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TCC will be closed Monday, May 27, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.

A Top 10 look at a year to remember at TCC

A new president, a professor gone viral and a celebration of generous donors and collaborative partnerships are among a year of highlights for Tidewater Community College in 2019.

Check out our TCC Top 10 list of storylines that made a mark.

10. The college’s Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses celebrated their first-generation students, faculty and administrators in events held in early November. The days were selected to coincide with the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Celebrating first-generation college students.

9. Thanks to a partnership between TCC and Chesapeake Public Schools, 52 high school graduates earned career and technical training credentials during May commencement in areas that range from mechatronics to pharmacy technology to welding.

8. TCC received a fifth federal grant to help train military veterans and their spouses for careers in trucking. The grant, administered by the college’s Center for Military and Veterans Education, allows veterans to train for in-demand careers at no cost to them.

7. A partnership among TCC, Hampton Roads Transit and Norfolk Now to prepare Hampton Roads residents for careers as bus operators launched in May and graduated its inaugural class in the fall. A second cohort is under way.

The first cohort of HRT graduates

6. Mayor Rick West joined the Nov. 18 celebration for the opening of the new robotics lab on the Chesapeake Campus. The lab contains six state-of-the-art Fuji Automatic Numerical Control robots and training stations.

5. TCC will continue to grow in the next decade thanks to several generous donors. The TCC Perry Center for Visual & Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management received a major gift from philanthropist Jim Hixon. A $500,000 grant from TowneBank will also benefit the TCC Perry Center and help expand the Regional Automotive Center. The Hampton Roads Community Foundation gave the TCC Perry Center a $500,000 grant spread over five years. Stanley Black & Decker earned the Chancellor’s Award for Leadership in Philanthropy for its support of the Skilled Trades Academy. Black & Decker donated $275,000 in new industry tools and equipment, the biggest in-kind investment by the company ever in the commonwealth. The SunTrust Foundation’s $75,000 grant will support the Skilled Trades Academy. Builders & Contractors Exchange funded $5,000 in scholarships for the academy. The Don Carey REECH Foundation also gifted TCC’s Women’s Center STEM Promise Program with $2,500.

Jim Hixon provided a generous gift for the TCC Perry Center.

4. It’s never been easier to transfer from TCC to Old Dominion University or Virginia Wesleyan University. The Guaranteed Transfer Partnership Agreement, signed in September, ensures a seamless transfer to ODU for TCC graduates. The Fair Transfer Guarantee Agreement between VWU and TCC allows graduates who earn arts or science associate degrees to enter VWU as juniors.

3. TCC put into action plans to eliminate food insecurity among its students. The college and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore are new partners in a five-year initiative to eliminate the food insecurity that impedes many TCC students from completing their higher education. TowneBank’s $250,000 donation will go toward the food. A Campus-Based Pantry and Food Scholarship Program are in the works and a mobile pantry on the Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses started in the fall. In addition, a partnership between the Virginia Beach Campus and the city’s Department of Human Services gives TCC counselors and advisers a streamlined way to refer Virginia Beach students to the resources they need. Students can receive food, mental health counseling and housing support.

Physics Professor David Wright went viral.

2. Student Erica Church’s tweet on the animated teaching style of Professor David Wright made a big bang. The viral post, viewed by more than 30 million people, created headlines around the world and led to the beloved physics professor granting interviews to Yahoo, the BBC, NPR and Good Morning America. He and students Church and Kierra Brothers will appear on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” on Jan. 26.

1. Welcome, President Conston! The college’s sixth permanent president, hired Oct. 15, assumed the role on Jan. 6, 2020.

TCC opens new robotics lab on Chesapeake Campus

Tidewater Community College’s Chesapeake Campus celebrated the opening of its new robotics lab on Nov. 18 at a community event that included the city’s mayor, Rick West.  

“Once again, Tidewater Community College is leading the way in training, and this is especially important as we continue to grow in the manufacturing sector and other areas,” West said.

Faculty member Eric Beaver shows Jim Spore, Corey McCray and Mayor West how to operate one of the FANUC robots.

