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TCC alums pay it forward

Tidewater Community College alum, Tony Lankford, is passionate about giving back to the community that has always supported him. Tony received his Associate of Science in Social Sciences from TCC before following in his family’s footsteps as a third-generation barber. He is hard at work and owns Tony’s Unisex Salon in Norfolk.

Tony credits TCC with playing a large part in his success by introducing him to like-minded and hardworking people. He employs two barbers who are also TCC alumni. They are Kevin Whitlow and Christopher Wood, who earned Human Service degrees from the college.

The barber trio believes it’s their responsibility to help students who are following in their footsteps.

In the spirit of giving back, all three barbers provided free haircuts as part of TCC’s Suit Up program. The program, hosted by the Student Resource and Empowerment Center, is designed to help students prepare to have professional headshots which will assist in their job searches.

Tony says, “It is incredibly special to see TCC students interacting with alumni at the shop and watching them learn to carry themselves with professionalism. It’s very fulfilling to be able to give back to the community this way.”

Throughout his career, Tony has seen the importance of being a role model to the younger generation in the community and showing them that they can achieve anything. He says, “It’s very important to keep the conversations with the youth in the neighborhood full of purpose. They are learning from us, and I want them to see the importance of giving back.”

TCC alum launches non-profit focusing on mental health

Drew Ferebee found her purpose at Tidewater Community College.

“I never imagined that studying Human Services would be the most influential experience of my life,” she said. “My time at TCC helped me discover my passion and the faculty inspired me to walk in my purpose.”

The TCC alumna earned an Associate of Applied Science in Human Services in 2019 and went on to earn a bachelor’s in Human Services with a minor in children’s rights from Old Dominion University in 2021.

“I’m super thankful to my grandma who believed in me. She paid for my first semester at TCC,” Drew said. “I didn’t do well in high school, but once I got to TCC and found Human Services everything changed. I got super passionate and motivated and for the first time enjoyed learning.”

Drew credits Program Head Ivory Warren with keeping her on track and her advisors at TCC for connecting her with Human Services in the first place.

“Drew was a remarkable student and knew her purpose was to become that ‘Change Agent’ in people’s lives so that they could move toward the ultimate goal of becoming self-sufficient,” Warren said. “While pursuing her degree in human services, learning the applicable skills to add to her toolbox, she was unstoppable and always gave excellent insight, input and feedback during class discussions.”

While at TCC, Drew completed her program internship hours at Teens with a Purpose where she served as the community outreach coordinator. That experience sparked her interest in community service.

“I learned how to study and be a student at TCC. The college gave me a great foundation,” Drew said. “My professors were really patient and created a very personal experience for me.”

After graduation, Drew worked as a crisis intervention specialist for the YWCA and other agencies. Those experiences showed her that her goal was to find creative solutions for mental health challenges.

That’s why the 25-year-old Norfolk native recently launched INJOY, a non-profit with the mission of improving the quality of life for individuals through mental health awareness, advocacy and fun.

 It may sound like a tall order, but Drew says she’s up for the challenge.

The group’s first event was a “Feel Good Festival” in May attracting more than 300 attendees. The event marked Mental Health Awareness month and included artists and performers. In addition, community members were able to sign up for mental health counseling if needed.

“We wanted to create something for those who don’t have access to therapy,” Drew added. “My goal is for people to be okay where they are and to bring them hope and joy.”

This fall, INJOY offered a workshop on “Understanding Black Mental Health – A Community Wellness Event” in October, and in November they are hosting a “Healing Your Inner Child” event.

Drew’s other professional involvements include serving as an advocate for mental health at the Virginia General Assembly. In addition, she presented at the Mental Wealth Expo in New York and a Self-Care conference in Norfolk.

“My message is simple for those who come to INJOY events and others,” Drew said. “You don’t have to be that strong person doing everything alone. When you experience mental health issues lean in, don’t fall back. The best thing is to reach out for support.”

She added, “I am forever thankful for the foundation TCC set for me to be successful and serve my community.”

“I tell everyone looking to go to college to start at TCC” — Juanica Walker

Juanica Walker came to Tidewater Community College to train for a new career. Her goal was to be able to provide a stable life for her special needs son, Gianni.

She found her calling while working as a nurse aide and medical technician in private homes and facilities for the elderly and those with intellectual disabilities.

