Skip navigation

TCC students take first place in cyber competition

Tidewater Community College cyber security students took first place in the 2023 Cyber Fusion competition in the Community College Division.

Cyber Fusion 2023, hosted by Virginia Military Institute, welcomed representatives from institutions of higher education from across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

About 150 students and 30 faculty advisors attended. The annual invitation-only event, co-sponsored by the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and Virginia Cyber Range, is open to Virginia colleges that are designated National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

The two-day event included a job fair, speakers and a capture-the-flag cyber competition.

A total of six TCC students participated in the competition, under the direction of faculty advisors John McGill and Joel Kirch. The team tackled problems in scenarios designed to model real-world computer security challenges across a range of categories including cryptography, network traffic analysis, reverse engineering, steganography and more. Two student observers were also present at the event.

The Virginia Cyber Cup capture-the-flag (CTF) competition is a jeopardy-style CTF in which teams solve individual challenges of various point values across different categories to score points. The team with the highest point total at the end of the competition is the winner. 

Dean Debra Dart (center) with TCC students and instructor John McGill.

“The competition is designed to both test skills and teach concepts,” said TCC Dean Debra Dart. “These activities are very important for our students’ training and help to develop a sustainable pipeline of capable talent, and industry-read workers to meet the increasing demand for cyber security engineers.”

Tidewater Community College took the top spot in the community college division, with Laurel Ridge Community College taking second place and Virginia Western Community College in third. The University of Virginia was the overall winner and received the Commonwealth Cyber Fusion Cup. The four-year college division winners are University of Virginia in first, Liberty University finishing second, and George Mason University in third.

Computers for Student Success – a win-win for students

Tidewater Community College student Daniele Sparks is ready for classes to start next month. This week, she visited Computers for Student Success and picked up a newly refurbished personal computer at no cost.

“I always told myself that I’d go back to school when my son started pre-school,” she said. “The time is now, but with everything getting so expensive, I can’t afford to buy a computer. This is a real gift.”

Lee Grimm, Blake Nietling, Gary Noah, Erin O’Meara, Eduardo Jimenez, Matthew Walsh and Sal Trinidad with TCC’s Computers for Student Success.

Computers for Student Success is run by TCC’s Computer Club and Professor Gary Noah. It launched in 2009 and has distributed close to 15,000 computers since the start.

“When we provide computers for students in need, they are very appreciative. I gave the first 150 computers away myself. I’ve seen a lot of thankful tears,” Noah said.

He continued, “To a single parent who has no computer, getting one can mean the difference between success and failure. Students can’t make it to the computer lab or library because of work and childcare needs. Sometimes they don’t have cars. We’re getting rid a barrier for them.”

Computers for Student Success is wholly supported by donations from individuals and the community  including Sentara Healthcare and Stihl Co.

TCC’s Computer Club members rehabilitate and update the older or in-need of repairing PCs and laptops and get them into the hands of students, families and nonprofits in Hampton Roads.

Jolina Santiago with her laptop from TCC’s Computers for Student Success.

“I’m so grateful for my new laptop. Without it, I’d have to drop my summer classes,” said Jolina Santiago, a TCC student who recently lost her car and home.

Computers for Student Success is taking applications now for Fall Semester. TCC students are encouraged to request a PC or laptop early as fall is the busiest time for the volunteer team. To start the process, use this form.

In addition to its service to the community, the club provides valuable hands-on experience to Computer Club members, many of whom are working toward Computer Science, Information Systems Technology or Cyber Security degrees at the college.

Computers for Student Success staffer Lee Grimm with volunteer Matthew Walsh.

“This is a great way to serve our community while gaining experience repairing computers and working as a team,” said Lee Grimm, who helps Professor Noah run the program.

Although Computers for Student Success volunteers are mostly IT students, anyone is welcome to join the volunteer team.

Volunteer Salvador Trinidad shows Daniele Sparks how to use her new PC.

“I like computers and diagnosing problems,” said Salvador Trinidad, a TCC student volunteer in business management. “My favorite part is helping students learn to use their new computers. My goal is to make it really user-friendly with no jargon.”

Noah added, “We’ve had some students who received a computer come back to volunteer and pay it forward for another student in need. We have stacks of computers to work on and everyone is welcome.”

More than 120 volunteers work with Computers for Student Success which is open Monday – Friday from noon to 5 p.m. The eight-room office is located in the Lynnhaven building, room E108, on the Virginia Beach Campus.

