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STEM scholar overcomes many obstacles to earn degree

Tidewater Community College STEM Promise scholar Rachel Roszko never thought she’d go to college. But when she took her son to tour Old Dominion University, she was inspired to pursue higher education as well.

“Going to school tuition-free made my dream possible. TCC would not have been an option for my family even if we ate PB and J sandwiches every day,” Rachel said. “Earning a full scholarship also gave me the boost and confidence to conquer college.”

The Air Force veteran will earn an Associate of Science in Science this May. The journey has been fruitful, but not easy.

Rachel, 43, has faced serious health concerns including a cancer scare, a heart arrhythmia requiring surgery, and a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, as a stay-at-home mom of three, including a special needs child, the demands on her time are also very real.

“Having so many medical issues and caring for my daughter can make it difficult to get out of the house,” she said. “But after enrolling at TCC, I had a full day of school in real time and that was a huge help to my mental health.”

Rachel is thankful that she could complete the bulk of her degree online. “Caring for my daughter and dealing with PTSD made it difficult to be in a traditional classroom program,” she said. “But with my online classes and teachers using document cameras and technology, it was like having a front-row seat in every class.”

She added, “My professors were supportive and worked with me through every situation. If I had a panic attack and had to leave class, my teachers were there making sure I was okay,” she said. “They are very human and understanding.”

With a passion for animals and conservation, Rachel hopes to parlay her degree into a career teaching biology. She will continue working on a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology at Oregon State University online.

Rachel’s latest rescue transport was a cormorant.

In her free hours, Rachel volunteers with local rescue agencies including Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge and Tidewater Wildlife Rescue. She picks up animals in trouble and transports them to local rescue centers or veterinarians. She has recently helped an opossum, a pelican, a baby cooper’s hawk and a cormorant find safe havens.

“I’ve always been an animal person but growing up I didn’t think I was smart enough for college,” Rachel said. “When I started homeschooling my kids, I fell in love with science. Once I took my first biology class at TCC, I was totally hooked.”

Rachel’s family is proud of her success. Her husband Bernie and children Rosie, Anthony, and Eden are her biggest cheerleaders. “I wanted my kids to see that there’s not ever a completely closed door and paths have forks in the road,” she said. “It’s never too late to do something you love.”

TCC’s STEM Promise Scholarship program is accepting applications now through March 31. STEM Promise covers all tuition and fees for four semesters at TCC. Students who complete their degrees transfer to their selected universities as juniors. To learn more about the program visit here.

MLK scholar plans a career in nursing

Hakeem Folahan Akinleye was inspired by the work of Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. while growing up in Nigeria. He relocated to the United States with his parents in the fall of 2021 and started at Tidewater Community College the following spring.

“The ideals of Dr. King influenced me greatly. He was a great man who knew that if you want change you have to let your voice be heard,” Akinleye said. “He is one of the reasons I study hard and keep my grades up. I want to have an informed voice and help bring change where I can.”

Hakeem, 20, is the 2023 recipient of TCC’s Martin Luther King Jr. student scholarship, which will be presented during a ceremony on Jan. 17 at the Portsmouth Campus Student Center. The award, now in its 21st year, is designed to recognize a student who best exemplifies Dr. King’s vision and philosophy in his call for unity and equality for all.

“This award is going to have a huge impact on my life. It instills an even greater desire to do more for the next person,” he said.

“One thing I learned from Dr. King is that there is always a chance to do better. All it takes is determination and hard work and togetherness and we can make things as right as we want them to be.”

Hakeem holds a 4.0 GPA and is working on an Associate of Science in Science.

Hakeem helps his classmates as a science and math tutor. He also serves on the Student Government Association and helps with Portsmouth Campus events.

Future plans for Hakeem include nursing school and career dedicated to making a difference in the community.

“I have always been invested in the health sciences since I was little, and my interest only grows by the day. Also, considering how there are very few black male nurses in the country, I wish to try and change that,” Akinleye said. “I also feel like I’m representing my family by pursuing a career dedicated to helping people.”

Hakeem says his family is his biggest supporter. “My mom has always believed in me and pushed me. My brother also helps me and my dad motivates me to do better,” Akinleye said. “My extended family supports me, too, and they are all very proud. I am humbled and honored by it all.”

Nursing grads passionate about providing quality care

Jennifer Froscher and Tahani Amareen are soon to be proud Tidewater Community College Nursing graduates. They started in the program during the pandemic, desiring to help their community when the need was great.

Their cohort, which usually has 60 students, started with 29 because of the limited clinical spots available in busy hospitals. They are among 22 nursing students graduating this December.

Jennifer Froscher on the Portsmouth Campus.

Jennifer Froscher’s story

Jennifer is following her mother and grandmother into nursing.

“I was in second grade when mom started nursing school. She’d bring me to lectures and I’d color or read while she learned,” Jennifer said. “It made an impression when she became a nurse at 41.”

Jennifer, too, is on track to become a nurse at 41. This December she will walk the stage during fall commencement and earn an Associate of Science in Nursing.

“The nursing program is extensive because you have to be able to understand what is happening to people physiologically to be able to help them,” she said. “There were a lot of tears that first semester. I had to change my critical thinking process and learn to think like a nurse.”

For the past decade, Jennifer has worked in the health professions, first as an Emergency Medical Technician and later as a Nurse Aide. She currently works as a Care Partner at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in the neurology Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

TCC’s nursing program includes clinical rotations in area hospitals and clinics. Jennifer completed her training at Sentara as a nurse in training in that ICU unit.

“I’m so thankful to get this degree. I’m prepared to go into the workforce and be a competent nurse,” she said. “That’s absolutely critical when you are dealing with people’s lives.”

Jennifer says that her education was very personal and her professors were dedicated to her success. “Your professors know you and can tell you exactly what to work on to become proficient,” Jennifer said.  “And while they can be tough, they match that with great caring and professional experience.”

Jennifer has already been offered a full-time nursing position in the ICU where she currently works.