“As a nurse aide, I always found myself advocating for my patients and making sure they had the services they needed,” she said. “Whether that meant bringing them clothing, or a birthday cake, or connecting them with community resources.”

She added, “When I was considering a career switch, human services just made sense.”

Juanica, 32, was concerned about starting college in her late 20s, especially as a single mom with anxiety and depression. “At first, I thought I can’t do this. Then I realized if I can’t help myself, I’m not going to be able to help anyone else.”

Juanica connected with Human Services Program Lead and Professor Ivory Warren. And with hard work and persistence, she earned an Associate of Applied Science in Human Services in two years.

“Ms. Warren is one of those professors you don’t want to fail around. She makes you strive for success. She’s also a counselor and professor, offering us life advice while we learn in her classes.”

During this time, Juanica also found resources for Gianni, now four years old. With a set schedule and many doctors and therapists, he is thriving with his autism diagnosis. He will start kindergarten in the fall.

“I tell everyone who is looking to go to college to start at TCC. With the resources and helpful staff, you can start small and take steps toward your future.”

While studying at TCC, the college provided Juanica with a free laptop, Wi-Fi, financial assistance for her son’s daycare and meals through The Community Feed at TCC.

She also engaged with the community through the TCC Human Services Club and the Women Overcoming Whatever group.

Juanica is now working full-time for Jewish Family Services as a Guardian Representative. She has 30 clients that she helps connect with resources while taking care of their personal affairs and living situations.

“I recently connected one of my clients with a son that he hadn’t seen in years. It was a truly special moment when they saw each other again,” Juanica said. “Those moments make the stressful days all worth it!”

 Juanica is continuing her studies at Old Dominion where she says she is well prepared. “There are no surprise moments, everything rings a bell because of my start at TCC.”

Students receive support to stay on track at TCC

Tidewater Community College’s recent advertising campaign features the tagline, “We’re Here to Help.” And it’s true! TCC has helped thousands of students with internet access, free laptops, tuition assistance and emergency financial help.

By the numbers

Help came in many forms including:

  • A total of 1,029 students received internet access support.
  • More than 1,400 first-time college students and others received a free laptop.
  • A total of 3,589 students were helped with tuition assistance.
  • Emergency financial assistance was given to 115 students, providing help with critical needs.

Here’s what students are saying

Roschone Anderson-Felton was homeless and in need of food. TCC helped her with rent, utilities and connected her with the Community Feed at TCC for needed meals, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. She also received a free laptop and internet access through a program with Cox Cable.

Rocshone Anderson-Felton

“I went from having my own apartment to sleeping in my car or at other people’s homes. I washed up in McDonald’s. If I had not had TCC in my corner, I would not be anywhere near where I am. I have grown tremendously through the blessing of TCC. TCC is not just a school. It’s my family. I have a support network here – everyone from Dean Chestnut to the people of Open Door and the financial aid team.”

Anderson-Felton is well on her way to earning a human services degree. She has a job at the City of Chesapeake Department of Human Services. She also has a new apartment.

Christopher Petrice is at work on his Information Systems Technology degree thanks to a scholarship from TCC. He also received a free laptop.

Christopher Petrice

“The people in Open Door Project have put me on the road to a better future. They’ve been there to lend support every step of the way. If I’m stressed, they listen and provide strategies to help me balance school and work,” he said. “Also, the free laptop has been a lifesaver as I can plan out my studies better not having to go to the computer lab during the limited hours I’m not at work.”

Susan Brown-Clukey is a bus driver for a local school district. When her husband faced medical challenges that put him out of work, Brown-Clukey went back to school to pursue a higher-paying career. The mom of six is now at work on her associate degree in cyber security. She is using the G-3 scholarship which means, “Get a skill. Get a job. Get ahead.”

Susan Brown-Clukey

She also received a laptop and a hotspot and encouragement from the Student Resource and Empowerment Center (SREC). “I can now do school in between my runs, right on the bus. I don’t have to worry about a Zoom being dropped or losing what I’m working on when the internet goes out. I really appreciate the people at the SREC that helped keep me going. My son is also a TCC student and together we are going to finish TCC and from here go anywhere!”  

More information about The Community Feed at TCC is available at Additional information about the Student Resource and Empowerment Center is available by emailing Melvilyn Scott at

TCC selected as Best Value School for Human Services

Tidewater Community College received top honors from Best Value Schools for its Human Services program. The program ranked 11 out of 25 selected schools.