Also in attendance: Chesapeake Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton, a TCC alumnus; Shonda Pittman-Windham, program administrator, Chesapeake Career Center; Barry Brown, principal at Deep Creek Elementary School and a member of the TCC College Board; and Jim Spore, chief executive officer of Reinvent Hampton Roads and a member of the TCC Real Estate Foundation Board.

“This afternoon we are cutting the ribbon on a new robotics lab, one that will help our students master the modern automation and control technology used in today’s manufacturing industry,” said Corey McCray, interim executive vice president for academics and student affairs. “With the availability of manufacturing jobs in Hampton Roads steadily ticking upward, we continue our commitment to training skilled workers for competitive careers in the industry.”

More than 40 guests attended the robotics lab ribbon cutting.

The lab contains six state-of-the-art FANUC (Fuji Automatic Numerical Control) robots and training stations. The TCC lab is part of the FANUC Education Network, with students following the company’s curriculum and learning industry applications.

Faculty members Eric Beaver and Tyrone Goodman, both from the college’s Mechatronics program, designed the lab.

“We have some pretty impressive equipment in this lab,” Beaver said. “Each robot has a vision system and can track objects and be programmed to complete tasks. FANUC is the industry standard and these robots are exactly what students will see on the job.”

Interim Provost James Edwards invited McCray, Cotton, West and Beaver to share in the ceremonial snip.

Although Nov. 18 marked the official opening of the lab, TCC and CPS dual-enrolled mechatronic students have used it throughout this fall semester. The labs hum with activity daily with 16 students in each section.

“I’m pleased to be part of the opening of TCC’s robotics lab, a state-of-the-art addition to the Mechatronics program and a shining example of our shared vision to prepare students for STEM jobs of the future,” Cotton said.

Cotton also noted that the first cohort of 15 CPS dual-enrolled mechatronics students graduated in May 2019. Today, three of those students earn competitive wages and benefits in local manufacturing firms, while others are continuing at TCC to earn their associate degrees in just one year.

TCC students Taylor Pules, Tyjuan Jones and Cory Blume at work in the robotics lab.

Tyjuan Jones, a current student employed at IMS Gear, refers to himself as the “robot guy” thanks to the knowledge he gained in the lab.

“It’s a lot to learn every day and always something new. I like it all, but the troubleshooting is my favorite part,” he said.

Cory Blume, also with IMS Gear, added, “This is definitely the most interesting class, and it’s a great opportunity to practice in a safe zone before taking it to the job.”

From here, go to work in advanced manufacturing

If you look at the fronts of McDonalds or Starbucks or even the student centers on Tidewater Community College’s campuses, you’ll see Alpolic®, a composite material that adds color and dimension and, of course, coverage to each building.

TCC graduate Dylan Starowicz is at work on the lamination line for Alpolic®, manufactured by Mitsubishi Chemical Composites America in Chesapeake.

At 19 years old, he is earning a competitive full-time salary with benefits. Starowicz earned his Career Studies Certificate in Mechatronics at the same time as his diploma from Great Bridge High.

“It’s a good idea to give people different avenues to go down, not just traditional college,” Starowicz said. “It’s important to get students to think about technical careers and branch out to try different things.”

Chesapeake Public School (CPS) dual-enrolled mechatronics students started taking classes in their home high schools as sophomores and spent part of their junior and senior years on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus training in state-of-the-art labs.

“The old manufacturing jobs don’t exist anymore. Now it’s all computer-controlled, and we are looking for people who can use their minds, not their backs,” said Bill Yannetti, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Chemical. “Students who’ve gone through the TCC program bring a definite skill set, and they have value in our company right away.”

Thanks to partnerships with the City of Chesapeake Department of Economic Development and the advanced manufacturing sector, all of the CPS dual-enrolled students were awarded full scholarships by area firms. Donor companies include Mitsubishi Chemical, Sumitomo Machinery Corporation of America, USUI USA, Yupo Corporation America, GeoQuip Manufacturing Inc., Air Systems, Inc., Manufacturing and Design Technology, Inc., Nitto Inc., and TowneBank.

Mechatronic students also earned industry credentials and can apply all their credits to an Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics, which they can complete in just one year.

“Dylan is a breath of fresh air,” said Tim Elixson, production manager at Mitsubishi Chemical. “You actually can hear the education speaking for itself. He asks a lot of forward-thinking questions.”

