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Norfolk student remembered as “ray of sunshine” to receive posthumous degree at TCC graduation

Belinda Drew immersed herself in life at Tidewater Community College, where she was two classes shy of earning an associate degree.

Drew, 53, died unexpectedly on July 23.

The college will award the Norfolk resident a posthumous Associate of Science in Social Sciences at its 67th Commencement Exercises on Dec. 17 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Her sons, Wayne Vanderpool Jr., of Lindenwold, N.J., and Gevasico Gaskins of Norfolk, will be in attendance to receive it.

The Portsmouth native came to TCC in spring 2013 looking to overcome the depression that followed the passing of her husband and mother. Despite struggling with learning disabilities, she persevered with the help of tutoring from the Open Door Project (ODP), which assists first-generation college students, and the Learning Assistance Center.

“Math proved to be one of her biggest challenges, but she persevered,” said Willette Hackney-Davis, a counselor with ODP. “Her success at TCC changed her life and the life of her family. She was a ray of sunshine.”

“She loved the school and loved her counselor,” Vanderpool said.

While at TCC, Drew found a church home at Gethsemane Community Fellowship Baptist Church and went from living with a friend to securing her own apartment to purchasing her own home. She died before moving in.

Drew regularly participated in Norfolk Campus activities and took part in trips earlier this year with fellow ODP students to explore colleges and culture in Atlanta and the Triangle area in North Carolina.

Drew previously held jobs in nursing and at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

In addition to her sons, Drew is survived by four sisters and two brothers.