Best Value Schools considers factors like cost of attendance, faculty experience, student feedback, the number of online offerings, student resources, graduation rate, job placement and total enrollment.

Graduates from TCC’s Human Services provide support for teens in crisis, families, the elderly and others in need. Students learn basic counseling skills, crisis intervention, the management principles of human and social service, and the skills needed to address the needs of patients and clients. Taught by practicing human services professionals, the program includes two hands-on internships.

For information about TCC’s programs, email or call 757-822-1111.

TCC grad passionate about helping teens in trouble

Maya Johns dreams of opening a youth center for troubled teens. With her Tidewater. Community College degree, she is one step closer to making that dream come true.

Johns, 30, will graduate with her Associate of Applied Science in Human Services during TCC’s 71st Commencement Exercises to be held virtually on Dec. 21.

The Chesapeake native’s journey to a college degree included a few stops and starts. It wasn’t until her best friend enrolled in classes alongside her that the dream of a college degree began to take shape.

“I chose human services to help people,” Johns said. “In a world full of struggle and strife, a straight path is something we all long for. What better way to give back than to truly walk with someone on this journey, providing help and hope.”

Johns’ human services degree included internship hours at Teens with a Purpose, a youth organization empowering young people to use their voices, creativity and actions to affect personal growth, transform lives and impact communities.

 “In my background, I saw a lot of things happen that held my friends back,” she said. “I want to show them and others that there are opportunities out there. You don’t have to be a product of your environment.”

A single mom of two children, Johns recalls the struggle of juggling life, work and school.

“There were a few times when my children had to come to class with me and plenty of long nights,” she said. “We’d all be around the kitchen table doing homework and I’d feel so tired, but my kids looked at me like I was their superhero!”

Johns chose TCC for its Human Services program and for the smaller classes. “TCC has so much to offer, and the faculty and staff are rooting for you,” she said. “Even with my online classes, I felt a real connection to my TCC community.”

Johns credits professor Shelby Johnson for teaching real-world concepts. “Everything was a teaching moment with Professor Johnson. It wasn’t just textbook learning. She talked about what to expect in the field and the rewards that come from helping people.”

Johns plans to continue at Old Dominion University for her bachelor’s in human services.

Graduation week will include another milestone for Johns. She and her partner, Charles, will welcome a third baby next week.

“I want my kids to know that you never give up,” Johns said. “Be resilient and show strength, and take every opportunity that comes your way.”

“TCC fits into my schedule and is helping me build the life I always saw for myself”

Single mom Teosha Taylor is determined to make a difference.

Taylor, 34, is studying Human Services at Tidewater Community College. After graduating next spring, she hopes to establish a charity to help teen moms, runaways and youth who have been neglected and abused.

Taylor is passionate about being the light for youth who are the most vulnerable.

“This hits close to home for me,” she said. “I’ve been in a home where there’s abuse and some of my friends were runaways because of abuse. I saw first-hand the damage that can be done, so now I want to be part of the solution.”

She added, “I know how it is to be in certain situations, but I also know that those situations don’t have to define you.”

Taylor received two scholarships this fall, the Mary Ferrell Flickinger scholarship for $1,500 and the Barnes and Noble Textbook scholarship for $600.

“What a gift! Getting help with tuition, fees and books was tremendous!” she said. “It’s helped me keep pushing, to make it to the finish line next May.”

The mother of three concedes that balancing home life and school can be challenging.

“The best part of TCC for me is the supportive faculty, the open access to programs, and the online classes,” she said.

Taylor’s favorite professor is Melvilyn Scott because she takes the time to make sure students understand the concepts and she responds to every request for help.

Taylor is already using what she is learning at her current job as a patient care specialist at Sentara Health Systems.

“I love everything about the program, even the paper writing,” she said.

“TCC fits into my schedule and is helping me build the life I always saw for myself. What could be better than that?”

Spring scholarships are available now and most TCC students qualify for scholarships. Browse the list of opportunities at to find your fit.

Alumna’s agency providing needed mental health care during COVID-19 crisis

Alumna Glenda Benion is gearing up to provide even more help to those with mental health needs in Hampton Roads.

“The current COVID-19 crisis is certainly going to have an impact on the mental health of many in our community, and we are preparing for an uptick in service needs once the Commonwealth reopens,” she said.

