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Juneteenth Closure

TCC will be closed Wednesday, June 19, in observance of the Juneteenth holiday.

TCC to hold its spring graduation exercises in person at Chartway Arena

For the second time since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Tidewater Community College will hold its commencement exercises in person. This year’s ceremony will be held on May 9 at 6 p.m. at Chartway Arena on the campus of Old Dominion University.

There is still time for current graduates to apply for graduation by using this form. For information about participating in Commencement, please visit here.

More than 1,300 students will graduate, including 143 students who have earned degrees or certificates one month before completing high school thanks to dual enrollment.

The Speaker for the Graduates is Allison Wilson, a dual enrollment student from Churchland High School. At 17, she is earning an Associate of Science in Social Science.

Allison Wilson on TCC’s Portsmouth Campus.

“Coming to TCC while still in high school was a great way to get started on college and save money. I had a great support system with my parents and grandparents,” Wilson said. “I gained study skills that will take me through all my years in college.”

In the fall, Wilson is transferring to William and Mary where she will study English and pre-law. She hopes to attend law school and one day be a state prosecutor.

The graduation speaker is TCC Board Chair Cynthia “Cindy” Free. A TCC alum, Free began her academic journey on the Virginia Beach Campus earning an Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy in 1986. A Hampton Roads native, Free is a member of the Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists Physical Therapy team. At the practice she manages and coordinates industrial rehabilitation, workers compensation, return to work practices, disability examinations, inventory, quality standards, students and personnel matters.

In September 2015, the Virginia Beach City Council appointed Free to the TCC College Board. Since her appointment, she has participated in commencement exercises, college convocations, Virginia Community College System legislative receptions, dedications, groundbreakings and other college events. In addition, Free 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.

Free has a passion for dance and graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She has danced at ODU and at the TCC Roper Performing Arts Center.

Commencement will be streamed live at

For more information about graduation, visit here or call 757-822-1111.

TCC alumna building a life she loves

Kathryn Hart spends her days building communities as a construction superintendent for a Washington, D.C. contractor.

At night, she’s building an online community to support, connect and inspire women in the construction industry. The Tidewater Community College alumna founded “Space to Build” with the mission of removing the feeling of isolation women can sometimes feel when building the communities around us.

Hart’s podcast, “Space to Build,” airs weekly on Spotify, Apple, iHeart Radio, Amazon Music and other platforms. Launched in November 2020, Hart welcomes guests from the construction community to talk about their successes and challenges.

“In this industry, you can feel isolated and this is a way to open doors and set the pace for other women in the field,” Hart said. “My goal is for women to find a community of women who encourage and empower them to grow in the construction industry.”

Hart, 28, got her start building communities at TCC as a member of the Engineering Club on the Virginia Beach Campus. “What I remember most about TCC is the people I was around all the time. We were like family,” she said. “Having that community got me through some of the toughest classes because there was always someone there to help out.”

“I started at TCC because I knew I’d get a good education and save money. But the real benefit was finding my way into a career I love.” — Kathryn Hart

In 2013 Hart earned two associate degrees at TCC – one in science, the other in social sciences. She found her path into the construction industry through conversations with Professor Paul Gordy and other Engineering Club members. She even learned about Virginia Tech’s Myers-Lawson School of Construction through the group.

“I started at TCC because I knew I’d get a good education and save money,” Hart said. “But the real benefit was finding my way into a career I love.”

Hart continued her education at Virginia Tech, earning a bachelor’s with a dual degree in building construction and psychology in 2016.

At Virginia Tech, Hart co-founded “Building Women in Construction,” a student club that is still meeting today. The goal of the group is to encourage students to grow personally and professionally and to provide career developing activities for members.

We had large contractors contact us and we visited job sites and toured firms. This experience helped me build a network and gave me friends in the industry before I ever set foot in it,” she said.

Today, as a construction superintendent, Hart coordinates the field work and handles the onsite supervision of subcontractors, as well as the materials, safety, and quality control on the job site. She builds everything from multi-family apartments to data centers and school renovations.

Hart’s favorite thing about the work is interacting with people and watching nothing turn into something. “I enjoy watching the process from drawings to the physical end product,” she said.

Hart is involved professionally with the National Association of Women in Construction and serves as the Northeast Chair for Professional Development and Education.

Hart encourages others to follow in her footsteps because the opportunities are plentiful.

“This is an industry with smart people and good pay,” Hart said.

Once on the job, Hart bought her first car and her own home in Northern Virginia – all by the age of 25.

 Her home now shelters two roommates, and a mini zoo with a fish, turtle, degus (ground squirrels), two cats and a dog.

“People can sometimes underestimate young women on the job. But if you show up with a strong work ethic and are willing to learn, you will be successful,” she said.

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.

Student speaker dedicated to leading a purpose-driven life

Tony Sawyer credits Tidewater Community College with his successful transition from high school dropout to college graduate.

The student speaker for TCC’s 66th Commencement Exercises will share his story with classmates before he receives his Associate of Science in Social Sciences during the ceremony held May 12 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

The Chesapeake resident volunteers full time for Onesimus Training Center in Chesapeake, a recovery home for men struggling with addictions. He decided to pursue his education to make an even bigger impact.

“Tony is a valuable resource to the ministry. His insight and life experience are helpful to me as I work with men dealing with the challenge of recovery,” said the Rev. Bill Twine, executive director of Onesimus. “He is also a source of inspiration and encouragement to the men in our program.”

Sawyer with Rev. Bill Twine, executive director of Onesimus.

After dropping out of junior high school, Sawyer spent the next three decades working unfulfilling jobs that left him dissatisfied and insecure about the future. During that time, he also battled personal and family issues that began when he was 12.

“I was introduced to a negative lifestyle at a young age,” he said. “When I moved out at 16, I thought I’d get a great job and make a lot of money. That just never happened.”

After reading Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life,” Sawyer was inspired to give back to the community.

When he first came to TCC, Sawyer jumped into college life, taking 14 credits while working full time and volunteering 30-plus hours a week at Onesimus. He was drowning as a student.

Meeting with Holly Desteli, a First Year Success advisor, helped him scale back to a manageable load. He dropped one class and gave notice at work, putting his education and volunteer service as his top priorities.

“Holly told me something that stuck with me. She said, ‘Just do the work, Tony. Do what’s due now and then do what’s pressing on your schedule. Leave the rest until tomorrow.’ ”

Sawyer earned a 3.8 GPA and was on the President’s List every semester after that first one.

The vice president of service for Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges, Sawyer also earned the William E. Wood Associates Scholastic Award, which recognizes community involvement in addition to academic excellence.tony-sawyer

Sawyer will attend the Honors College at Old Dominion University this fall to work toward a bachelor’s in human services. He also hopes to pursue education in nursing and would like to work in the mental health field.

Sawyer shares his life with two dogs, River, a chocolate lab, and Bella, a pit bull mix. A fitness buff, he enjoys surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. Sawyer’s sister, Lisa Holcombe, is also a TCC graduate working as a court reporter.

As the speaker for the graduates, Sawyer’s message is, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough and that you don’t fit in because you can achieve wonderful things. The education we received teaches us to think critically and with a purpose.”

He added, “Never look back. Pursue your dreams and enjoy the journey into your future.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have a list,” Hutchings said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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