“I’m excited to get started,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been everyone’s kid sister and now I get to be a nurse working with people I enjoy in a place I’m very comfortable. It’s a real gift.”

Tahani Amareen’s story

Tahani Amareen near at TCC’s nursing school.

While Tahani was on Tidewater Community College’s Portsmouth Campus working on her Associate of Science in Science, she met a lot of students who were in the nursing program.

“I started thinking about my path and I could see myself as a nurse. So, I completed one degree and started again,” Tahani said.

Fast forward two years and Tahani, 22, is earning her second degree – this one in nursing. She is concurrently working on her bachelor’s in nursing through Old Dominion University.

A native of Palestine, Tahani came to the United States when she was eight. When it was time for college, she followed her brothers to TCC, where they both earned Information System Technology degrees.

“I think it’s important to give back to the community and help out as much as possible,” she said. “With the nursing shortage, I know I’m definitely needed.”

The Chesapeake resident says that she was a little nervous about her clinical rotations at the start. “It’s a little nerve racking going in with no experience, but each opportunity helped me gain confidence in working in the hospital setting.”

Tahani is planning to work on a medical-surgical unit to start but would one day like to work with children. “I’m passionate about this work,” she said. “I look forward to being a helping hand in the community.”

Tahani and Jennifer in the medical simulator on Portsmouth Campus.

Grad finds path to new career in genetic counseling

Brook Ogden says the TCC tagline, ‘From here, go anywhere,’ rings true. “I was in a job I didn’t enjoy. Now I’m on a path for a career I’m excited about,” she said.

Brook spent her 20s working for a real estate company. She considered becoming a broker and even passed the state licensing exam. “That small accomplishment gave me the courage to believe in myself and propelled me forward,” Brook said.

Today, Odgen, 30, has clear career goals and a passion for serving others.

She will walk across the stage during Tidewater Community College’s 74th Commencement at Chartway Arena and earn an Associate of Science in Science.

Brook has her sights set on the emerging field of genetic counseling, where she will help people live healthier lives by checking genetic markers. ““I’ll be starting in a relatively new field of science and be able to help people invest in their health and future,” she said.

Brook encourages other women to consider the STEM fields. “I had four different science labs and I learned so much in each one. That knowledge will be foundational for my future learning,” she added.

Brook started at TCC’s Chesapeake Campus because it was right down the street from her home and the campus was small enough to not feel overwhelming. “I’d been out of high school for so long, and something about the small classes and being able to talk with professors was really appealing,” she said.

And while Brook didn’t apply herself in high school, she was a top performer at TCC, earning a 3.9 GPA.

A work-study student in the Chesapeake Campus Student Center, Brook says she gained a lot of leadership experience and new skills. She said, “It was challenging and like no job I’d had before. But the best part was the people who became like family.”

Brook sends a shout-out to history Professor Kevin Brady. “He was my favorite teacher ever. His storytelling abilities are legendary and he cares about his students, and it shows,” she said.

This summer Brook is putting her biology degree to work and interning with Chesapeake Mosquito Control Commission. She will be working alongside biologists to study local mosquito populations and monitor mosquito-borne diseases.

A native of Blacksburg, Virginia, Brook is continuing her studies at James Madison University where she will earn a bachelor of science in biology. She also hopes to continue for a master’s degree.

“My professors captivated me and instilled a love of learning and I’m really grateful to TCC for all they’ve done for me,” Brook said.

Brook and her husband, Mike, have two pups – a Great Dane, named Iris, and a toy Poodle, called Pooh. They are excited to return to the mountains of Virginia and look forward to hiking and spending time with family.

“Now that I’ve been at TCC for two semesters, I can say it was the best decision ever.” — Rachel Dunn, TCC student

Rachel Dunn is proud to be a Tidewater Community College Student Ambassador and Outstanding High School Graduate Scholar.

“I never really considered community college until my godmother encouraged me to apply,” Rachel said. “Now that I’ve been at TCC for two semesters, I can say it was the best decision ever.”

As an Outstanding High School Graduate Scholar, Rachel is earning her associate degree in two years and paying zero for tuition and fees.

“I started at the community college understanding that it would be a slower pace and I could gather myself and get ready for my four-year school,” she said.

Rachel Dunn at the Portsmouth Campus Student Center.

This scholarship includes required volunteer hours on campus, but Rachel sees this as another benefit. She engages prospective and current students during campus events and also works in the Portsmouth Campus Students Center.

“In the time I’ve known Rachel, I’ve seen how well she manages multiple responsibilities from maintaining a high GPA, to serving as a student ambassador, to caring for younger siblings and working a part-time job,” said Charlene Taylor, Student Center staff member. “I’ve never seen her shy away from a task and she is always willing to serve.”

The student ambassador program also includes leadership training, mentoring and public speaking. All of these opportunities add to the learning curve, especially the soft skills necessary for many careers.

Rachel got her start at the college while she was still in high school. She took dual enrollment classes as a senior at Churchland High. “I was nervous about college, but all that changed after my first class,” she said. “My professor was supportive and encouraging. It helped with my confidence and was just what I needed.”

Rachel is enthusiastic about animals and hopes to one day be a veterinarian. Her work at TCC gave her the courage to begin shadowing a travelling veterinarian in the area.

“I tell everyone no matter how uncomfortable you may be, get out there and give TCC a try,” Rachel said. “The people will be kind to you and the school is like a family. You can’t go wrong coming here.”

In her free time, Rachel spends time with her dog, Cody. She also enjoys hanging out with friends, bowling and helping the Churchland High softball team with their training. Rachel is a former player and was captain of the team during her senior year.

The deadline to apply for the Outstanding High School Graduate Scholarship is April 8, 2022. For more information, contact TCC’s Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111. To learn more about TCC’s dual enrollment program, visit here.

“TCC was a good fit for my mom and it’s been great for me, too.” — Danielle Paitsel

Danielle Paitsel is following in her mother’s footsteps and starting her higher education at Tidewater Community College.

