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Students and faculty provide hands-on help for Portsmouth senior

Tidewater Community College faculty Melanie Basinger, a 20-plus-year veteran physical therapist, started the non-profit, Therapy on the Move, to honor a close friend who spent the last four years of his life in a nursing home following multiple falls.

Basinger says her goal is to “stop seniors from falling and to allow them to live every day to their full potential, in their own homes with people they love, doing things that bring them joy.”

During one of the sessions, Basinger met Rosetta Man. The pair formed a bond and later Basinger and her students “adopted” the senior. The group meet at Rosetta’s home and complete service projects that enable her to continue to live independently.

Rosetta primarily uses a motorized wheelchair to get around, and therefore needs extra help with household maintenance. More than 15 TCC students and Basinger spent Saturday, Aug. 27, at Rosetta’s doing yard work, painting, cleaning, repairing a wheelchair ramp and even washing windows.

Basinger, the program lead for TCC’s Physical Therapy Assistant Program, recruited PTA students and even a volunteer from the Occupational Therapy Assistant program.

Student volunteers included: Caitlin Bardenhagen, Kelsey Bohlinger, Maggie Crumrine, Tiara Diamond, Jesse Eisenpress, Timberly Hinton, Chloe Ladi, Tabbi Leon, Jodi Neely, Iris Savant, Dianne Segura, David Sorrells, CJ Ugalde and Alyssa Ware.

Therapy on the Move is a seven-week fall-prevention program free of charge to seniors. The Portsmouth YMCA is their first community location.

PTA Program Lead Melanie Basinger with Rosetta Man.

Basinger’s motivation for the volunteer work is simple. “I love helping others live life to the fullest,” she said. “Making a difference in someone’s life is what gives my life purpose.”

The group plans to return soon to do some minor home repairs and they are working to get a donation of vinyl siding from Home Depot for Rosetta’s home.

TCC celebrates 74th Commencement Exercises with largest number of dual enrollment grads

It was a full house for Tidewater Community College’s 74th Commencement exercise held in-person for the second time since the start of the pandemic.

Family and friends gathered to celebrate more than 1,500 graduates at Chartway Arena on the campus of Old Dominion University.

Graduates were all smiles as they entered the arena to the resounding cheers of their loved ones.

The evening graduation on May 9 was presided over by President Marcia Conston.

President Marcia Conston with Allison Wilson, speaker for the graduates.

The speaker for the graduates, Allison Wilson, 17, who completed an Associate of Science in Social Sciences, is a dual enrollment student with her sights set on law school. She will continue at William and Mary to study English on a pre-law track.

“We decided to attend TCC to better ourselves and we’ve worked incredibly hard to be here today,” Wilson said in her remarks. “One of the biggest challenges was the pandemic and the move to online learning where we dealt with barking dogs, crying babies and horrible internet.”

Wilson continued by saying, “We will take the lessons learned and apply them to our future experiences. We will remember the respect shown to us and replicate it. When things get hard, we will remember our accomplishments and push forward. Congratulations graduates!”

This year, TCC had more dual-enrollment students earning degrees and certificates than ever before. Wilson is one of the 45 students earning associate degrees before graduating from high school this summer. An additional 98 high schoolers earned TCC certificates this year.

TCC Board Chair Cindy Free gave the Commencement address. A Hampton Roads native, Free is a TCC alumna who began her academic journey at TCC earning an associate degree in Physical Therapy Assistant in 1986.

Free is a member of the Atlantic Orthopedic Specialists Physical Therapy team. She has actively served on the College Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee, the Executive Committee, chaired the Advocacy Committee and TCC Educational Foundation, as well as served as Board chair since 2019.

“You have now earned degrees and certificates and the support of a school that will stick with you throughout your career,” Free said to the graduates. “Each of you has found your own way to thrive and gained the gift of confidence.”

She added, “I invite you to consider the opportunities that lie ahead and the raw materials of which you will fashion your life’s journey. Wherever life takes you, come back and see us and bring your stories and remind us that from here you really can go anywhere.”