Computer Science Professor Gary Noah with stacks of refurbished PCs.

“We know the work we’re doing is changing lives. That’s why we are here 51 weeks of the year,” Noah said, standing in front of a wall of computers and thank you notes from grateful students.

For more information about Computers for Student Success, contact Noah at

“I like everything at TCC and tell everyone I know to start here.” – David Hopkins, TCC STEM Promise Scholar

Meet David Hopkins, a Tidewater Community College STEM Promise Scholar.

David is following in his dad’s footsteps and preparing for a career in cyber security.

A Suffolk resident, David has adjusted well to college life after years of homeschooling.

“My favorite thing about TCC is the opportunities,” David said. “I especially like working with classmates on projects, going to the campus gym and just hanging out with people after class.”

As a STEM Promise Scholar, David pays no tuition or fees as he earns an Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security in two years.

David was invited to participate in Innovate Cyber at Old Dominion University, a program designed to help students develop the skills necessary to succeed in the cyber security and information technology fields.

Through the program, he is working on a design project that mirrors work in the real world. “We’re creating a cyber hygiene company that helps organizations assess risks for cyber-attacks,” he said. “It’s been really eye-opening as my career goal is to find a position that combines cyber defense and offense.”

David is completing his first year at TCC and is confident that he made the right choice starting at a community college. “TCC costs less and was a good way to get my feet wet in college. I know better what to expect when I transfer to a university,” he said.

David has three favorite professors so far: Thomas Geary who teaches English and Christopher Boyle and Gary Noah who teach computer science. “I like everything about TCC and tell everyone I know to start here,” he said.

In his free time, David enjoys walking his dog, Presley, going to the gym and playing video games.

David hopes to one day work in cyber security for the FBI or the National Security Agency.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at TCC. My professors have been flexible and available to answer questions,” David said. “And It was definitely easier than I thought to get going on my degree.”

Students receive support to stay on track at TCC

Tidewater Community College’s recent advertising campaign features the tagline, “We’re Here to Help.” And it’s true! TCC has helped thousands of students with internet access, free laptops, tuition assistance and emergency financial help.

By the numbers

Help came in many forms including:

  • A total of 1,029 students received internet access support.
  • More than 1,400 first-time college students and others received a free laptop.
  • A total of 3,589 students were helped with tuition assistance.
  • Emergency financial assistance was given to 115 students, providing help with critical needs.

Here’s what students are saying

Roschone Anderson-Felton was homeless and in need of food. TCC helped her with rent, utilities and connected her with the Community Feed at TCC for needed meals, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. She also received a free laptop and internet access through a program with Cox Cable.

Rocshone Anderson-Felton

“I went from having my own apartment to sleeping in my car or at other people’s homes. I washed up in McDonald’s. If I had not had TCC in my corner, I would not be anywhere near where I am. I have grown tremendously through the blessing of TCC. TCC is not just a school. It’s my family. I have a support network here – everyone from Dean Chestnut to the people of Open Door and the financial aid team.”

Anderson-Felton is well on her way to earning a human services degree. She has a job at the City of Chesapeake Department of Human Services. She also has a new apartment.

Christopher Petrice is at work on his Information Systems Technology degree thanks to a scholarship from TCC. He also received a free laptop.

Christopher Petrice

“The people in Open Door Project have put me on the road to a better future. They’ve been there to lend support every step of the way. If I’m stressed, they listen and provide strategies to help me balance school and work,” he said. “Also, the free laptop has been a lifesaver as I can plan out my studies better not having to go to the computer lab during the limited hours I’m not at work.”

Susan Brown-Clukey is a bus driver for a local school district. When her husband faced medical challenges that put him out of work, Brown-Clukey went back to school to pursue a higher-paying career. The mom of six is now at work on her associate degree in cyber security. She is using the G-3 scholarship which means, “Get a skill. Get a job. Get ahead.”

Susan Brown-Clukey

She also received a laptop and a hotspot and encouragement from the Student Resource and Empowerment Center (SREC). “I can now do school in between my runs, right on the bus. I don’t have to worry about a Zoom being dropped or losing what I’m working on when the internet goes out. I really appreciate the people at the SREC that helped keep me going. My son is also a TCC student and together we are going to finish TCC and from here go anywhere!”  

More information about The Community Feed at TCC is available at Additional information about the Student Resource and Empowerment Center is available by emailing Melvilyn Scott at

“I knew I had to reinvent myself to make a life for my family.” – Karen Etulle, TCC alumna

Karen Etulle is finally living the American dream.