For Danielle, watching her mom, Angelica, flourish as a radiographer, compelled her to find her own path into the health professions.

“TCC was a good fit for my mom and it’s been great for me, too,” Danielle said. “I’m pretty excited to earn my degree so quickly.”

At 19, she is just weeks away from graduating with an Associate of Science in Science and a Career Studies Certificate in Pharmacy Technician.

As a TCC STEM Promise Scholar she will leave the college with no student debt.

“My ultimate goal is to become a pharmacist because I want to help people who may not be able to afford their medications,” Danielle said. “I don’t think people should have to choose between their prescriptions and other necessities.”

Both Danielle and Angelica are among the growing number of women who work in the health professions. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women account for three-quarters of full-time, year-round health care workers today.

Danielle is completing her pharmacy technician internship and says she is well prepared for the work ahead.

In fact, she is one of 25 students nationwide selected for the Phi Theta Kappa Walgreen’s Pharmacy Technician Certification Scholarship. This means she will be pay zero to sit for the national exam.

Danielle plans to work as a Certified Pharmacy Technician while pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. She also hopes to attend Pharmacy School at VCU.

“There are so many good things about TCC. You can take a lot of different classes and work them into your degree,” she said. “But my favorite thing was the people.”

“I tell everyone to come to TCC and make a plan. If you have to drop a class, that’s okay. Your mental health is important, too.”  

TCC’s STEM Promise Scholarship program is accepting applications now through April 1. STEM Promise covers all tuition and fees for four semesters at TCC. Students who complete their degrees transfer to their selected universities as juniors. To learn more about the program visit here.

Apply now for TCC’s STEM Promise Program

High school seniors, adult learners and military-related students who want to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) can apply to Tidewater Community College for a scholarship that pays four semesters of tuition and fees in full.

The TCC Women’s Center STEM Promise Program will award 20 scholarships for the 2021-22 academic year. Recipients will graduate ready to enter a career or to transfer to a four-year college to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

 “Demand for workers with skills in higher-paying STEM fields is expected to continue to outpace demand for non-STEM workers over the next decade,” said program coordinator Jaedda Hall. “This program is designed to create a larger and more diverse STEM workforce pipeline for our local area and beyond.”

STEM Promise Program scholars benefit from TCC’s smaller class sizes, specialized support from advisors and STEM career exploration and mentoring from the college’s Women’s Center.

You may qualify if you:

  • have a high school GPA of 3.5 or higher (or GED equivalent);
  • are eligible for in-state tuition;
  • place into College Composition (English 111) and PreCalculus (Math 161) or higher;
  • have earned no more than 24 TCC credits at the time of application submission.

Scholarship recipients must enroll as full-time students in one of the following TCC programs:

These associate degrees transfer to bachelor’s programs at four-year institutions. Graduates may be eligible for a Two-Year Transfer Grant from Virginia’s Community Colleges, which provides up to $3,000 annually for STEM students who complete their final two years at select universities in the Commonwealth.

Although the scholarship is aimed at women and minorities, anyone can apply. The deadline is April 1, 2021.

Interested students must first apply for admission to TCC. From there, they can apply for the scholarship by visiting

For more information, contact the Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111 or email

From a TCC commercial to Juris Doctor

Whatever happened to the girl in the Tidewater Community College commercial?

Chances are you’ve seen the TV spot that first aired in 2016 featuring Elissa Sanford, whose 4.5 high school GPA and AP credits would have stacked up for admission to just about any college.

But the Hickory High graduate chose TCC, where she graduated with an Associate of Science in Science and no student debt. She transferred to Old Dominion for a bachelor’s in biology.

As the 30-second ad trails off, Sanford talks about her next step — medical school.

Four years later, Sanford’s no MD. She’s a JD, instead, earning a Juris Doctor degree from the William and Mary Law School in May. Today the 26-year-old is a junior associate at Oblon, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, headquartered in Alexandria. The firm, located across the street from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is among the largest in the nation that focuses exclusively on intellectual property.

Sanford couldn’t be happier about the journey that started “from here.”

As a high school senior, her friends prodded her to go away to college, but when she did the math, it didn’t add up. Instead, Sanford finished all of her general education requirements at TCC, so she could begin ODU as a junior. As a recipient of the Outstanding High School Graduate Scholarship, she attended tuition-free.

“Ultimately, I had to make the decision for myself, which is something you have to learn how to do,” she says. “I realized there was no point in going away because I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I didn’t see the point in wasting all that money while I tried to figure it out.”

As a student ambassador for the Chesapeake Campus, Sanford enjoyed the service aspect. She was a mentor to high school seniors, who she sometimes saw herself in. “Just being able to sit down with someone who was frustrated and helping them out was really rewarding,” she says.

More than the small class size at TCC appealed to her. She felt that the professors invested in her, particularly her human anatomy and physiology professor, who helped her find a direction. For a while, that appeared to be medicine.

“I had always done well in the sciences, so the medical school route was recommended,” she says, and it almost happened.

But shortly after graduating from ODU, she was less than enthusiastic about actually working in a medical setting.

But how things work — now that intrigued Sanford, who decided law school offered a better fit. She compares the problem-solving elements of patent law to piecing together a puzzle. The science to the process fascinates that part of her that once wanted to be a brain surgeon.

“You have to be able to sit down and look at an invention and figure out how it works,” she said.

Sanford interned for her current firm the summer prior to her final year in law school. By summer’s end, she had an offer — a commitment the firm kept despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working remotely is a challenge at times, but Sanford applies those same study skills she learned at TCC to practicing patent law.

“The habits you develop early carry on, and I learned a lot of my study skills and time management skills at TCC,” she says.  “I love my job and I am grateful to have found such a stimulating and rewarding career. It all started at TCC.”

From here, he designed a future, Muggle Dreams and all

When 22-year-old Marc Steinberg showed up in Norfolk with only a duffel bag underneath his arm, he wasn’t exactly college material.  