“This is what the program was created for and I wish I had more candidates just like him.”

Starowicz monitors machinery, troubleshoots problems and ensures quality control of products coming off the line.

“There was a little learning curve at the start, but I’ve settled in,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity and see it as a stepping stone for my career.

“I feel like I’ve come full circle. They helped me out and now I’m working for them.”

Chesapeake Public School students career-ready thanks to partnership with TCC

What started with an idea and talks between leaders at Tidewater Community College and Chesapeake Public School six years ago will culminate on May 13 when 52 students from the city graduate with career and technical training credentials.

Thanks to a partnership between TCC and CPS, these high school graduates are prepared for in-demand careers in areas that range from mechatronics to pharmacy technology to welding.

Made for mechatronics

Mechatronics graduates
The first cohort in mechatronics includes (front row, left to right) Hunter Wood, Demeatris Williams, Jordan White, Ryan Laing and Jemimah Barnes. Behind them are Nathan Hippolyte, Dylan Starowicz, Nico Collins, Nathaniel Davis, Jevon Harrington, Quinton Anderson, Jeremy Herrold, Ashton Ludlam, Cody Baker and Hayden McCarthy.

Fifteen dual-enrolled mechatronics students will graduate with their Career Studies Certificate in Mechatronics.

They started taking classes in their home high schools as sophomores and spent part of their junior and senior years on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus training in state-of-the-art labs.

Classes have covered industrial robotics programming, digital systems, electric motor control, programmable logic control and instrumentation.

“Our industry leaders tell us that they are in need of skilled technicians, and our graduates are well prepared for the work ahead,” said Thomas Stout, dean of science, engineering, math and technology.  “We’re proud of this first cohort, as they are paving the way for many students to follow.”

The graduates will ultimately work on advanced manufacturing systems, often referred to as “smart” devices, in the areas of machinery design, construction and repair.

Thanks to partnerships with the city’s Department of Economic Development and the advanced manufacturing sector, all of these students were awarded full scholarships by area firms. Donor companies include Mitsubishi Chemical Composites America, Sumitomo Machinery Corporation of America, USUI USA, Yupo Corporation of America, GeoQuip Inc., Air Systems, Inc., Manufacturing and Design Technology, Inc., Nitto Inc. and Towne Bank.

Jemimah Barnes, a senior at Deep Creek High earning her mechatronics certificate, plans to study electrical engineering at Morgan State University. “I’ve enjoyed the program and feel well prepped for college,” she said. “I’ve gained technical skills and learned so much.”

Dylan Starowicz, a Great Bridge High senior, added, “It’s been great to get a head start on my associate degree, and now I’m sure I want to do this as a career.”

Mechatronic students also earned industry credentials and can apply all their credits to an  Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics, which they can complete in just one year.

Working the circuit

Electrical wiring gradutes
Electrical wiring graduates include (front row, left to right) Josh Williams, Patrick Billups Jr., Adam Turlington, Logan Albaugh, Brandon Bundick and (back row, left to right) Logan Panchana, Seth Waugh, Lars Grooms, Maynard Lawhorn, Asher Brown, Reagan Smelkinson, Kowan Lee Jr., Thaddeus Quinata and Amillion Poore.

Across the hall from the mechatronics lab, the second cohort of Electrical Wiring for Technicians students has worked to earn career studies certificates.

The class of 14 spent one academic year studying residential wiring and methods for industry. They also earned their Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA 10 cards, which certify them in industry safety standards. They are prepared for entry-level positions as electrician helpers.

“I’m amazed at how this class has turned out,” said Patrick Billups, a senior at Hickory High. “I learned the basics for less money, and the instructors have been really helpful.”

Instructor Bob Shanks, a master electrician who joined the college in the mid-’90s, added, “Students come in without any knowledge, and we can teach them from the ground up. I like it that way because we don’t have to undo any bad habits.”

Pharmacy technicians of tomorrow

Pharmacy Tech graduates are (front row, left to right) Cassandra Coppola, Destiny Davis, Ayanna Farmer-Lawrence, KyAura Goodman and (back row, left to right) Atlas Bonney, J’La Edwards, Taylor Skyles and Robert McFadden.
Pharmacy Tech graduates are (front row, left to right) Cassandra Coppola, Destiny Davis, Ayanna Farmer-Lawrence, KyAura Goodman and (back row, left to right) Atlas Bonney, J’La Edwards, Taylor Skyles and Robert McFadden.

