelby is graduating and will be the Student Speaker for TCC’s  Commencement Exercises on Dec. 20. She will walk the stage at Chartway Arena as she earns an Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice.

Shelby at TCC’s Norfolk Campus.

“When I was in high school, I wasn’t considered smart by my teachers and they had pretty low expectations for me,” Shelby said. “Once I found my passion and set goals, my education became the most fascinating ride of my life.”

Shelby started at TCC just before all students were moved to remote learning. Previously she had been unsuccessful with online college, so she was concerned that she would have difficulties again.  

“It was very hard at first, but my professors made it impossible to fail. As long as I did the work and attended classes online, I was able to keep the learning going,” she said.

Shelby attributes her success to professors who found innovative ways of teaching and leading important class discussions online.

“My favorite thing about TCC is that we were a community, even when we were only meeting in Zoom rooms online.  It was almost easier to engage classmates because everyone was comfortable in their own space while interacting virtually,” she said.

A member of Phi Theta Kappa, Shelby earned a 3.8 GPA at TCC and found full-time work as a legal assistant for a local law firm. 

She will continue her education through the Honors College at Regent University where she will study government and pre-law. 

Shelby also hopes to attend law school and one-day practice criminal defense. Her ultimate goal is a career in politics where she can help foster change in the criminal justice system. 

A Navy spouse, Shelby and her husband Payton are from a small town in Illinois and now call Virginia Beach home. The couple has three lively dogs to keep every day interesting.

Criminal Justice program changes coming soon

How do you influence needed change?

One person at a time.

That’s what inspired Tidewater Community College Professor Antonio Passaro, Ph.D., to suggest improvements to the Criminal Justice programs in Virginia’s Community Colleges, following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

“That incident sparked a passion in me to do something to change the curriculum. We’re training women and men for every police department in the Commonwealth and we have a civic and moral responsibility to reimagine how we train officers of the future,” Passaro said.

TCC Criminal Justice students with Professor Antonio Passaro.
Passaro with Criminal Justice students before the start of the pandemic.

As department chair of TCC’s Criminal Justice program with more than 16 years in law enforcement, Passaro was invited to participate in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) Law Enforcement Review Panel that launched in June 2020.

“As we were looking at things happening around our nation, it was clear that the communities we serve had a broken relationship with law enforcement, and we could do something to change that,” he said.

Passaro’s idea included a three-prong approach that included adding two required, three-credit courses to the curriculum – one in Community Policing and the other a Multicultural class. He also suggested a universal name change to Criminal Justice for all related programs in the VCCS.

Passaro was named chair of the VCCS Law Enforcement Curriculum Committee in Jan 2021 and worked with colleagues to develop the new courses.

“Community policing is an art. The idea is to get more police officers out of their patrol cars and involved in the community. Having conversations with citizens. Showing it’s not us against them, but a united effort. Making way to better community engagement and transparency,” he said.

In addition, according to Passaro, the Multicultural class is designed to engage students in a way that sparks “compassionate curiosity about the lived experiences and perspectives of other people.”

“Every student in our programs will have increased cultural competency. We have to ensure we are doing the right thing by all people,” Passaro said. “Police need to treat every citizen with dignity and respect and citizens have to respect law enforcement officers.”

Passaro is now co-chair of the Criminal Justice Community Partnership (CJCP), launched in June 2021 by the VCCS.

The CJCP is bringing together community organizations, criminal justice training academies, law enforcement leaders, and Criminal Justice faculty to engage in meaningful conversations focused on the identification and examination of emerging trends, best practices and opportunities.

In addition, the CJCP is taking the final steps before the new courses and name change will be adopted by the VCCS. The group is collecting input from college advisory boards and committees. They are also ironing out the logistics of how the new courses will fit into certificate and degree programs.

The group hopes to have the changes in place by Fall Semester 2022.

“Moving forward we’re making sure the students who complete the Criminal Justice program have extra tools in the toolbox and are well equipped to protect and serve their communities,” Passaro said.  “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done together to impact change in virtually every city in Virginia.”

Criminal Justice professor encourages students to follow their dreams

Antonio “Tony” Passaro Jr. spent the first fifteen years of his career working as a state trooper. He was later assigned to high-tech computer crimes for the Virginia State Police and held a cross-designation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency.

Today he is the Criminal Justice program director and department lead for the Norfolk Campus.

“I enjoyed my time in law enforcement, but I like what I’m doing now because I get to encourage students,” Passaro said. “Learning is a choice and it is my goal to mold aspiring minds.”

Passaro says his passion for criminal justice and law enforcement stems from his extensive training and police background, and his education. He holds a master’s in criminal justice with an emphasis in management and planning.

To get students interested in the subjects he’s teaching, Passaro conducts mock scenarios and gets students to answer pertinent questions. “I encourage them to think critically about what we’re learning and then share their conclusions. This creates a great dialogue in the classroom and that’s what students will ultimately remember,” Passaro said.