He spoke Hebrew more easily than English. Though born in New York, he grew up attending vocational school in Israel. 

Hampton Roads appealed to him because he wanted to get to know his father, a Virginia Beach oncologist. He also had a strong desire to pursue higher education. Earning his GED at an adult learning center enabled Steinberg to enroll at Tidewater Community College, admitting, “It wasn’t easy in the beginning.” 

Back then, he couldn’t have envisioned that an associate degree would pave his path to the University of Virginia and MIT let alone jobs in Hollywood and on the design team for Universal’s latest Epic Universe theme park in Orlando. 

“TCC gave me the tools to start my career,” said Steinberg, who spent three years in military service in Israel. “I was very motivated, and it helps if you’re motivated. TCC gives you the tools to advance yourself. If I had applied to UVA right away, I wouldn’t have gotten in. I needed to be with good people to learn and grow. TCC was that steppingstone.” 

His early mentors came from the math lab on the Virginia Beach Campus. 

“So many times, I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “I literally lived there. I did all my homework in all my courses in the math lab and made lots of good friends.” 

Steinberg graduated with an Associate of Science in Science and was accepted into the University of Virginia, planning a pre-med route.  One organic chemistry class later, he realized medicine wasn’t for him. Becoming an architect was something of a childhood dream, so he switched majors to pre-architecture, studio art and Middle Eastern Studies. 

After graduation, he applied to architecture schools. Delighted to be accepted into the University of Pennsylvania, he had just returned home from putting a deposit down there, when he saw a letter waiting in his mailbox. 

It was an acceptance into MIT’s Masters of Architecture program. The Ivy League university in Boston is home to the top architecture school globally, according to QS World University rankings.  

“It was very inspiring to be surrounded by the best in the world,” said Steinberg, lucky enough to be part of a studio class taught by Frank Gehry, whose designs include the Guggenheim Museum. “There was a lottery to get into that studio lab, and I got in,” he said. 

After starting out at a firm in Harvard Square, an MIT friend connected him with Sony Pictures Imageworks in Los Angeles. 

“I interviewed and Sony hired me the same day,” Steinberg said. 

His multiple projects doing architecture in visual effects included “The Polar Express,” “Transformers II” and various packages for “Lord of the Rings” video games. 

He never considered leaving the West Coast until the opportunity at Universal arose. His first task was what Muggle Dreams are made of: the Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Harry Potter rollercoaster. 

“I worked on that for a year and a half,” Steinberg said. “I did all the animation, all the modeling and 3D support.  I had the opportunity to combine my film experience with my architectural education and training.” 

COVID-19 has put his career on hold for now. A recent trip back to Hampton Roads to visit his dad made him reflect on his TCC experience. He repeats this often when offering advice. “Put yourself with good people and you’re going to be one of them and inspire others.” 

Navy’s director of Tropical Medicine considers TCC her springboard

Standing by her bedroom window, Nehkonti Adams didn’t know why.

Later, the 11-year-old realized it was to avoid getting shot due to the civil unrest that had erupted in her home, Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia.

It wasn’t long before a new chapter started for Adams, which included immigrating to the United States with her family and joining the U.S. Navy, where she’s risen to lieutenant commander.  Tidewater Community College played a role, too, for the doctor of infectious disease.

That’s where Adams found the confidence and the academic success in science classes that had eluded her in the past.

“TCC ended up being the springboard for my career,” said Adams, today the Navy’s director of Tropical Medicine in Okinawa, Japan. “In the beginning, I was very insecure about how I would perform in college. I made the right choice in TCC.”

Her family left Liberia for Chicago, home to her paternal grandfather, and Adams spent her teen years in Minnesota. She made an abrupt decision to join the Navy after a recruiter visited her high school cafeteria. At 18, she enlisted, stationed at the Navy’s base in Little Creek and aboard the USS Ashland.

Deployment took the ship to Brazil, and in Rio, she listened to the experiences of a Liberian refugee, an experience that fueled her interest in medicine. “I decided I wanted to work with displaced people and refugees,” she said.

Adams remembers returning to Norfolk and heading for Barnes & Noble, where she visited the college section to leaf through books detailing nursing school requirements. She continued in the Naval reserves and enrolled in classes at the Norfolk Campus, immediately bonding with Professor Fred Farris. He reminded her of her father, a physician and anatomy and physiology college professor.

“In Professor Farris, I saw what people saw in my father,” she said. “He taught biology, and I got an A in his class. He took the time to help us and was so kind.”

Graduating with a 4.0 GPA from TCC with an Associate of Science in Science, Adams transferred to Trinity College in Washington, D.C. Among her closest friends there, another TCC graduate who had also received a scholarship to Trinity.

“Uncanny,” she said.

Because of the support system left over from her TCC days, Adams chose to return to active duty and this area to attend Eastern Virginia Medical School. Infectious disease was an obvious choice given her roots in Liberia.

“Being from Liberia, things like malaria, I knew about even at 10 years old,” said Adams, whose parents ran a family practice clinic there. “And there’s some other parasitic diseases people get there. Because I saw illnesses like that firsthand and because of my love for traveling, infectious disease was a natural fit.”

Adams will live in Japan until the fall of 2021. She provides key policy support working with the Naval hospital there and the Marines. Her recent efforts are focused on COVID-19 and keeping U.S. military personnel safe.

Adams’ native country remains foremost in her mind; she tries to return for two weeks every year to head a field clinic. Adams has traveled to 40 nations and has been in the Navy for 25 years. She regularly speaks on the importance of STEM opportunities for women.

“My parents inspired me when I was younger, and the Navy gave me the opportunity to be a great doctor,” she said. “And TCC, that’s where the story began.”

Student speaker was always ahead of the rest

If you’re Lauren Lewis, why wait?

That’s her secret to graduating from Tidewater Community College at 18 years old. A month after walking in the college’s 69th Commencement Exercises on Dec. 16, she’ll transfer to Norfolk State University where she’ll be awarded junior status. Lewis, graduating with her Associate of Science in Social Sciences, is the student speaker for the graduates.