The Pharmacy Technician program is another first for CPS and TCC dual enrollment programs with the initial cohort of eight students graduating with career studies certificates.

Students spent one academic year at the Chesapeake Career Center in a classroom fitted with a mock pharmacy that includes a counter, cash register and plenty of “products” to dispense.

They are prepared to order, stock, package, prepare and dispense medication under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist.  They can also sit for the national pharmacy tech exam to become certified pharmacy technicians.

“Now I have work I can do while in college, and I get a boost ahead since I already have this knowledge,” said J’La Edwards, a senior at Indian River High who plans to continue at TCC and attend pharmacy school at Hampton University.

Another hot career

Welding graduates for the morning session are Arlin McCourt, Timothy Davis, Tony Highter, Bryce Rivers, Jason Walters, Jonathon Kasperbauer, Jacob Priest, Lucas Brown and Ryan Yonka.
Welding graduates for the morning session are Arlin McCourt, Timothy Davis, Tony Highter, Bryce Rivers, Jason Walters, Jonathon Kasperbauer, Jacob Priest, Lucas Brown and Ryan Yonka.
The Welding graduates for the afternoon session are Seth Messinger, Deandre Crandle, Brandon Reichelderfer, Derek Klein, Hayden Lowery, Kyle Ball and Mason Krawzik.
Graduates for the afternoon session are Seth Messinger, Deandre Crandle, Brandon Reichelderfer, Derek Klein, Hayden Lowery, Kyle Ball and Mason Krawzik.

With masks on and sparks flying, 15 students honed skills by earning welding certificates at the Chesapeake Career Center.

The two-year program covered oxyacetylene (gas) welding, arc welding and inert gas-shielded techniques.

Jason Walters, from Deep Creek High, plans a career in welding. “I love welding because I get to work with my hands. I enjoy the teamwork and learning new skills, too.”

Upon completion of the program, students can sit for certification exams through the American Welding Society.

Chesapeake Public Schools superintendent talks about purpose and passion at TCC’s 67th commencement

The newest Tidewater Community College graduates received warm congratulations and prudent advice from one of their own at the college’s 67th Commencement Exercises on Monday evening at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Keynote speaker Jared Cotton, who became superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools over the summer, graduated from TCC in 1990 before going on to earn a master’s and doctorate from George Washington University.

Jared Cotton
Chesapeake Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton

“I was sitting where you sit today,” he told the class of 2018. “If there was a slogan for me regarding Tidewater Community College, it would be, ‘From here, find your purpose.’ ”

Encouraged by his mother and sister, both TCC alumni, the Great Bridge High School graduate attended the college with a plan to be a pharmacist. His time at TCC shaped a different future. While taking classes, he worked at the Pines Treatment Center, a rehabilitation home for troubled teens, as a substitute teacher. As a student teacher, he flourished and realized his passion was education.

“That’s where I found my purpose,” said Cotton, who also holds a bachelor’s from Old Dominion University.

Cotton highlighted the stories of previous TCC graduates who credit the college with helping them find their direction, including Shorntail Goodrich, working at the Norfolk Community Services Board; Michelle Wharton, a licensed geologist at one of the nation’s premier environmental planning and consulting firms; and Patrina Felts, graduating Monday with an Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Service. Felts recently started her career as a funeral director at Metropolitan Funeral Service in Norfolk.

“Today I hope you leave finding your purpose,” Cotton said.

Paul Cage spoke on behalf of the students, many of them military veterans like himself. Cage spent 21 years in the Navy and came to TCC to retrain for a new career He earned his Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design and a Certificate in Associate Designer; he previously was awarded a Career Studies Certificate in Truck Driving.graduation dec 2018

“Remember in the face of adversity, turn it into fuel to motivate you to come up with great ideas – become the best person you can be,”said Cage, planning to open his own business. “Our commencement marks the beginning of our new lives personally and professionally.”

