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Starting here paved way for Norcom grad to reach her dream school

A week into her dream school, Markeil Blow realized she wasn’t ready to be there.

The Norcom High graduate missed home. She didn’t want to commit to the rigorous ROTC regimen for four years – and it was that scholarship that made attending George Washington University affordable in the first place.

Tidewater Community College was a solution that made sense academically and financially. Blow had already done well at TCC as part of the First College program. Plus it was an economical alternative that would allow her to save for her final two years of college.

Now the TCC graduate is back at GW, better equipped to handle living away from home. She has a financial plan in place to pay for the rest of college, and all of her credits from TCC transferred seamlessly.

“So I was able to start at GW as a junior,” she said. “I used to see the billboards when I was little and when I was in high school and they’d say, ‘TCC to anywhere,’ and I’d think, ‘You mean anywhere in Virginia.’ Now that I’m here, I realize they really do mean anywhere.”

Blow moved back home after that first week in Washington and stayed on track thanks to enrolling in TCC’s 12-week classes.

Early on, she struggled with the idea that she had given up on GW without giving it a chance.

Markeil Blow White House“Being on campus at TCC and getting to know other students and really getting into my classes changed my attitude quickly,” Blow said. “I took technical writing at the Beach Campus, and the class was so small. I felt like I could have a personal connection with everybody and make new relationships. These people didn’t know my past – didn’t know I had dropped out, so to speak.”

Initially, Blow planned to complete just one semester at TCC. “I put in applications at Old Dominion and William & Mary, but First College had given me such a head start, that I could do one more semester and be two years ahead.”

Blow’s second semester at TCC was especially challenging, given a Calculus II class that forced her to work directly with her professor and seek out help at the Learning Assistance Center.

“I had always been afraid to go to tutoring,” she said. “Now I’m in tutoring every day.”

Blow graduated from TCC in May with a 4.0 GPA and an Associate of Science with a Specialization in Computer Science.

The ceremony at the Ted Constant Convocation Center was special, she said.

“It felt really nice,” she said. “In high school, I graduated outside and all the other high schools graduated in the Ted. So it was nice to get that chance to walk in there.”

Blow, working on her bachelor’s in computer science, anticipates going for her master’s along with a doctorate in history and making a career in software design. She’s happy with how everything played out.

“I honestly wouldn’t trade going to TCC for anything,” she said. “I made some of my best friends there. It’s been a blessing.”

Computer science student earns prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship

As a youngster Anastasiia Melnikova delighted in her first train ride when she sipped tea while trekking south to the Black Sea in her native Russia.

A career in transportation is a natural fit for the Tidewater Community College student studying computer science.

Her future is certainly moving in the right direction. She recently received a Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Transportation, one of just a few community college students afforded the honor.

This program advances the transportation workforce by helping to attract the nation’s brightest minds to the field of transportation, encouraging future transportation professionals to seek advanced degrees, and helping to retain top talent in the U.S. transportation industry.

Melnikova spent a weekend last month in Washington attending a research showcase highlighting innovations in transportation. One that stood out: riding on a fully self-driven mini bus.

Anastasiia Melnikova and Alesia Wroten
Anastasiia Melnikova with CMVE staffer Alesia Wroten

“It also caused a bit of anxiety, as I had to fully entrust my safety and well-being on a machine that operates on its own,” Melnikova said. “One company had a virtual reality set-up. I put on the glasses and it simulated me walking in the factory with incredibly advanced robots.”

Melnikova grew up wanting to study abroad and visited Virginia Beach as a high school exchange student. That heightened her interest in starting at TCC.

“TCC was a great option for me because it’s more affordable than a four-year school, and I also like the small class setting,” she said. “It’s helped me get a lot more out of the education I’m getting.”

She will graduate from TCC in May with an Associate of Science in Science with a Specialization in Computer Science and plans to make a career exploring how software engineering can be developed to make mass transportation safer, more economical and efficient. She’s currently researching advanced anti-lock braking systems for trains.