“We all have assignments we want to wait until the last minute to complete,” she’ll tell the class of 2019. “The key is don’t procrastinate.”

“With TCC as your foundation,” she says, “you can go anywhere,” — Lauren Lewis

Let’s just say Lewis comes by this wisdom naturally. Her parents had her reading by the time she was 2 years old. She devoured one Junie B. Jones book after another, adding the “Wimpy Kid” collection to her shelf in middle school.

“I’m really goal-oriented,” she admits, offering a snapshot of her thought process from her phone. It’s one of many to-do lists with deadlines. This particular one is academic-related with due dates for applications for NSU’s nursing program and summer classes. The final sentence from the checklist:

GRADUATION in Summer 2022 but can’t walk until December 2022

Lewis’ accelerated academic path started in the most inauspicious of ways. She didn’t want to dress out for gym at Churchland High, so her family agreed to pay for her to take it during her eighth-grade summer. That made Lewis realize how much she could achieve by using her summers wisely. She completed First College on the Portsmouth Campus and entered TCC with 16 credits.

She was 16 years old.

Lewis received the Outstanding High School Graduate Award Scholarship from the Portsmouth Campus. That pays the full cost of tuition and fees; in return, Lewis is a student ambassador. She will graduate from TCC without any student debt.

Lewis considered being a pediatrician but wants to be more hands-on with patients. “Being a pediatric nurse will allow me to do that,” she said.

Not surprisingly, Lewis is already looking ahead to 2020, planning out her class schedule so it balances with a part-time job. Another to-do list holds her accountable for a rare splurge: She’s saving for a Caribbean cruise in May. She makes sure she contributes to that fund on the 5th day of every month.

That might mean forgoing a latte or two, but Lewis is intent on nothing impeding her path once she sets her mind to it.

“It’s good to be different,” her mom always told her. Lewis lives by those words and can’t wait to get started with the next step of her journey.

“With TCC as your foundation,” she says, “you can go anywhere.”

“TCC came through for me at the last minute.”

Growing up, Kendra Mack wasn’t pushed to go to college.

After graduating from Ocean Lakes High School in 2004, she worked a trio of low-wage jobs.


“My family never talked about that,” Mack says.

In a few weeks, Mack will graduate with an Associate of Science in Science from Tidewater Community College. She’ll walk at TCC’s 69th Commencement Exercises on Dec. 16 – a milestone, she says, that will signify all she’s had to overcome to reach a goal she set for herself.

Her three children ages 6, 4 and 3 will be in attendance along with husband Hershel, also a TCC student.

“It will symbolize the first step of completing something,” says Mack, who is the first from her family of four to graduate. “It hit me when I had my daughter three years ago that I have to show her she can do anything no matter what.”

So much could have derailed Mack’s progress. Right before fall semester, she wasn’t sure how she would find the funds to pay for her final 16 credits.  A last dollar scholarship from the TCC Educational Foundation took care of $413 in outstanding tuition due.

“TCC came through for me at the last minute,” Mack says. “I wouldn’t be able to graduate otherwise. My whole time here I haven’t had to pay for anything except for my books.”

Her introduction to the college dates back to 2007 when Mack completed the Nurse Aide Training program paid for by her employer, Atlantic Shores Retirement Center. She worked there for six years, cherishing the relationships she formed that extended to the families of her patients.

“It fueled my drive to work toward becoming a nurse,” Mack says.

But motherhood interrupted her studies and then tragedy. A self-inflicted gunshot wound took the life of her father, a former Marine, who, after seven tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Reflecting on his memory nearly five years after the loss brings fresh tears.

 “I closed off and became a shell of a mom for three years,” she says.

When daughter Aaliyah was born, Mack realized she needed to move forward to be an example for her children. She became an avid runner, losing 70 pounds, hearing her father’s encouraging voice urging her on before every finish line.

She also realized she had put her education on hold long enough. A year and a half ago, Mack returned to TCC full time, balancing childcare with homework, both with the support of Hershel. Her next step will be a bachelor’s in nursing.

Mack, 35, knows her father would be proud of her last four semesters on the TCC President’s List.

What would he say?

Mack smiles in thinking of the response. “I knew you had it in you, baby girl, the whole time.”

When you’re a student at TCC, the fitness center is yours, too

Drop that pricey gym membership if you’re a student at Tidewater Community College.

The activity fee that you’ve already paid for fall classes gives you full access to any of the fitness centers inside the students centers. Here’s what your missing if you’ve never checked out the gym on your campus:

  • State-of-the-art equipment waiting for you to use. We’re not talking about a treadmill and a handful of free weights. You’ll find plenty of choices, whether you’re looking to sneak some brief cardio during your lunch hour or committed to a full body workout using your favorite CBX machine or TRX suspension trainers. The fitness centers on the Portsmouth Campus even offers Boxmaster – 12 punching bags of different sizes – to hone your concentration skills as well as your muscles.
  • Personal training! If you’re a student at TCC, set up a personalized training session with a fitness instructor and work on your fitness goals together! The fitness centers on the Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses only allow students to make appointments with personal trainers (information below).
  • Group exercise classes start along with fall classes on Aug 19. Don’t have a lot of time? No worries. Norfolk’s core training on Tuesdays and Thursdays starts at 1:05 p.m. and concludes at 1:20 p.m. In Virginia Beach, early birds can attend Sculpt, Strength and Resistance training, on Tuesdays at 9 a.m., and Cardio Blast is the place to be to burn fat at 4 p.m. Portsmouth offers small group training in areas including core and abs, kettle bells, circuit training and virtual sports and fitness. Contact Chuck Thomas, fitness and recreation supervisor, at

“We have full locker rooms where students can shower after they finish their workouts and head right back to class,” said Lindsay Bryan, fitness and recreation supervisor at the Virginia Beach Campus.