Benion graduated from Tidewater Community College with a Human Services associate degree in 2015. Today she co-owns and manages TALK Family of Virginia, an agency providing mental health services for children, teens and adults in Hampton Roads.

“A lot of people are not going to come out of this on the good side as they are going through a job loss and weeks of lost income. Many are unsure of the future and in pretty dire straits.  All of this can impact mental health a great deal,” she said.

Opened for a decade, the family-run business employs 23 counselors who help with mental health skill-building, medication management, financial planning and personal hygiene support.

All appointments are virtual right now.

Benion said much of the work these days is helping clients with basic needs by referring them to other agencies in the region.

“It’s been tough not being able to be one-on-one with our clients providing the usual services that sometimes include intensive in-home care,” she said. “I continue to be grateful to our staff that gives so much of themselves to help others.”

Benion came to TCC for the Human Services program, which is designed to provide the education necessary for career advancement in human and social services. Students are trained in observation, intake and interviewing, implementing treatment plans, problem-solving, crisis intervention, case management and referral procedures. Internships are among the requirements. Ivory Warren is program head.

“I want to give a shout-out to Ivory Warren,” Benion said. “She was the best professor and certainly prepared me well for the work I’m doing.

 “The more I work with people, the more I see that mental illnesses are real and can be very challenging for families.”

Benion works with her husband, Ronald, a silent partner in the TALK Family venture, and Kevin Walton, her son-in-law, who serves as executive director. Her daughter, Andrea Walton,  is the program coordinator.

MLK scholarship recipient: “TCC literally saved my life.”

Jacquelyn Boykins grew up appreciating Martin Luther King Jr.

Today the 66-year-old Tidewater Community College student shares a bond with the legendary Civil Rights leader and reverend.

Boykins is the 2020 recipient of TCC’s Martin Luther King Jr., student scholarship, which will be presented at a ceremony presented by the Intercultural Learning Center at noon on Feb. 28 at the Portsmouth Campus Student Center.

Visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis where King was assassinated late last year moved Boykins. An unfinished cup of coffee on his nightstand inside the Lorraine Hotel and his parked vehicle out front made news footage she had watched and rewatched more personal.

“I’m no stranger to the struggle,” she said. “I lived in the era where we were not able to sit at the counter at Woolworth’s because of the color of our skin. I was one of three people who attended the seventh grade during the first years of integration. I lived through that era, but when I was at that museum, I became that era.”

Applying for the TCC scholarship was almost a calling for the human services student who offers this, “TCC literally saved my life.”

As a clerk for the Norfolk Redevelopment Housing Authority, Boykins witnessed firsthand how treatment of low-income residents with little or no education often left them frustrated. She had been in public housing herself and often felt on the other end of dispassionate treatment. It was a cycle she vowed to change through her own education.

When she applied to TCC, Boykins had been out of school for 50 years. She didn’t finish high school. Her grandparents raised her after she lost her mother at 17. She endured desperate times, surviving domestic violence and succumbing to a depression that led to chronic health problems, including diabetes.

She found assistance through the Open Door Project on the Norfolk Campus, and from here, Boykins thrived.

The federally-funded program helps students with academic performance while providing support services to keep them in school.

“I had never been to a live play; I had never been to a museum,” Boykins said. “TCC changed all that. My hunger for learning accelerated. What I love about TCC is that they’re there every step of the way to encourage you.”

Pleasantly surprised by her ability to make A’s in the classroom, Boykins is finishing up her associate degree in human services and she’d eventually like to transfer to Old Dominion University to work toward a bachelor’s in social work.

“I’d like to volunteer at facilities that don’t have funds to have a social worker,” she said.

Currently, Boykins is an advocate for Chesapeake Crossing, a senior community. She advises tenants of their rights and assists with any paperwork related to Social Security, social services, fuel assistance and voting.

The Chesapeake resident has three adult children, Lena Benn, Sid Boykins Jr. and Sidni Cooper and two grandchildren, John W. Benn III and Elaina Wilson.

She was accompanying Cooper, an author of historical romance whose pen name is Sidni B, to Memphis for a book signing when she visited the Civil Rights museum. She’ll never forget it.

“The somber atmosphere and reverence I felt for Dr. King while I was there – we clicked,” she said. “When I learned about this scholarship, I had no choice but to apply.

“I will use this money to better educate myself in helping people with their life situations.”