Scholarship recipient set to launch a future that includes tuition at NSU, a stipend and a job waiting

Kayla Dio Robinson’s future is taking off, thanks to earning a scholarship opportunity that pays for her bachelor’s degree, provides a healthy stipend, and guarantees her a job afterward.

Robinson will receive her Associate of Science in Science with a Specialization in Computer Science at Tidewater Community College’s 67th Fall Commencement Exercises on Dec. 17 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Next, she heads to Norfolk State University to work for her bachelor’s in computer science with a specialty in information assurance. A government job will be waiting when she graduates.

Robinson’s TCC professors tipped her off to the National Science Foundation CyberCorps Scholarship for Service, which pays tuition and fees for the final three years of study for a bachelor’s degree, provides book and health insurance allowances, and gives the recipient a $22,500 living expense stipend.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” Robinson said.

TCC and NSU partnered in the initiative, which addresses the need for a diverse group of qualified computer, network security and cybersecurity professionals. It requires the student to serve in a branch of the government for three years after graduation.

Robinson, 22, completed a rigorous application process and interviewed with Jonathan Graham, professor and director of NSU’s Information Assurance Research and Development Education Institute.

After Robinson met with Graham to tour the NSU Institute, which has been designated as a center of excellence by the National Science Foundation, he offered her the scholarship.

“It was just amazing to hear about,” she said.

The Salem High School graduate wasn’t a confident student when she entered TCC and was undecided on which career path to follow. Because she wasn’t set on a major, she liked the idea of exploring possibilities at TCC without accruing significant student debt.

“I figured it out here,” said Robinson, who started with interior design classes before moving into engineering.

That was a giant leap, but she’s always loved space, admiring what NASA represents. While at TCC, she participated in a NASA program that allowed her to attend a social at Kennedy Space Center for a rocket launch. Later, she took part in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars summer program, which included a four-day engineering workshop at NASA Langley.

Robinson realized she favored the programming aspect of her engineering classes at TCC, and she switched her path to computer science. Admittedly, she hopes that government job ends up being at NASA.

“I’m open to anything; it all sounds interesting,” she said. “I would love to work for NASA, though. That’s the dream job.”

As for that stipend, Robinson, of course, has plans for that.

“I’m finally going to buy a car,” said Robinson, as her 1994 Jeep can no longer get her to class. She made a computer program to help her choose the most fuel-efficient model.

Robinson will graduate alongside her boyfriend, Jared Austin, earning his Associate of Science in General Studies. Her mother, sisters and grandparents will attend the ceremony, and her father will also be making the trip from Illinois.

She went to a Women’s Center STEM presentation and found her future

Alla Topp is a STEM Promise Program success story even though she opted not to complete her associate degree at Tidewater Community College.

“I would never be where I am without TCC,” said Topp, who just started an online master’s program in data science at Regis University in Colorado.

Topp was among the inaugural class of recipients of the Women’s Center STEM Promise Program scholarship, which awards tuition and fees for two full academic years to students in select degree paths. Topp had decided on an Associate of Science in Engineering but after starting at TCC last fall realized she wasn’t a good fit for the math-heavy program. She transitioned into an Associate of Science with a Specialization in Computer Science.

Topp liked the coding part of the program and particularly enjoyed classes under Professor Scott Davis. But something intrigued her even more after she attended “Women in Computer Programming,” a presentation sponsored by the Women’s Center in the Virginia Beach Student Center. Listening to keynote speaker Corren McCoy, vice president of software engineering and chief data strategist for a Norfolk consulting company, Topp wanted to know more. After talking with McCoy afterward, she envisioned herself making a career in data science.

Topp had already earned a bachelor’s prior to admission to TCC; she studied human resources management at Russian State University in her native Moscow.

“I decided I wanted to do something technical and with math, not human resources, which is people,” she said. “Translating data to make sense of it for companies appeals to me.”

Coupled with the relevant coursework Topp had completed already at TCC, she was a good fit to directly enter a master’s program. Meeting with a TCC academic advisor confirmed that. “Everyone was really helpful and selfless about it at TCC, encouraging me to do what was best for me,” Topp said.

“I would have never found this chance without the STEM Promise program.”