Nora Kostyk wasn’t much of a fitness buff prior to coming to TCC after graduating from Western Branch High School in 2017. But after battling thyroid issues, she wanted to be in better shape. Starting last January, she committed to a regimen designed by Thomas.

Eight months later, Kostyk will transfer to VCU in the best shape of her life. In fact, Thomas jokes about putting her workout up on the wall and calling it “The Nora.”

“I feel a lot better,” said Kostyk, proficient on every machine in the fitness center and crushing the Tabata workout — high intensity interval training — under the direction of Thomas. “I didn’t know I needed strength training until coming in here,” she said. 

He takes her through an hour workout that includes velocity ropes, boxing drills and tire training.

“You doing OK?” he asks every few minutes, and she nods between gulps of water.

Thomas researched her medical condition and personalized her sessions accordingly, working on strength over cardio.  “I’m so proud of her,” he beamed.

“I’m so glad I worked with him,” said Kostyk ,who earned her Associate of Science in Science at TCC. “He taught me everything I know.”

Fitness center information starting Aug. 19, 2019:

Chesapeake Campus fitness center

Monday and Tuesday: 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Wednesday – Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Norfolk Campus fitness center

Monday – Thursday: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Fridays: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Personal training
Make appointments by email
Patty Benson at or Laura Burckett-Picker at

Portsmouth Campus fitness center

Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Fridays: closed

Personal training

Make appointments by email
Chuck Thomas at

Virginia Beach Campus fitness center

Monday-Thursday: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Fridays: 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Fitness centers are also available to faculty and staff. 

Three TCC graduates and one former instructor among those who lost their lives in Virginia Beach shooting

Several who lost their lives in the shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on May 31 had ties to Tidewater Community College.

Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Gayle and Alexander Gusev were all graduates of the college. Richard Nettleton taught here and was an inaugural member of the advisory board for TCC’s Civil Engineering Technology program.

Tara Welch Gallagher
Tara Welch Gallagher

Welch Gallagher, 39, grew up in the Simonsdale section of Portsmouth, and came to TCC directly from Wilson High School. She graduated with her Associate of Science in Science with Specialization in Engineering in May 2000 before transferring to Old Dominion for her bachelor’s in civil engineering and master’s in environmental engineering.

Gallagher was an engineer for Virginia Beach Public Works.

“She was a great TCC success story,” said her brother-in-law, Troy Hollowell, also an alumnus of the college and long-standing committee member of TCC’s Information Technology advisory board. “She was a woman in STEM before we were using that phrase. She was a mother, a sister, a daughter, and possibly the best person I have ever known.”

Hollowell married Gallagher’s sister, Tiffany, and said the two siblings spoke daily. “She was an amazing lady and a doting mother,” Hollowell said. “I don’t have the words for the loss.”

Gallagher is survived by her husband, Patrick Jr., their 22-month-old son, Patrick III and her parents, Wanda and Dickie Welch.

Mary Louise Gayle
Mary Louise Gayle

Gayle, 65, graduated from TCC with an Associate of Science in Science in 1976 before going on to earn a bachelor’s from St. Leo University and a master’s in public administration from Troy University. Known as “Mary Lou,” she worked for the City of Virginia Beach for 24 years, ultimately as a public works right-of-way agent, meaning she assisted with the legal aspects of land acquisition.

Gayle’s obit notes, “Her grandchildren, Jeffrey and Genevieve, were the light of her life. She took tremendous joy from teaching them, sharing new experiences with them and just snuggling together. She was actively planning and very much looking forward to a trip to take them to Disney World for the first time.”

In addition to her grandchildren, Gayle is survived by her son, Matthew Gayle, and spouse Carrie Gordon; daughter Sarah Leonard and her spouse, Jeff Leonard, and four siblings, Barbara, Bobby, Cathy and Tricia.

Alexander Gusev
Alexander Gusev

Gusev, 35, emigrated from Belarus in 2003 and graduated from TCC with an Associate of Science in Science with Specialization in Engineering in May 2014. He transferred to Old Dominion for his bachelor’s in civil engineering. He worked for the City of Virginia Beach for nine years as a right-of-way agent.

Surviving family includes his twin brother, Alexi, and his mother, both of whom live in Virginia Beach, along with his father, who is in Belarus.

Army veteran Nettleton, 65, was a design and construction manager who worked for Public Utilities for 28 years. He taught soil mechanics at TCC from 1998 until 2007.

Richard Nettleton
Richard Nettleton

In his obit, his wife of 23 years, Sarah Nettleton, remembers him “as a strong, steady presence during every family challenge. He provided me with a safe place to land and never complained. He was my rock, my protector, best friend and the love of my life.”

Dan Horne, field director for the Virginia Department of Health, served on the TCC advisory committee for civil engineering technology with Nettleton. Horne remembers his colleague as a forward thinker who was passionate about his work and his Red Sox.

“He loved to talk baseball,” Horne said.

TCC Professor Chris Cartwright said, “Rich was a great guy. It was a pleasure to know him and work with him over the last 20 years.”

In addition to his wife, Nettleton is survived by sons Richard Jr. and Robert; stepchildren Bryon and Mary Elizabeth Browne; his mother, Teresa; and seven siblings.

Norcom salutatorian, a TCC grad at just 17, bound for prestigious NSU program

Boudnoma Convolbo knows the road to be an orthopedist is a long journey.

The West African native values expediency, the prime reason why earning an associate degree while still in high school appealed to her so much.

Norcom High’s salutatorian will graduate from Tidewater Community College first with an Associate of Science in Science. The 17-year-old will enter Norfolk State University’s Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Science this fall and major in chemistry.

The rigorous honors program, which includes a scholarship and grant, addresses the shortage of minorities in the basic and applied sciences.

“It takes a lot of years to be an orthopedic surgeon,” she said. “I was thinking if I can cut out two years by doing part of college in high school, why not?”

Convolbo is one of six students from the Portsmouth Campus who 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.