Cage graduated with his wife, Sherrilyn Olds-Cage, who received her Associate of Science in Social Sciences. She is currently a student at Old Dominion.

President DeCinque presented a posthumous degree to the family of Belinda Drew. Drew was two classes shy of earning her Associate of Science in Social Sciences, when she died unexpectedly in July. Her sons Gevasico Gaskins and Wayne Vanderpool Jr., along with numerous family members were in attendance.

Nearly 2,000 comprise the newest class of TCC graduates, who join a network of more than 100,000 alumni. The college is also celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Gevasico Gaskins, President DeCinque, Wayne Vanderpool Jr., and Emanuel Chestnut, interim provost of the Norfolk Campus, honor Belinda Drew with a posthumous degree.

TCC celebrating fall commencement on Dec. 17

Tidewater Community College alumnus Jared Cotton, superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS), will be the keynote speaker for the college’s 67th Commencement Exercises on Dec. 17 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Commencement, which begins at 6 p.m., will be streamed live at tcc.edu/commencement.

Nearly 2,000 will graduate, earning degrees or certificates. Gregory DeCinque, who became interim president in July, will be presiding over his first TCC commencement.

Jared Cotton at his office at Chesapeake Public Schools.
Jared Cotton at his office at Chesapeake Public Schools.

Cotton, a Great Bridge High graduate, could have attended some of the commonwealth’s best universities after high school, but he chose to start at TCC. Named superintendent of CPS over the summer, he earned his Associate of Science in Education at TCC, where he developed a passion for teaching.

Cotton holds a doctorate in educational administration and policy studies and a master’s in educational administration from The George Washington University, and a bachelor’s in middle school education from Old Dominion University.

“I’m proud of the start I had at community college,” Cotton said. “Now as superintendent, I have the opportunity to change the trajectory of many students’ lives and give them all of the resources to be successful.”

Paul Cage in the interior design lab at the Chesapeake Campus.

Student speaker Paul Cage spent 22 years in the U.S. Navy as a sonar technician on submarines and was later cross-trained as a machinery technician on surface vessels. He deployed overseas 18 times during his military service.

He came to TCC to retrain for a new career and holds a Career Studies Certificate in Trucking, an Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design and a Career Studies Certificate in Associate Designer.

After graduation, Cage plans to specialize in kitchen and bath design.

He is joined at commencement by his wife, Sherrilyn Olds-Cage, who is graduating with an Associate of Science in Social Sciences. She attends ODU, where she is preparing for a career in social work.

The college will award a posthumous degree to student Belinda Drew. The Portsmouth native was just two classes shy of earning her Associate of Science in Social Sciences when she died unexpectedly on July 23.

#NationalManufacturingWeek will celebrate partnership of TCC, CPS, City of Chesapeake and local manufacturing sector

Manufacturing finally has its own week in the City of Chesapeake in large part thanks to a partnership with Tidewater Community College, Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS), Chesapeake’s Department of Economic Development and its local manufacturing sector.

Earlier this week, Chesapeake City Council designated the second week in October “Manufacturing Week in Chesapeake” to celebrate a successful partnership that fills the skills gap for industry and provides quality career training for dozens of students.  This designated week follows the celebration of National Manufacturing Day which is held annually on the first Friday of October.

Chesapeake City Council designated the second week in October “Manufacturing Week in Chesapeake” to celebrate a successful partnership that fills the skills gap for industry and provides quality career training for dozens of students
Chesapeake City Council designated the second week in October “Manufacturing Week in Chesapeake” to celebrate a successful partnership that fills the skills gap for industry and provides quality career training for dozens of students.

“Manufacturing in Chesapeake is having a greater impact on our local economy with more spin-off jobs than any other industry,” said Steven Wright, director of Economic Development for the city.

What started as an idea three years ago morphed into a TCC and CPS partnership where high school students can earn their Career Studies Certificate in Mechatronics and an industry-recognized credential along with their diplomas.

Chesapeake is home to more than 40 manufacturing firms, employing more than 3,200 skilled technicians.

“Several years ago we held a summit and learned of the need for qualified technicians to fill high-demand and high-paying jobs,” said Lisa Rhine, provost of the Chesapeake Campus. “In May, we will graduate our first cohort of students in mechatronics, and two other cohorts will follow in 2020 and 2021.”