She came to the United States in 2014 seeking a better life, but the dream was put on hold.

The mother of four faced domestic violence and went into hiding for three years, living in shelters and moving from house to house with friends.

“I had no money, no job and everything was falling apart. I knew I had to reinvent myself to make a life for my family. I found TCC with its nationally recognized cyber curriculum and got to work,” she said.

Karen Etulle on TCC’s Norfolk Campus.

Today, the TCC alumna is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security and one of three TCC students to receive the National Science Foundation CyberCorps Scholarship for Service. The scholarship will cover tuition and fees for her last year at TCC and also pay for her bachelor’s degree.

The scholarship includes a generous stipend, book allowance and professional development funds. When she graduates, Etulle will work in a federal agency doing cyber work for at least three years.

“I’m so grateful for this scholarship and thank God for all of my opportunities,” she said.

Etulle recalls the time when she was living in a shelter and her children were asking for rice and chicken. “I went to Walmart to buy groceries and I didn’t have enough money. The man behind me paid the bill and I was so relieved. Now with everything in me, I want to pay it forward,” she said.

Etulle took some career tests online and enrolled in classes at the Virginia Beach Campus.

“I’ve learned so much. When I started, I didn’t have any money, but I found so many resources that paved the way for my success,” she said.

While at TCC, Etulle works with TCC’s Computers for Student Success and is a member of Women in Cyber Security.

“I have an apartment and my children are flourishing. I’ve found a home with cyber security and I enjoy the work,” she said.

One of her daughters is also a student at TCC. She is earning a degree with LEAP (Learn. Explore. Accelerate. Persevere), a full scholarship for first-time college students that includes a free laptop.

Etulle will complete her TCC degree in 2022 and has already been accepted at Old Dominion University to complete her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Paying it forward is important to Etulle. She’s at work organizing blood drives for American Red Cross, teaching at the Philippine Cultural Center and serving as a youth advisor at her church.

Etulle credits TCC’s faculty with giving her good insights into cyber careers. “All of my faculty come from industry and they share stories and talk passionately about their work. They inspire me every day to work hard so I can be part of that world, too.”

What started with a single TCC class grew into a cyber-security career for Air Force veteran

One-third of TCC’s students are military-related. This week we highlight some of them in honor of Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Air Force veteran Kendall Shook spent her career serving her country and community.

She started as a Russian cryptologic linguist in the service and later worked as an emergency dispatcher for the Department of Defense and City of Chesapeake, where she was also on the SWAT team.

Today, she is a cyber security specialist with an industry credential who protects data and computer networks.

Shook originally came to Tidewater Community College to take one computer class.

That sparked her interest in one of the most in-demand fields in the nation given the relentless security breaches that continue to threaten data.

 “Once I came here, I decided to keep going and it’s all because of Professor Guess’ passion for cyber and the way he engages with his students,” Shook said.

Kendall Shook

Taking online classes at TCC enabled Shook to continue working full time while pursuing her degree.

 “My professors are standouts in the field,” Shook said. “I really enjoyed the mix of ages and backgrounds of my classmates. It pushed all of us to view things from different perspectives.”

Shook found her current career opportunity at a “Lunch and Learn” event held on the Chesapeake Campus. Today, she is employed at a busy network operation center, using her TCC degree and CompTIA Security+ certification.

Shook worked with TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE) to use her GI Bill benefits to pay her tuition. She learned about the CMVE while visiting a TCC transfer event with her son, Ethan, who was also studying cyber security at the college.

After earning an Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security, the Chesapeake native transferred to Old Dominion University to complete a bachelor’s in cyber security.

“I can tell you TCC was a good value and prepared me for work in the field,” Shook said. “I’m also just as confident in my studies at Old Dominion as those who started at the university.”

Shook plans a future as a malware analyst or reverse computer engineer. She encourages her classmates to take those entry level help desk positions, as they often lead to other possibilities in the field.

“It’s all about networking and getting involved in the industry as soon as possible,” she said. “Your TCC degree is proof to everyone of what you are capable of learning. And it all starts with a single class!”

For special support services for military-related students, visit the CMVE or call 757-822-7645. You can also email

“I’ve gone from nothing to something in three semesters.” — scholarship recipient Dasha Chaney

Dasha Chaney wasn’t ready for college the first time around.

Now the 23-year-old is close to completing her Tidewater Community College cyber degree in just one year.

“I’ve gone from nothing to something in three semesters,” Chaney said. “I actually have the mindset for college now. I’m ready to push and meet my goals.”

