Skip navigation

Nissan vehicle donation to enhance student training

Tidewater Community College’s Automotive Technology program got a boost this week thanks to Nissan North America.

Nissan donated 10 late-model vehicles to the college’s general automotive program to enhance student training. The donated vehicles include sedans, SUVs and even a 370Z sports car.

Nissan donated ten vehicles that will be used for students to train on.

“We’re thrilled by this donation that includes a hybrid Pathfinder, a diesel Titan XD and eight other well-kept vehicles,” said Beno Rubin, pathway dean for Manufacturing and Transportation at the college. “These vehicles will enhance student learning and ensure they are prepared to enter the automotive repair industry.”

The 10 Nissan vehicles are welcome additions to the Regional Automotive Center’s fleet of vehicles that includes Toyotas, Hondas, Subarus, Fords, Jeeps and Chryslers.

“Today’s technicians are highly trained on computers, mechanics and problem-solving skills,” said Harry Brown, fixed operations manager for Nissan North America. “And with the extreme shortage of trained techs, we are grateful for the opportunity to supply these vehicles and assist in training the next generation of technicians.”

Training vehicles includes SUVs, trucks and cars and even a diesel and a hybrid vehicle.

Stuart Mitcheison, TCC’s lead instructor for the general automotive program has been working as an automotive technician for three decades. He spent 23 years as a master technician for Nissan. In addition, for more than a decade he’s shared his knowledge with future technicians, first as a part-time instructor and now as a full-time faculty lead.

“This donation is a great boost for our general automotive program,” Mitcheison said. “With the variety of different vehicles and engines, these newer vehicles will greatly enhance the student’s experience at the college.”

Dan Bannister, owner of Bannister Nissan in Chesapeake and Norfolk said, “It’s awesome that Nissan is participating in this way. It’s phenomenal to be able to hire technicians trained on our vehicles by a master technician with decades of experience.”

TCC’s automotive technology program, accredited by the Automotive Service Excellence Education Foundation, prepares students for work in the field and provides updated training for those already working. Students learn general automotive repair, servicing and diagnostics.

The Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake has nine classrooms and 15 instructional bays.

“My favorite things about teaching are those aha moments when students put things together and just get it,” Mitcheison added.

TCC’s Regional Automotive Center is a 30,000-square-foot facility located at 600 Innovation Drive in Chesapeake. The center has nine classrooms and 15 instructional laboratories; a four-wheel chassis dynamometer, diagnostic scan tools, three alignment machines, and all of the necessary tools and equipment to deliver instruction. Students are trained on the latest equipment at the forefront of industry trends.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue to build a relationship with TCC to help our dealerships,” added Peter Rusin, district technical service manager with Nissan North America. “We see this as a win-win for all of us.”

To learn more about TCC’s Automotive Technology programs, email or call 757-822-5000.

Priority partnership with TCC offers nonviolent offenders a second chance

Two years ago, TJ Sexton and Ahmad Bilal lived in jail. Today, both are employed full time making more than $50,000 annually.

They are two of the inaugural graduates from the Priority Technical Training Center (PTTC), a program launched in 2018 by Tidewater Community College, Priority Automotive and the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office to give nonviolent offenders a new lease on life.

“Teaching nonviolent offenders to make a good, honest living and put their past in the rearview mirror is good for our communities, good for our law enforcement agencies, and good for Priority,” said Dennis Ellmer, chief executive officer and president of Priority Automotive. “This may seem like an unlikely partnership, but it just makes perfect sense.”

Built and funded entirely by Priority, the state-of-the-art automotive training center opened with dealerships across the country scrambling to find highly skilled auto technicians to service vehicles that grow more technologically advanced by the day.

Program participants were incarcerated at the Norfolk jail and bused to the facility five days a week for classroom instruction and on-the-job training. The year-long program boasts 27 graduates from the first two cohorts. Twenty four of those graduates, after their release from jail, are employed full-time at Priority dealerships.

Ray Mattox, the fixed operations director at Priority Chevrolet in Chesapeake, recalls a time when the PTTC grads working there now couldn’t turn a wrench.

“When they started, I paired them with a mentor technician to be sure they were learning the skills correctly,” Mattox said. “Today, they are high performers in our service centers, and I absolutely don’t know what I would do without them.”

Program graduate Sexton notes that his living situation is 10 times better now, calling the program the biggest blessing of his life.

“This is my second chance,” he said. “I didn’t know how I was going to get to this place that I pretty much dreamed about. I live in a nice apartment. I’m building my credit and I have three cars. But the best part is that I have a job I enjoy and stability like never before.”

Troy Clifton, executive director of Priority Toyota Charity Bowl, is the program coordinator and unofficial cheerleader.

“Make no mistake, these are my guys. I may wear a suit, but they know they can trust me, and I’m going to go to bat for them,” Clifton said. “I’m gratified at how well the trainees bought into the program and how well the mentors and coworkers have supported them.”

“I didn’t think I’d have this life, and I have no idea where I’d be without the program,” added program grad Bilal. “Every day, I can take what I’ve learned and pay it forward. That means a lot to me.”

Upon completion of the program, PTTC graduates have the opportunity to continue their education, earn new certifications and an Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology from TCC.

A state Senate joint resolution recently commended Ellmer for initiation and execution of the PTTC. Ellmer and Priority Automotive invested more than $2 million to establish the inmate training program. The program is on hold due to COVID-19 but is expected to resume in the future.

Priority Automotive CEO Dennis Ellmer (center) was recognized with a Senate joint resolution for creating the Priority Technical Training Center.