After graduation, students may complete their Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics in just one year.

Western Branch’s Alex Kincaid is a junior in the program.

“I’ve always enjoyed electrical work, more than just plugging the X-Box into the TV,” he said. “This program has inspired me to be an electrical engineer. I enjoy the hands-on training and know that it will benefit me in the long-run.”

The program is supported by local manufacturing businesses and includes plant tours and mentoring for students.

The program is supported by scholarships from area manufacturers, bringing in $29,000 to help students pay for college courses while still in high school. Participating organizations are Air Systems International, GeoQuip Manufacturing, Manufacturing and Design Tech, Mitsubishi Chemical Composites America Inc., Towne Bank, Nitto Inc., Sumitomo Drive Technologies, USUI International, and Yupo Corporation.

After learning he could learn at TCC, alumnus wants to teach others

Rudy Wingate could have become another statistic – another special-education student left behind in life.

Instead, he is a college graduate working toward becoming a music teacher.

“I came to TCC and learned that I could learn, and that was a great surprise,” said Wingate, who earned his Associate of Applied Science in General Studies from Tidewater Community College in May 2017.

He completed the two-year degree in three packed semesters and is now studying music education at Norfolk State University.

“My plan was to get through TCC as quickly as possible because of a promise I made to a teacher. After that, I was going to get a job and never look back,” Wingate said. “But once I got to TCC, I started believing in myself and was making good grades. I realized that education could take me places.”

While at TCC, Wingate found a passion for music by taking a guitar class. After one semester, he was proficient on both guitar and saxophone and participating in two TCC music program ensembles.

“It was like a lightbulb went on, and music just clicked with me. I was surprised at how fast I was learning, and not just in my music classes,” he said.

Wingate found support from his academic advisors, teachers and pretty much everyone on the Norfolk Campus. He credits counselor Mark Flanders, who helped him develop a career plan.

His introduction to education hindered his progress prior to his college years. Wingate repeated second grade and was placed in special education classes because of behavioral issues. Even though he was smart enough, he was never part of a mainstream classroom after that.

“In high school, I would score well on SOLs, but I didn’t know how to act. I really didn’t learn what other high school kids were learning,” he said.

Meeting Jahkari “J.T.” Taylor, a special education teacher with Chesapeake Public Schools, changed his direction.

“He saw something in me and encouraged me to go to college. He even helped me with the admissions process to TCC,” Wingate said.

Taylor regarded Wingate as an extremely energetic student with untapped academic potential, recalling, “I would tell Rudy on a regular basis, ‘You can do whatever you put your mind to and you can become whatever you want to.  You got this!’ ”

“If I could I’d buy him a house or something big, I would just to thank him,” Wingate said. “I decided to become a music teacher so I can be the change for someone else.”

TCC Alumni: Connect, Contribute, Celebrate

Back to school with TCC Alum Jared Cotton, superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools

Great Bridge High graduate Jared Cotton could have attended some of the commonwealth’s best universities after high school, but he chose to start at Tidewater Community College.

Named superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS) over the summer, Cotton earned his Associate of Science in Education at TCC, where he developed a passion for teaching.

“The day I earned my degree was when I decided to become a teacher,” Cotton said. “It was still a struggle because there was a lot of pressure to be a doctor, pharmacist, something to make money. But I really enjoyed working with kids. And my professors at TCC inspired and believed in me.”

His parents couldn’t afford for him to go away to school, but he found the direction he needed close to home.

Cotton holds a doctorate in educational administration and policy studies and a master’s in educational administration from The George Washington University, and a bachelor’s in middle school education from Old Dominion University.

“I had so many interests, including science, physics, astronomy, history, medicine and law. I discovered that as a teacher, I could explore all of these areas and get children excited about them as well,” he said. “I’m proud of the start I had at community college, and now as superintendent, I have the opportunity to change the trajectory of many students’ lives and give them all of the resources to be successful.”

While at TCC, Cotton learned piano at the Chesapeake Campus. He taught tennis camps at the YMCA and was a lifeguard, swim team coach, and residential counselor at the Pines Treatment Center in Portsmouth.

