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Father and dual-enrolled daughter graduate together

Marvin Fletcher and his daughter SaNayah Hill were surprised to find out they are graduating from Tidewater Community College at the same time.

“I never thought my daughter and I would be wearing a cap and gown together. I’m utterly speechless,” Marvin said.

SaNayah added, “I feel like it will be a fun experience and not something a lot of people can say.”

Marvin’s degree has been a decade in the making. He is earning an Associate of Applied Science in Management. SaNayah, a junior at Deep Creek High School, is a dual-enrollment student earning a Career Studies Certificate in Emergency Medical Service/Emergency Medical Training.

“As parents, we want a better start for our kids,” Marvin added. “To see SaNayah graduate with a certificate at 17, I’m really proud. A lot of kids don’t aspire to do all that.”

A military veteran, Marvin served in both the United States Marine Corps and the Army. He spent 12 years doing transportation and logistics, with overseas tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait. “Serving in the military slowed down my studies as I moved around the country and did multiple deployments,” Marvin said.

Marvin credits TCC veterans’ advisor Howard Darden for helping make his graduation possible. “I needed my official transcript from the military so I would get credit for my PE class, and he made that happen.”

He added, “The help I received from the start from TCC’s military center has been monumental to my success and has everything to do with where I am now.”

A native of Portsmouth, Marvin remembers his family living paycheck to paycheck. “My sister Sonya and I would go outside and cut wood, so we’d have a fire in the stove and heat in the house. We had a very humble childhood,” he added.

Marvin also remembers failing at least two classes every year since sixth grade and having no one invested in his education. He attended summer school annually to pass each class and graduated from I.C. Norcom High School.

“I wanted different for my daughter,” Marvin said. “And that’s happened largely because of her mom and my support, and because of her hard work.”

SaNayah decided to pursue the EMT certificate because of her interest in medicine. She hopes to one day be a general practice physician.

SaNayah’s program included ride-alongs with area firefighters, something she called “intense,” but worth it. “I craved the experience and wanted to get out there and do it,” she said. “People often doubt themselves. But I say get out there and do the work and see what doors will open.”

Marvin added that he found a good fit at TCC. “I liked the teachers and the challenge of it all,” he said. “I enjoyed in-person classes then being able to go to faculty and staff and get the help I needed.”

Marvin plans to use his degree to open and manage group homes for disabled adults and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something he suffers from as well. He says that it’s a confidence booster earning this degree and a motivator to continue to serve.

“Life isn’t about where you start, but where you finish,” Marvin said. “There were times when I thought I couldn’t do it, but the staff at TCC motivated me and my family support systems made all the difference.”

TCC secures seventh consecutive grant aimed to help veterans transition to careers in trucking

Tidewater Community College received a seventh federal grant to help train military veterans and their spouses for careers in trucking.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently awarded TCC a $94,842 grant, which will be administered by the college’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE).

“So far we’ve helped more than 200 transitioning military, veterans and dependents train for a career in trucking at no cost to them,” said Alesia Wroten, veteran resource liaison with TCC’s CMVE.  “We are grateful to be one of two schools in Virginia to receive this funding, especially as the need for trained truck drivers is growing nationwide.”

TCC alum Tim Raub is a Navy veteran who now drives trucks.
Navy veteran Tim Raub earned his Truck Driver certificate at TCC.

According to the American Trucking Association, the United States will be short 175,000 drivers by 2026. A lack of drivers continues to make goods more expensive and delays orders as freight rates are climbing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a commercial truck driver is 55 years old. A significant percentage of these drivers will retire over the next 10 years.

TCC is one of 21 educational institutions that received funds from the $2 million federal grant to help train veterans for jobs as commercial bus and truck drivers.

Since TCC received its first grant in 2014, 220 veterans and spouses have enrolled in the Truck Driving program.

TCC students have a 98% pass rate on the DMV tests for commercial licenses.

Recipients of the grant pay nothing to complete the one-semester, 16-credit certificate. Students learn how to drive a truck in state-of-the-art simulators that allow them to practice in varied road and weather conditions. The program includes 140 hours of on-the-road training. Course work qualifies students to obtain the Class A CDL (commercial driver’s license) from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Classes are taught at the Center for Workforce Solutions on College Drive in northern Suffolk. Day, evening and weekend sessions are available.

Contact Alesia Wroten, at or 757-822-7714, for information on qualifying for the grant program.