The ceremony continued as families and friends cheered and snapped photos. Graduates crossed the stage and joined a TCC alumni network of 100,000 and counting.

If you missed graduation, you can watch the TCC livestream.

Marvin Fletcher and SaNayah Hill, father and daughter graduates, shared their story with News 3.

Live! Inside a Physical Therapist Assistant lab

In this series, we provide a closer look at hands-on learning during COVID-19.

While COVID-19 means online learning for most Tidewater Community College students, some are back in the classroom for hands-on training. In fact, more than 400 sections of classes in interior design, automotive, health professions, welding, veterinary technology, culinary arts, visual arts, electronics technology and other programs have on-campus components. 

Learning skills together

Inside the Regional Health Professions Center on the Virginia Beach Campus, physical therapy assistant students engage in multiple role-playing scenarios as part of their hands-on learning. Ever had an ankle taped following a sprain?

Second-year students practice on each other to prepare for their upcoming clinical rotations, which begin in November.  The simulation labs for the fall also include cervical pain due to whiplash, lower back pain due to lifting and anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. The students will be tested on 11 patient scenarios before they head to a clinical setting.

Student voices

“I researched PTA programs in the area, and TCC’s was the best one,” said Naomi Nevarez. “The graduation rate was super high, so I applied and here I am!” 

 “The hands-on aspect and being able to learn patient scenarios is my favorite part about this program,” said Cassie Noe. “The professors are always here to listen to you. If you are struggling, they are here to help you.” 

“This feels like less of a program and more of like a family,” said Phillip Leonard. “We are trying to make it through this program together, and that’s what brings us closer. The connections you make with the students and professors make it worth it.” 

 “TCC has the best reviews out of everyone that I talked to,” said Celeste Gilley. “The ones who really want to be a PTA do their research when looking for a program, and TCC’s PTA program had it all.” 

About the instructors

Melanie Basinger, program director, has been with TCC for 24 years. Basinger holds a bachelor’s in physical therapy from Ithaca College, a master’s in physical therapy from Old Dominion University and a doctorate in physical therapy from Shenandoah University.

Caitlin Culver at work taping a classmate.

“I love the energy of the students and the spark in their eyes when they get it,” said Basinger. “I love watching their success.”

Katie DiSanto, associate professor, earned a bachelor’s from Virginia Tech and a doctorate in physical therapy.

 “Seeing it come full circle in a clinical setting is my favorite thing about this program,” DiSanto said. “All the sacrifices and the hardships that you endure over the years are completely worth it when you can change people’s lives.”

Instructor Katie DiSanto with Melanie Basinger, program head.

Good to Know

Admission is competitive for TCC’s nationally accredited Physical Therapist Assistant program, as only 32 spots are available. Five pre-requisite programs are mandatory; Basinger also recommends applicants complete BIO 142 and a humanities elective. While the program requires 40 observation hours for admission, applicants with 200 hours or more put themselves in a better position to be accepted. Applications must be submitted by April 15.

“When you graduate from this program, you are going to be highly sought out by employers. This program is better than any other program in the area, and I would put my students up against anybody,” Basinger said. “We have high expectations of our students and this is a program of excellence not average.”

Sign up

The program offers a one-hour virtual information session the third Thursday of every month at 4 p.m. Email Basinger at to receive the link or for further information.

From here, go to work: Hickory alums find good jobs and buy a home after earning associate degree

Husband and wife Tyler and Sammi Walker both got hired while they were still students at Tidewater Community College. Graduating with zero debt allowed the Hickory High School sweethearts to become homeowners at Las Gaviotas.

 Sammi’s path: The 2015 Hickory graduate considered going away to college as her 4.2 GPA made her competitive at the best universities in the state. But researching the best physical therapy assistant programs led her to TCC, which boasts a 100 percent pass rate on the licensure exam.  “I’m Type A,” Sammi said. “I found the prerequisite classes before I graduated high school and started with them while I was at Hickory.”