Inside the RAC: Toyota T-TEN

Walk into Tidewater Community College’s Regional Automotive Center and you’ll see highly polished floors and new vehicles on display.

But don’t let the quiet lobby fool you.

Step into one of the 15 instructional laboratory bays and you’ll hear a cacophony from impact guns, wrenches and other machinery mixed with the hum of student and instructor voices.

Inside this Toyota lab, students were servicing front disc brakes and using the on-car brake lathe to repair rotors.

Toyota T-TEN students earn an associate degrees in  automotive technology, along with certificates in chassis systems, engine performance, powertrains and electronics. As important as the academic degrees are to advancing, the ability to do the job from day one gives RAC students a real advantage.

Not surprisingly, after just one semester at the college, every student in class works a paid, entry-level position at a Toyota dealership.

Students get hands-on training in the Toyota program at TCC’s Regional Automotive Center.

“I got hired because of my time at TCC,” said Chris Rogue who works at Checked Flag Toyota. “Everything we’re learning can be immediately used in the field.”

Jaiden Jenkins, recently hired by Casey Toyota, enjoys using the vehicle computer systems to diagnose any problem agrees. “The benefits and pay are good, and the more you learn, and the more credentials you have, the more you earn,” he said.

Toyota students learn on newer Toyota vehicles and use tools and online repair guides provided by the manufacturer.

Instructor Darryl Parker works with a student in the Toyota program.

“I like that our instructor is involved in every step of the hands-on work. He makes sure we’re learning proper techniques and doing everything to industry standards,” said Zachary Clark, who works at Priority Toyota.

“My favorite thing has been taking apart an engine and then putting it back together,” said Sawyer Matthews who works at Charles Barker Toyota. “This program helps us learn the skills we need to become master technicians.”

TCC’s technologically advanced automotive curriculum is based on the Master Automotive Service Technology standards set forth by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Education Foundation.

TCC is one of 38 schools nationwide that provide Toyota-specific training. The RAC also offers manufacturer programs for Ford, Honda, Chrysler and Subaru.

Step inside and see for yourself. Interested in exploring the career options at the RAC? Call 757-822-5000 to schedule a tour and for more information.

A celebration of multiple firsts and a memorial for a special grad part of TCC’s spring commencement

During a Saturday afternoon of milestones and remembrances, Tidewater Community College celebrated the spring class of 2018 at its 66th Commencement Exercises.

In addition to more than 700 graduates walking in the ceremony at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani recognized the following milestones:

  • Four graduates, Brandi Porter, Gabrielle Hutchings, Jaylyn Richard and Jay Sellers, received the Governor’s Medallion, given to four teenagers who completed associate degrees while still in high school.
  • Alexis Spangler and Xiaomin Chen, are the inaugural students to graduate through the Women’s Center’s STEM Promise Program, which provides full scholarships to students pursuing STEM degrees at TCC. Each earned an Associate of Science of Engineering.
  • Another first: Christopher Newbill and Alyssa Shepherd, both Wilson High School seniors, became the first high school students to earn Career Studies Certificates in Maritime Welding.
  • Emma Tracy became the first recipient of the Associate of Fine Arts in Music.
  • Finally, five students from Chesapeake Public high schools, Zachary Booker, Hunter Edward, Brandon Halloran, Christian Keifer and Jalem Wilson, became the first recipients of the Career Studies Certificate in Electrical Wiring for Technicians.
Student speaker Tony Sawyer and President Kolovani at TCC's 66th Commencement Exercises.
Student speaker Tony Sawyer and President Kolovani at Commencement.

Keynote speaker Cheryl Turpin, an educator elected last fall to Virginia’s House of Delegates, encouraged the students to keep learning regardless of age.

“No matter your age, I see nothing but young minds when I look out to this crowd,” said the longtime science teacher.

Turpin’s journey has taken her from science teacher at Cox High School to the cover of Time magazine the week after she was elected to the House of Delegates. “If you follow your passions, you can achieve what you dream,” she said.

Student speaker Tony Sawyer, previously a high school dropout, talked about finding the desire to succeed at TCC thanks to the support he received. He graduated with an Associate of Science in Social Sciences.

“Education required a lot of sacrifices, but the lessons learned have been worth it,” said Sawyer, on the President’s List every semester at TCC and bound for Old Dominion University. “Today’s success is not an ending point. Let us apply the knowledge we’ve learned to make a difference.

Jordan McNair's classmates and President Kolovani on stage at Commencement.
Jordan McNair’s classmates at Commencement.

“As a former 16-year-old dropout, who is now a 49-year-old TCC graduate and attending the ODU honors college in the fall, I currently experience a new freedom from this education I no longer thought was possible,” he said.

During the conferring of degrees, Jordan McNair was awarded a posthumous Career Studies Certificate in Automotive Chassis Systems. McNair, a student at TCC’s Regional Automotive Center, died in a car accident last August. He was 20 years old.

Jordan McNair's parents, (center) Dexter McNair and Paula Borchert, accept his certificate during a standing ovation from classmates.
Jordan McNair’s parents, (center) Dexter McNair and Paula Borchert, accept his certificate during a standing ovation from classmates.

McNair’s family received an inspiring standing ovation from the graduates. His classmates, who finished restoring his project car, a 2000 Honda Civic, presented his family with his certificate.

Priority Automotive’s Jim Rose, McNair’s employer, also announced a new $12,000 scholarship, the Jordan McNair Memorial Honda PACT Scholarship, sponsored by the dealership. The scholarship will assist second-year TCC students enrolled in the Honda PACT program.

TCC’s alumni base of more than 100,000 continues to grow with the addition of the 1,500 graduates who are part of the class of 2018.