Military Times ranks TCC best two-year school for vets in Virginia

Tidewater Community College was named the top two-year school in the Commonwealth by Military Times in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2020 rankings.

Best for Vets ranked TCC seventh overall among two-year institutions in the United States and No. 1 in Virginia.

“TCC is honored to be chosen again as a Best for Vets college,” said Batanya Gipson, interim director of TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE). “Through our CMVE, we continue to work each day to serve the needs of our military-related students. In addition to providing excellent student support services, we work closely with military supportive business, industry and organizations to achieve our mission of facilitating educational and employability success. 

Military-focused offerings include:

  • A partnership between Virginia Natural Gas and TCC for a workforce development initiative that trains veterans and transitioning military to fill the growing need for skilled workers in the natural gas industry. The week-long program, offered at the Virginia Beach Campus, began in 2017.
  • The Machining Skills Certification, a SkillBridge-approved program that trains military-related students in computer numeric controlled (CNC) machinery from setup to operation. CNC machinists are in demand throughout Hampton Roads and the nation. Military-related students may also use their GI Bill benefits to pay for this program. Contact Chris Blow, project coordinator, at for information.

Military-related students make up about one-third of TCC’s enrollment. The statistics used for the Bets for Vets survey do not account for dependents.

The rankings are based on the results of Military Times’ annual survey — a comprehensive school-by-school assessment of veteran and military student services and rates of academic achievement — as well as a detailed review of public data collected by federal agencies. The survey asks colleges and universities to document a wide array of services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to students with military ties, and to describe many aspects of veteran culture on a campus.

Navy vet-turned-trucker, a TCC alumnus, is finalist for national driving excellence award

Veteran Timothy Raub needed a new career after his retirement from the military and was asked on base if he ever considered becoming a truck driver.

“Are you out of your mind?” he responded.

Three years later, the graduate of Tidewater Community College’s trucking program is one of 10 finalists for a national driving excellence award. The recognition is part of an effort to inspire the hiring of more veterans in an industry overflowing with employment opportunities.

According to a recent CNBC article, in the next decade, we’ll need 890,000 drivers to keep pace with growth and demand for freight transportation. Raub had a job lined up prior to graduating from TCC, noting, “I had 17 companies contact me.”  He paid nothing for his classes here after working with TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE).

For the last four years, the CMVE has received grant money from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to train veterans, their spouses and dependents for careers in trucking, where typical wages range from $45,000 to $65,000.

“I called TCC, and within two weeks, I had a confirmed seat in class, and the bill was paid for me,” Raub said. “I have a job in an industry where I don’t need to ever worry about finding one.”

Equally gratifying, the former Navy cook enjoys his job at Averitt Express, a transportation and supply chain management company that prides itself in customer service. Raub hauls paper to numerous accounts from Canada to Florida, recording more than 135,000 safe miles driven.

As a “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award” top 10 finalist, Raub will be recognized at the George W. Bush Library and Museum later this year. The field then narrows to three during a trucking trade show in Dallas that he will attend as a guest. Cash prizes are awarded in addition to the overall winner receiving a fully loaded Kenworth T680 — a tractor-trailer with all  the bells and whistles — valued at $155,000.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s “Hiring our Heroes” program, trucking manufacturer Kenworth and software development company FASTPOR sponsor the awards.

“It’s just an honor to be up for the award,” said Raub, 48, who, straight out of high school, joined the Navy, where he spent 26 years, serving on five ships, two overseas unaccompanied commands and three shore duties commands.

In earning his Class A Commercial Driver’s License at TCC, he realized that trucking played to many of his strengths, particularly his commitment to structure and discipline.

“Veterans have a different mindset,” he said. “My motto is, ‘If you’re early you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late.’ ”

Raub drives roughly 2,000 miles a week, but “I’m home every week, usually in the middle of the week, and every weekend.” Given how much time he spent traveling with the Navy, he welcomes the schedule and thinks other veterans would embrace it as well.

In the last four years, the FMCSA has awarded TCC more than $554,000 in grant money to train veterans for careers in trucking. Nearly 150 military-related students have received training through the program.

“My company comes to TCC during graduation,” Raub said. “I’ve been back, too, to show off my truck.”

The 16-week Career Studies Certificate in Trucking is offered at TCC’s northern Suffolk site. Day and evening classes are available.

For information, contact Alesia Wroten, program coordinator, at or 757-822-7714.