The Criminal Justice program is offered on all four of TCC’s campuses and online. “Working with faculty on the other campuses is definitely a highlight,” he said.

To remain pertinent to the curriculum, Passaro does plenty of research. “In the classroom, we look at everything from controversial issues like the legalization of marijuana, to the ever-changing traffic laws,” he said. “I tell my students that knowledge is power and the more you know, the better prepared you will be for your future department.”

“In every class I teach, I encourage students to go beyond their comfort zones and expand their critical thinking to help them become better investigators,” Passaro said. “I want them to find work they love and not let anyone stand in their way, and believe by faith that everything will work out.”

In his free time, Passaro uses his investigative experience to act in true crime shows on the Investigative Discovery channel, making appearances in “Wicked Attraction,”  “Ice Cold Killers,” and “Last Moment of Clarity.”

Passaro is at work on a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership with an emphasis in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University. He will complete the program in December 2020.

He is also a member of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and serves with the NASA Federal Law Enforcement agency at Langley Research Center having successfully completed training at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Nine from TCC earn recognition from All-Virginia Academic Team

Nine Tidewater Community College students have been nominated to the Phi Theta Kappa 2019 All-Virginia Academic Team.

They are Dakota Bernacki and Katelyn Solis from the Chesapeake Campus; Charleston Yancey and Jeffrey White from the Norfolk Campus; Cynthia Law and Jordan Caravas from the Portsmouth Campus; and Alethea Lim, Christopher Metzger and Jason Yarbrough from the Virginia Beach Campus.

They will represent the college this spring when Virginia’s Community Colleges will recognize them and other team members from across the state at an awards luncheon in Richmond. From that group of community college students, 10 will be eligible for national awards.

Dakota BernackiDakota Bernacki

 Homeschooled through high school, the Windsor resident graduated from TCC in December 2018 with an Associate of Science in Engineering and a 4.0 GPA. Bernacki worked at his small “geek squad” business while earning his degree. “My professors were phenomenal,” he said. “It wasn’t easy — it’s engineering — but it was definitely worth it. Starting at TCC was the right choice for me.” Bernacki will work toward his bachelor’s in computer engineering from Old Dominion University or Virginia Commonwealth University this fall.

Jordan CaravasJordan Caravas

The Smithfield High School graduate is earning her Associate of Science in Science. She holds a 3.8 GPA and plans to transfer to Christopher Newport University to work toward her bachelor’s in organismal biology when she graduates in May. “I really like it here,” she said of TCC. “They have everything I need here; classes have been great.”

Cynthia LawCynthia Law

The first generation college student will graduate with her Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice in May and will remain at TCC to complete her Associate of Science in Social Sciences. Law initially wanted a career in forensics, but her work-study job at TCC opened her eyes to something that interested her more. “I really want to do something hands-on with people, and I love children,” said Law, who holds a 3.89 GPA and plans to transfer to Old Dominion.

Alethea LimAlethea Lim

The Landstown High School graduate will finish with an Associate of Science in Science and an Associate of Science in Social Sciences. The student ambassador on the Virginia Beach Campus holds a 4.0 GPA and plans to transfer to Old Dominion this fall and major in biology. “TCC offered me a full scholarship paying for my tuition,” she said. “The college has given me more opportunities to learn while giving back to my community. I really enjoy how personal the professors can be and how understanding they are.”

Christopher Metzger

The Richmond resident will graduate with an Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Management. Metzger chose the TCC program because it is accredited by the licensing body for health information management. “I’m looking to do data analytics or something with medical research,” he said. He holds a 4.0 GPA and is planning for a future in the Sentara system.

Katelyn SolisKatelyn Solis

The Great Bridge High graduate came to TCC with no firm career goals. Now she plans to be an anesthesiologist. She will graduate in May with an Associate of Science in Science and a 3.7 GPA. She works as a pharmacy technician and volunteers with Edmarc Hospice for Children. She plans to transfer to Virginia Tech to earn her bachelor’s in biology and later apply to medical school. “I encourage students to take advantage of everything TCC has to offer,” she said. “I found a lot of help with the First Year Success advisors and at the Learning Assistance Center, where tutoring is free.”

Jeff WhiteJeffrey White

 Unsure about his career goals, the pro tem of Norfolk’s Student Government Association took a year off to travel abroad before coming to TCC. He found his path and earned a 4.0 GPA and an Associate of Science in Science in December 2018. Now studying biology at Morehouse College, White plans to attend medical school and pursue a career as an endocrinologist.

Charleston YanceyCharleston Yancey

 The vice president of Norfolk’s Student Government Association will graduate in May with his Associate of Science in Social Sciences. The Norfolk native developed a love of public speaking at TCC in Professor Jaclyn Randle’s public speaking class. “She the greatest teacher I ever had,” he said. “My time at TCC has been transformative, and I benefitted a lot from taking her class.” Yancey, who holds a 3.85 GPA, plans to transfer to Virginia Wesleyan University.