“You have to find the balance that works for you,” said Convolbo, who also works 20 hours a week at the Portsmouth City Treasurer’s office. “I took a lot of AP classes at my high school knowing that the credits would transfer if I did well in the AP exam.” Boudnoma Convolbo

Her accomplishment is even more remarkable as Convolbo spoke no English five years ago. Her father’s Navy orders brought the family to the United States from her home, Burkina Faso, a land-locked nation near Nigeria.

A psychology class was a favorite and chemistry was a struggle, but Convolbo enjoyed her entire experience at TCC.

“I like the community here; the staff are amazing people,” said Convolbo, grateful for the help applying to the NSU program from Katina Barnes, coordinator of Dual Enrollment Academies on the Portsmouth Campus.

Convolbo chose a future in medicine because she is fascinated by the human body. She poignantly recalls her grandmother buying and selling groceries back home. “When she came home at night, she was tired and had aches. I used to massage her. I liked it. That’s why I chose orthopedic surgery.”

“I didn’t speak the language and we didn’t know anyone here,” said Convolbo, fluent in French and her native dialect. “I learned English by myself. I spent most of my time in the library reading novels.”

Joining ROTC at Norcom advanced her learning curve.

“I was second in command, so I actually had to give orders and speak in front of the whole platoon,” she said. “That helped me a lot.”

Convolbo will walk in the TCC graduation in front of her parents,  four younger siblings and friends. “If you have a clear goal and know what you want to do, TCC is the way to get to it faster,” she said. “My life goal is to open a hospital in my native country.”

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.”

Her first geology class was at TCC. Now licensed in the field, alumna a shareholder in her company

As a licensed geologist and shareholder for Kimley-Horn & Associates, Michelle Wharton enjoys helping people meet their goals.

Tidewater Community College helped Wharton discover hers.

The high achiever from Great Bridge High School didn’t have a plan after graduation. Her parents pushed the military, but Wharton rejected that idea in favor of working while putting herself through college.

TCC made sense on multiple fronts. It was affordable, and class size was small. She didn’t want to feel swallowed by attending a large university as a freshman.

“It was a wonderful fit,” Wharton said.  “The campus was nice, the professors were great. It’s a good transition if you’re not sure what you want to do. Even if you do know, it’s a good place.”

Wharton first considered business, then environmental engineering and finally decided on environmental science. She took her first geology class at TCC and from there, she was hooked on the STEM field where jobs are plentiful.

“It’s a visual science, and as a visual learner, I found geology fascinating,” she said.

Wharton worked two jobs – balancing being a secretary at a local construction firm with taking pizza orders at Papa Johns – to pay for her schooling. Her final year, she was a bartender in Virginia Beach who juggled evening work with morning classes. Grants from TCC helped, too.

“I was focused, so I made it work,” she said. “I always had to work hard for my grades, but the professors helped. They were available. I remember meeting teachers in the city library after business hours.”

Wharton earned her Associate of Science in Science, a transfer degree that allowed her to enter Old Dominion University as a junior. A few years later, she earned her bachelor’s in science with a focus on geology.

“I was very much prepared for ODU,” she said. “I was on the Dean’s List. The transfer process was easy. I was employed immediately after graduation.”

A hidden benefit of going to school locally: Her professors are nearby for any on-the-job question that arises.

“Having local connections helps,” she said.

A year and change after her first job as an environmental scientist, Wharton was hired at Kimley-Horn in Virginia Beach, one of the nation’s premier environmental planning and design consulting firms. She was thrilled to later become a shareholder – a crowning moment for her and an emotional one for her parents.

“Life is a journey with many highs and lows,” she said. “Stay focused on your goals and hard work and commitment will pay off. Determination and commitment will set you apart.”

One of her new projects involves shoreline work connected to the TCC Real Estate Foundation, which is developing College Point in northern Suffolk.

Wharton is an advocate for TCC, noting, “Don’t overthink it. It takes commitment and accountability. If you want it, you can do it.”

TCC Alumni: Connect, Contribute, Celebrate

TCC awarded National Science Foundation grant for STEM

Tidewater Community College is part of a new coalition to diversify the nation’s workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by increasing the number of degrees awarded in those disciplines.

The National Science Foundation recently announced grants for six Louis Stokes regional centers of excellence in support of that effort. Minority populations, including African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska natives, natives of Hawaii and native Pacific Islanders, continue to be underrepresented in the STEM fields. Student working in chemistry lab.

TCC’s award was for $197,000 over a three-year period.

TCC’s partner institutions in the Southeastern Coalition for Engagement and Exchange in Nanotechnology Education are Norfolk State University, Penn State University, NASA Langley Research Center, Jefferson National Laboratory Applied Research Center and Eastern Virginia Medical School.

“Demand for workers with skills in the higher paying STEM fields is expected to continue to outpace demand for non-STEM workers over the next decade,” said Thomas Stout, TCC’s dean of STEM. “We want to prepare our workforce to meet immediate and future needs.”

This partnership provides opportunities for TCC students to train in the semi-conductor fabrication labs at Norfolk State University. In doing so, they will gain valuable hands-on experience and prepare for work in the industry.

TCC offers an Associate of Science in Science transfer degree and multiple associate degrees in the health sciences, engineering and technology fields.

TCC annual award winners to be honored on Aug. 16

Tidewater Community College will recognize six faculty and staff members from across the college with annual special awards on Aug. 16.

Selected by their peers, the honorees will receive their awards at TCC’s 2018 Fall Convocation at the Chesapeake Campus Student Center.

Professor of the Year

Manisha Trivedi, who teaches biology, anatomy and physiology and microbiology, is TCC’s Professor of the Year, an award established by the Faculty Senate to recognize excellence.

The Virginia Beach resident got her start doing research and development in the biotechnology industry but found herself training colleagues and hosting workshops. When her company left the area, she changed course and began teaching at TCC’s Norfolk Campus.

“I’m very proud to be working in a place that allows me to be creative and nurturing of my students,” Trivedi said. “My greatest joy is seeing the ‘lightbulb’ moments when students grasp difficult concepts.”