TCC receives more federal grant money to train transitioning military, National Guard and Homeland Security members, reservists for trucking careers

Tidewater Community College received a fourth federal grant that will help train military veterans and their spouses for immediate employment while addressing a growing need in the economy.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) awarded TCC a $97,336 grant, which will be administered by the college’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE). Matching funds from USAA Foundation, Bank of America and LogistX Games push the total amount to $114,512.

The program aims to expand the number of the nation’s truck drivers by assisting active-duty military, veterans, National Guard members, reservists, Department of Homeland Security members and spouses of all those groups in obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License. TCC is one of 13 technical and community colleges that received funds from the $2.3 million FMCSA grant program.

The 16-week Career Studies Certificate in Trucking is offered at TCC’s Center for Workforce Solutions in northern Suffolk. Day and evening classes are available.

In the last four years, the FMCSA has awarded the college more than $554,000 in grant money to train veterans for careers in trucking. More than 150 military-related students have received training through the program.

“Several graduates have even purchased trucks to start businesses of their own,” said Batanya Gipson, interim director of the CMVE. “We are proud that TCC continues to help veterans and their families find career stability while serving the economic needs of the community and the region.”

Industry sources point to an aging workforce, high turnover and increasing freight demand as major reasons behind the massive truck driver shortage.

For more information on applying for the grant, contact Alesia Wroten, program coordinator at the CMVE, at or 757-822-7714.

Military Times ranks TCC the best two-year college for vets in Virginia

Tidewater Community College has been recognized as the top-ranked two-year school in Virginia for its support of veteran and military students, according to 2019 rankings released by Military Times on Monday.

Rankings are based on the results of Military Times’ annual survey – a comprehensive school-by-school assessment of veteran and military student services and rates of academic achievement – as well as a detailed review of public data collected by federal agencies.

TCC, which has a Center for Military &Veterans Education (CMVE) on each of its four campuses, ranks fifth overall and is one of two Virginia Community Colleges in the top 10. Southwest Virginia Community College checks in at No. 9.

“Our priority at the CMVE continues to be serving military-related students, whether they be active-duty, transitioning military, veterans or their family members,” said Batanya Gipson, interim director of the CMVE. “We strive to make the CMVE a one-stop shop, where our military-related students can receive help with academic and career advising and learn how to use their GI Bill®  funding and other college and community resources that can help them achieve their education and career goals.”

About 35 percent of TCC’s enrollment is military-related students.

The CMVE continues to work to secure approval for students to use GI Bill® benefits and SkillBridge funding. The college offers a digital court reporting program geared specifically toward military and their families. TCC was recently recognized for its partnership with Virginia Natural Gas, which provides training for transitioning military.

The college’s Solar Ready Vets program, which prepares sailors for careers in the solar industry, is in its third year. TCC also introduced a Career Studies Certificate in Inside Machinist last year that provides opportunity in the manufacturing and maritime industries, an ideal fit for former military members.

Military Times; Best for Vets: Colleges is an editorially independent, objective and rigorous news project in its ninth year. This feature evaluates the many factors that help make colleges and universities a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families. About 500 colleges took part in this year’s survey, and less than half received recognition in the survey.

The survey asks colleges and universities to disclose academic outcome and input data, describe many aspects of veteran culture on campus and meticulously document a wide array of services, special policies, accommodations and financial incentives offered to students with military ties. Military Times also factors in data from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, as well as three Education Department sources: the IPEDS Data Center, College Scorecard data and the Cohort Default Rate Database.

For the full list of two-year rankings, click here.

Rankings are published in Military Times print products – Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times – sold on newsstands and sent to subscribers the week of Oct. 22.

On first visit to TCC as governor, Northam meets with women veterans

In February, Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly declared the third full week in March as Women Veterans Week in Virginia. On Friday, the inaugural observance concluded with a roundtable at Tidewater Community College’s Virginia Beach Campus to give female veterans a chance to bend the governor’s ear on issues important to them.

The event was organized by the Office of the Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs and TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education.

Northam said his administration will continue efforts from the previous administration of Gov. Terry McAuliffe to improve veterans’ experiences in Virginia.

“We have effectively ended veteran homelessness,” he told the 13 members of the roundtable. “Through our Virginia Values Veterans – V3 – program more than 31,000 vets have been hired.” The goal, he said, is to keep valuable, well-trained former military personnel in Virginia.

He noted that Virginia has the largest percentage of female veterans in the country, and he wanted to hear from the panelists about their challenges.