Clinical rotations at three separate sites allowed her to discover her specialty, sports medicine. “I love how hands-on the program is,” Sammi said. “I got to hone my skills before I started my career. Almost everybody gets a job offer from their clinicals.”

 Tyler’s path: Tyler, 23, considered a military future but decided the computer science program at TCC fit his future better. He liked TCC’s small size, too. “It wasn’t so big,” said Tyler, who took classes at the Chesapeake and Virginia Beach campuses. “I was always afraid of getting lost, and TCC isn’t overwhelming.”

At TCC, he narrowed down his career path, “I learned I didn’t want to program. I’d like to work my way into network infrastructure.”

Their degrees: Sammi graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant, and Tyler earned his Associate of Science with a Specialization in Computer Science.

You’re hired! Tyler works at SLAIT Consulting, an information technology company, as a help desk analyst. Sammi is a sports medicine physical therapist assistant at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. She is chipping away at her bachelor’s in health services administration at Old Dominion University.

Added bonus: “I formed lifelong friends in the physical therapy program. We had the same classes together for two years,” Sammi said. “Now they all have jobs, too, I know 30 people working nearby if my patients ever need something I can’t provide.”

“The flexible schedule at TCC helped a lot,” Tyler said. “I was able to work and go to school at the same time, which saved money.”

The best part: “We have a house and a dog!” Sammi said. “We have no student loans. We’ve had our own home for a year thanks to the money we saved.”

How a personal training certificate turned Navy vet’s passion for fitness into a dream job

At 38 years old, Ann Scott retired from the Navy and needed a new career.

GI Bill benefits in hand, she explored a plethora of options at Tidewater Community College, which played to her love of learning by offering so many versatile programs.

That explains why Scott has an Associate of Science in General Studies to go with an Associate of Applied Science in Accounting along with her Career Studies Certificate in Accounting Technician. She also took classes toward an Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant, but then stumbled into a career field that was the natural fit all along.

Scott and husband Jeffrey are fitness buffs who would rather be in the gym than anywhere else.

“I’ve got 20,000 steps today, which is about normal,” she says, glancing at her Fitbit.

In addition to the physical benefits, both needed the social aspect the gym offers given the challenging transition from military to civilian life.

“Body pump and doing yoga really helped me adjust,” said Scott, whose final deployment in Iraq involved working for Gen. Petraeus’ Boots on the Ground operation.

Ann Scott student center
Scott works out at the gym in the Virginia Beach Campus Student Center.

When Scott discovered TCC’s Career Studies Certificate in Personal Training and Fitness, she was thrilled. She and Jeff both completed the 24-credit program on the Virginia Beach Campus that stresses anatomy, weight lifting, nutrition, health, communication and marketing together. Instructor Rachel Thompson became a mentor.

“I love how the human body works and you can apply it to anything you do – any sport, any physical activity,” she said. “Something as simple as good posture can impact having a strong core.”

They graduated in 2016, and while Jeff went on to be certified in massage therapy, Ann went to work in Virginia Beach Public Schools. While working as a substitute physical education teacher, she was hired as a cross country and track coach at Salem High. She did some substitute teaching, too, and was inspired when she saw the interaction between the kids at Old Donation School in Virginia Beach and Thompson, who works there as a physical education instructor.

“She was so good with them and they loved her,” Scott said. “I realized that would be a pretty good job.”

Scott got hired to teach physical education at Pembroke Elementary, where she has spent the last two years.

Scott stressed more than jogging and jumping jacks to her students. At Salem, she’d spy the high school athletes filling up on burgers, fries and soda before a meet and cringe. So she started showing up with a cooler of her own snacks – granola bars, pretzels, chocolate milk – healthy options that provided fuel instead of sugar. She also introduced high protein options to run clubs at the elementary level, and soon had youngsters more cognizant of what goes into their bodies.

Next month Scott is primed to start a new position as a physical education instructor at Old Donation. She’s realized her joy comes in impacting youth at an early age.

“You want health and fitness to be a lifelong thing,” she said. “If they find it and love it, they’ll do it for the rest of their lives.”