Jason YarbroughJason Yarbrough

 The hospital corpsman from the U.S. Navy graduated with his Associate of Science in Science last fall and will graduate with an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts in May. He is already enrolled at Old Dominion where he is pursuing a bachelor’s with a pre-med concentration. “My experience with TCC has been nothing but positive,” he said. “I thoroughly appreciate the way the availability of classes is administered. The scheduling allows for nontraditional students, like me, convenience and range. The professors are also very mindful of their students’ time beyond the classroom, cooperate when needed, and are more than understanding of certain unforeseeable circumstances.”  Yarbrough holds a 4.0 GPA at TCC.

She didn’t have a bed, enough food or even a car. At TCC she found a home and a future

Jeanine Anderson isn’t going to walk at Tidewater Community College’s graduation.

“I’m going to dance,” she says jubilantly.

On Dec. 17, she will accept her Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. She’s tacking on an additional semester of classes to complete her Associate of Science in Science, which will allow her to transfer to Old Dominion University next fall.

Anderson, 45, triumphed over living out of a car only to have it towed away with most of her belongings inside. She’s been hungry enough to rationalize pouring a pint-sized can of sausages into her purse while inside a discount store.

She’s found creative ways to get to class minus reliable transportation. She regularly made her way to the Portsmouth Campus hours before her 8 a.m. class so she could catch a ride with a friend en route to his shipyard job.

When the New Jersey native didn’t have money to join Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), she mopped floors until she saved up the $85.

Anderson arrived at TCC broken and leaves it whole thanks to a village of mentors and resources that contributed to her journey. She rattles off the names of women who are mentors – administrators Karen Moore and Okema Branch, deans Dana Singleton and Jenefer Snyder and Provost Michelle Woodhouse.

Jeanine Anderson with mentor Dana Singleton.
Jeanine Anderson with mentor Dana Singleton.

“I finally feel like I am in a place where nobody wants to hurt me,” Anderson says. “Nobody laughs at me for feeling or doing or saying anything. This is a very safe space for me. TCC is home.”

It took three tries before Anderson actually walked through the doors at TCC. Her life had turned into a rollercoaster after a messy divorce forced her to leave New Jersey when she lost her home to foreclosure.

Her mother lived in a low-income one-bedroom apartment in Suffolk. The two weren’t close, but it was a place where Anderson could shower and sleep on the floor on particularly cold nights.

A 2006 blue Chrysler Sebring convertible became her bed and closet. “I couldn’t use it as a convertible,” she says. “All my stuff was in it.”

Anderson searched for jobs but found none. She had worked before – in fast food, at a call center and teaching preschool in an underprivileged area. But nobody was biting this time around.

“No one would even hire me to scrub toilets at 4 in the morning,” she says.

Anderson knew a degree would be the game changer for her future. When she worked up the courage to go inside Building A in Portsmouth, she met Moore.

“My fairy godmother, my Glinda from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” she says.

Moore walked her through the admissions process and helped her navigate domicile issues for financial aid as Anderson had no recent income tax records. She also directed Anderson to Open Door Project, a federally funded support program for first-generation college students.

“I realized there were others like me who needed help,” she says.

Anderson was a sponge from her first semester at TCC in August 2016. She met Eric Styles, a financial aid coordinator, who chose her to be the emcee of an Open Door leadership conference. She promised herself never to turn down an opportunity to grow.

“I was terrified; they were impressed,” Anderson says.

Styles introduced Anderson to Woodhouse and Branch. Anderson connected with Singleton, too, all women who exemplified the type of person she wanted to be.

“I gleaned whatever I could from them – how to talk, how to dress,” Anderson says. “I grew up in a family full of women, but nobody taught me anything. I came here looking for advice and guidance and took everything they had to give.”

During her third semester at TCC, Anderson became president of Portsmouth’s Student Government Association behind a platform that encouraged inclusivity. She got an invite for PTK, the honor society for two-year college students.

“The application fee was $85 and I didn’t have it,” she says. After a few months of odd jobs, she collected enough and is now an active member who helps out with marketing.

Anderson has been a Work-Study student for TCC Professor Rick James and a student teacher for criminal justice, a field she plans to continue in by studying for her bachelor’s with a minor in criminal psychology.

“I want to counsel,” she says. “I want to be an advocate for young people who go through the adjudication process. Even though we’re a society of convicts, we’re not a society of people who understand the Constitution.”

From here, all that will be possible. She’s now the example for daughter Kennedy and granddaughter, Sa’rai, 2.

“I feel loved and accepted here,” Anderson says. “At TCC, you’re pushed and stretched and disciplined and rewarded. You’re inspired and empowered. Here you find the courage to attain your goals.”