Oluyinka Adelegan, who served in the U.S. Army as a Medical Service Corps officer, said her transition into civilian life was positive. Given her medical training, she had job offers from several health systems but added, “It’s a tough decision whether to stay in Virginia.”

Gov. Ralph Northam listens to panelist at Women Veterans Roundtable

“No it’s not,” the governor responded with a laugh, adding that he wants to keep medically trained veterans in Virginia by further streamlining the process of getting corpsmen and medics into civilian jobs through Virginia’s Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) Program.

The women made a point that, after 20 years or more of service, veterans are eligible for benefits including health care and mental health counseling. “But if you don’t have 20 years or you don’t have a job, you’re on your own,” said one panelist. Northam said that situation would improve if a state budget is approved with an expansion of Medicaid.

Child care is another hurdle for not only veterans, but also active-duty service members – especially single parents. “If you don’t have income, you can’t find child care and you can’t go to school,” said Cassandra Harris, an on-base TCC representative at Naval Station Norfolk.

Child care providers need to be trained in how to deal with children whose parents are in the military, especially when they are deployed. “They need extra care,” said Dawn Johns, a TCC student. “They need someone to watch and understand their actions and behavior.” She said her daughter attends TCC’s Child Development Center, operated by the YWCA of South Hampton Roads, on the Portsmouth Campus.

Kathy Owens, a retired Navy pilot, said some reciprocity or coordination among states with school calendars, GPA calculations and advanced placement credits would also be ideal.

However, the biggest complaints were reserved for something the governor does not control: VA medical centers, especially the one in Hampton. “They’re swamped,” said Juanita Williams, a Navy vet. “The VA is the primary health care provider for so many.”

Asked what she would do if she were governor for the day, one panelist said, “I would have an easy button.’ I want someone I can call, and if they don’t know the answer they’ll find out, not transfer me 15 times.”

Another said, “We shouldn’t have to call our senators and representatives to get help.”

“Our veterans should be at the top of the queue, not the bottom,” Northam said. “I hear you.  I don’t have the answers, but my administration and I are committed to working with the VA and finding solutions.”

Two new members of the House of Delegates from Virginia Beach, Del. Cheryl Turpin and Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, were on hand. Also among those in attendance were representatives for Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Tim Kaine, Rep. Donald McEachin and Rep. Bobby Scott.

Veronica Cianetti, director of military student support at the CMVE and an Army veteran, said TCC is unique in its wraparound services for veterans, noting, “It was great to have Governor Northam here today so he could get a little taste of what we do at TCC.”

Learn digital court reporting in just six weeks

Tidewater Community College prepares students for certification in the high demand, cutting edge field of digital court reporting.

Sponsored by TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE), the six-week program trains students in court and deposition procedures and practices, audio and video equipment and the complete process of advanced digital court reporting.

SkillBridge-approval enables eligible transitioning service members within 180 days of separation, with command approval, to participate in training as their place of duty. Students who successfully complete program requirements are guaranteed an offer of employment with Veterans Reporters Inc., either in Virginia or in their offices nationwide.

“There is a looming critical need for court reporters across the country,” said Batanya Gipson, project manager for military contract programs at the CMVE. “Many court systems are looking to digital court reporting as the answer. The digital court reporting program at TCC offers students the ability to make themselves marketable in this new and growing field.”

The next session begins April 16 and concludes May 25. Classes meet weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on the Virginia Beach Campus. Additional sessions are scheduled for:

  • June 18 – July 27
  • Aug. 20 – Sept. 28
  • Oct. 22 – Dec. 5

The course, recognized by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT), prepares graduates for the national certification exam.

Donna Jenkins completed the program last fall and was hired immediately by Veteran Reporters Inc.

“You have to be a very meticulous person,” said Jenkins, who works in Washington, D.C. “You have to be committed and you have to recognize the seriousness of what you’re doing because people’s lives depend on what you’re doing and the record you’re taking.”

Students must have a high school diploma or equivalent and basic keyboarding and computer skills to enroll.

Although the program is geared to transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses, enrollment is open to anyone.

The cost of the program is $3,950.

Students who complete the program earn 24 Continuing Education Units, a TCC certificate of completion and membership in AAERT.

Military-related students should contact the CMVE for information on using their education benefits to enroll in the digital court reporting program. Contact Gipson at 757-822-7724 or or email to enroll in the program.