His 25-year career began when he started teaching fifth grade at Crestwood Intermediate. He worked his way up the ranks in CPS from instructional technology specialist to principal and assessment director. He also served in leadership roles in Virginia Beach Public Schools and as superintendent of Henry County Public Schools in southwestern Virginia for the last six years.

He was recently named Virginia’s 2019 State Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

During his first weeks on the job in Chesapeake, Cotton hosted meet-and-greet events at Chesapeake’s seven high schools. He connected with students, teachers and staff and brought a message of “inspiring hope in others by doing our best work.”

He challenged staff to remember their why.

“What we do in education has such a powerful impact on our students’ lives. We need to reconnect with our why because that’s what gives us the motivation and drive to continue our work,” he said.

A proponent of community college, Cotton says CPS will continue to partner with TCC for dual enrollment and career pathway options for students like the ones in mechatronics, collision repair technology, welding and electrical wiring.

 “When we work together, we can accomplish much more than we can do alone,” he said. “Strong partnerships are absolutely essential for student success.”

Cotton encourages students to learn as much about the different opportunities available post-high school.

“It’s worth the time to find out what you like and don’t like while still in high school. And if you can find your passion before earning your diploma, that’s even better,” he said.

Cotton’s mother, Delores Bolton, who died in 2016, was a TCC alumna and nurse. His sister, Merrie Cotton, earned her Associate of Science in Science and went on to become a physical therapist with an advanced degree.

Cotton and his wife Joanna a former educator, have two grown children. Their daughter, Michaela, is a community college graduate who earned her degree while still in high school. She also has a bachelor’s from University of Virginia. Son Billy also started at TCC and now is working in the HVAC industry.

tcc-alumni-footer

High school students sizzling to start new career

Thanks to a new dual enrollment program offered by Tidewater Community College and Chesapeake Public Schools, students are getting a jump start on college and gaining entry-level skills in a trade all their own.

In just one academic year, five students are earning their Career Studies Certificate in Electrical Wiring for Technicians, having gained a basic understanding of residential and industrial wiring and national code with classroom instruction and hands-on laboratory work.

They will graduate on May 12 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on May 12 with a college certificate before earning their high school diplomas.

“Employers are looking for workers with this type of training,” said Bob Shanks, TCC instructor. “Our students enter the job market prepared to work and with the skills that give them a leg up in the industry.”

The electrical wiring certificate is designed to give students practical experience using scaled mock-ups to learn design, layout, construction and testing of residential wiring systems. They also gain knowledge of power distribution, circuits, switches, enclosures, panels, fuses, circuit breakers and national code.

This dual enrollment program launched in fall 2017. Students in the program also completed the OSHA 10-hour construction safety and health training.

Here’s what our graduates are saying:

Zachary Booker
Western Branch High – senior

“Mr. Shanks knows his business, and I have learned a lot from him. I’ve enjoyed everything about the program and want to earn my associate degree in electrical wiring, and then work for Dominion Energy.”

Hunter Edward
Deep Creek High – junior

“I had no intention of becoming an electrician until I had this opportunity. Now I don’t see myself doing anything else. It really gave me all of the basics I need in the field. I ultimately want to work as a linesman for Dominion Energy after earning my associate degree.”

Brandon Halloran
Oscar Smith High – junior

“I wasn’t even considering going to college until I took this program, and now I’m going to get my associate degree in electrical wiring. I really like this work because it’s hands-on and I can work outside. I want to travel and work overseas, and now I can do that with this trade. When I come home, I’d enjoy working for Dominion Energy.”

Christian Keifer
Grassfield High – junior

“Having something different than my regular high school schedule has been great and learning a new skill has been the best thing. I’d definitely recommend this program. I liked the hands-on activities and gaining the basic skills for a career. I want to be an electrician and someday run my own business.”

Jalem Wilson
Great Bridge High – senior

“I originally wanted to be a pilot, but things changed, and I really like this field. This program has been a big influence on where I want to go in the future. I plan to earn my associate degree, and I’m pretty excited about doing this work for a living.”

The next cohort for the dual enrollment program in electrical wiring is forming now and already includes 17 Chesapeake Public School juniors and seniors. For information about the program, call 757-822-1111 or email enroll@tcc.edu.