Trivedi often holds weekend office hours and meets with students before lectures and labs.

Student Olivia Brichter credits Trivedi for helping her succeed in college.

“After multiple attempts to pass anatomy and physiology, Professor Trivedi offered to spend one hour with me every morning before class reviewing class lectures and breaking down the information for me,” she said.

Trivedi is co-founder of the Senior Citizen Club for Asian Indians of Tidewater and volunteers annually at the International Children’s Festival in Hampton. She is a faculty mentor and serves on TCC’s Global & Intercultural Learning Committee.

She holds master’s degrees in life science from Gujarat State University and in biotechnology from Old Dominion University.  She earned a bachelor’s in biochemistry from St. Xavier’s College. She also completed a course in recombinant DNA methodology at The Catholic University of America.

Trivedi and husband Nikunj have two adult sons. The younger, Ajay, is an adjunct science instructor at the Norfolk Campus.

Faculty Special Achievement

For the second time since starting at TCC in 1989, Jacque Dessino is the recipient of the Faculty Special Achievement Award.

As the college-wide electronic services librarian, Dessino contributes to every aspect of library services to benefit users onsite and online. Dubbed “the rock of the libraries” by a colleague who nominated her for this award, Dessino, as TCC’s library system liaison with Virginia’s Community Colleges, is transitioning TCC’s libraries to an integrated management system that will replace multiple software products. It’s an enormous undertaking.

“But it’s what I love about my job,” said Dessino, also recognized by the college in 2005. “My job is never boring, never static.”

Dessino leads a team of four staffers who provide support to library patrons. While she works largely behind the scenes, she covers several online reference service shifts, providing on-demand assistance to students.

“I enjoy the idea of serving a group of people who might not necessarily have the opportunity to use the resources TCC has if the college weren’t here,” she said.

Dessino holds master’s degrees in library science from Louisiana State University and in humanities with a certificate in women’s studies from Old Dominion. She earned her bachelor’s in computer science from Nicholls State University and in English from Shippensburg University.

Dessino and husband Eric Matherne reside in Portsmouth and enjoy boating and motorcycle sidecar trips.

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty

Nancy Pettigrew, who has taught art history at TCC since 2010, is the Outstanding Adjunct Professor. The Long Island, N.Y., native embraces discussion-centered classes that connect her students to artists from the past and present. She has appreciated art since visiting her first museum as a 5-year-old.

“There are so many things I love about TCC students,” she said. “You get this incredible melting pot of people. If you listen to them, you learn so much about them and the world and other people’s points of view.”

Pettigrew holds a discussion series monthly open to all students and faculty at the Visual Arts Center that tackles topics ranging from censorship to copyright. An active supporter of the Student Art League, she touts the dedication of her students, many of whom makes great sacrifices to be in class.

“I’m always amazed by students I talk to who take public transportation for two hours to take my class,” she said. “Their level of commitment is extraordinary.”

Pettigrew received master’s and bachelor’s degrees, both in art history and archaeology, from the University of Maryland.

She and husband Neil have two adult children, Emily and Laura. The couple resides in Chesapeake.

Administrator of the Year

Diane Ryan is the Administrator of the Year selected for her leadership and efforts to advance TCC’s mission and goals.

Ryan initially joined the college in 1991 as an adjunct instructor in public speaking and transitioned into a professor of communications and English. She became dean of Humanities and Social Sciences on the Chesapeake Campus in 2015.

Ryan considers herself a connector, helping students solve problems by directing them to the correct resource or staff member. She has been involved in the college’s textbook-free Z-Degree initiative, recruiting 18 faculty to adopt Open Educational Resources in their curriculums, thereby saving students thousands of dollars.

“I love the amount of resources we’re able to offer students, companies and the general public,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m proud to work at TCC.”

Ryan volunteers and raises funds for Pennies for Prescriptions, Go Rescue Pet Adoption and Judeo-Christian Outreach Center.

She holds a master’s in speech communications and a bachelor’s in mass communications from Western Illinois University. She is currently working toward a doctorate in community college leadership at Old Dominion.

Ryan and husband, Sean, reside in Virginia Beach and have three adult children.

Classified Employee of the Year

Alumna Rhonda D’Amore is the Classified Employee of the Year. She initially began working at the college in 1998 and graduated from TCC with an Associate of Science in Science. In 2005, she earned a full-time position as an academic support specialist.

D’Amore enjoys working with campus contacts to keep curriculum content current.

“If you request Rhonda’s assistance, you can be assured the task will get done correctly and in a timely manner,” said Bill Clement, Pathway Dean for Computer Science and Information Technology.

D’Amore is responsible for building the base for classes, so that campuses can schedule them. She also enters all of the program data in i-INCURR. Moreover, she works closely with Visual Communications to produce the college catalog.

D’Amore said her favorite part of the job is assisting students. “I love being there to help them solve problems,” she said.

D’Amore and husband Lee have two adult children. In her free time, she enjoys gardening at her Chesapeake home and spending time with her cats, Floyd and Ziggy.

Wage Employee of the Year

TCC student Steffan Watts, an operations support specialist for student activities on the Virginia Beach Campus, is the Wage Employee of the Year.

The 2015 graduate of Kellam High School is humble about his contributions, but supervisor Bobby Bennett touts Watts’ accomplishments that ensure any event inside the Virginia Beach Student Center runs smoothly.

“Steff, as we call him, really is the heartbeat of our team and he always goes over and beyond what is asked of him,” said Bennett, coordinator of events and special projects for student activities at the student center. “When he is not in class, he is working in the student center, engaging with students or assisting a community partner.”

Watts is pursuing his Associate of Science in Science with a Specialization in Computer Science. He anticipates graduating in May 2019 with plans to transfer to either Old Dominion or Norfolk State University. He hopes to make a career in video game design or software development.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself working here,” he said. “I’m a quiet person. This job really gets me out of my comfort zone.”