A TCC scholarship recipient, Chaney was awarded the Christopher M. Garrett Memorial scholarship for $1,800 and the Barnes and Noble Textbook scholarship for $600.

Chaney is grateful for the funds, as they are helping to ease the financial crunch of her final 16-credit- hour semester at the college.

Dasha Chaney at the Chesapeake Campus.

A high achieving student, Chaney was delighted to be awarded an academic scholarship. “It definitely gives me a boost and peace of mind that I can and will finish my degree,” she said.

Growing up, Chaney opted for Game Boy Advance instead of Barbie dolls.

“I always liked video games that were hands-on and visual. That’s what attracted me to cyber security. It’s a field that’s always advancing,” Chaney said.

The daughter of a Navy officer, Chaney said her father, Lt. Cmdr. Shelley Pulliam, has been a great influence in her life with everything technical, and now as an inspiration for her cyber career.

“My parents encouraged TCC early on, but I didn’t listen. I had to find my way back after a time at Old Dominion and a very brief enlistment in the Navy,” Chaney said.

Now Chaney’s course is clear, and she is preparing to be a cyber security analyst. While at TCC she is also completing her Network+ and A+ certifications. She plans to transfer back to Old Dominion to complete her bachelor’s degree.

Chaney credits campus advisor Kita Graham with helping make the transfer process easy.

An online learner, Chaney sends a shoutout to Joel Kirch, her favorite professor. “The community at TCC is what makes learning possible. All of my professors have been supportive and engaging,” she said.

Chaney participates in the Virginia Beach Campus Cyber Security Club. Because of COVID-19, the group has been meeting virtually for games and competitions. Chaney also volunteers for TCC’s Computers for Student Success, helping to refurbish computers and provide them to students in need.

She encourages students coming after her to “trust in your process and push yourself.”

Chaney added, “Never think you can’t do it, because you always can! And if it doesn’t work out the first time, get back up and try again!”

Spring scholarships are available now and most TCC students qualify. Browse the list of opportunities at to find your fit.

New TCC cybersecurity certificate coming this summer

Tidewater Community College will launch a new cybersecurity certificate beginning with its summer session 2020.

The Career Studies Certificate in Cyber Security and Networking Foundations will introduce students to information technology concepts and skills so they will be able to recognize, prevent and defend against threats to information and information systems.

Students will learn about operating systems, computer hardware, networking concepts, cybersecurity and programming. The 20-credit certificate includes core IT courses that are mapped to CompTIA industry certifications and cybersecurity apprenticeships.

The certificate is the first step toward an associate degree and fits the bill for  Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” initiative, or “G3” program, which will provide financial support to cover tuition, fees and books for eligible students at community colleges in Virginia.

“This certificate is a great vehicle for students who are looking to get started and attain CompTIA industry certifications such as A+, Network+ and Security+,” said Bill Clement, dean of computer science and information technology. “The program can also provide a streamlined approach for companies looking to provide education for employees, particularly for those interested in the cybersecurity apprenticeship.

With the completion of the certificate, students are prepared for work as computer user or network support specialists, earning $25 per hour or more than $50,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

TCC’s cybersecurity programs are offered on the Chesapeake and Virginia Beach campuses.

Summer classes begin on May 18. For information on enrollment, call 757-822-1111 or email

Cyber specialist on top of hacker threats thanks to classes from TCC

In the fast-paced, nonstop grind of television news, Keith O’Malley is charged with keeping all networks and computer systems operational and safe from hackers.

The director of technology for WVEC, the ABC-affiliate television station in Hampton Roads, credits the information technology classes he’s completed at Tidewater Community College for keeping his skills sharp.

O’Malley, who earned his associate degree years ago in his native Illinois, focused on TCC’s cyber security classes to further his knowledge.

TCC’s Cyber Security Program, designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE2Y) for Two-Year schools (NSA-CAE2Y) by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, aligns with national standards.

On the job, O’Malley safeguards files and networks, installs firewalls, creates security plans and monitors activity to prevent cyber attacks from threatening WVEC.

Keith O’Malley in the newsroom at WVEC-TV.

“As a media company, we see threats all the time from multiple directions; it’s like having a target on our backs,” he said.

“I literally took what I learned at TCC and put it into practice at work the next day. Many times I have a computer user who doesn’t know how to explain their issue to me, but with my experience from class, I am able to get to the source of any problem quickly.”

O’Malley credits Professor Rob Guess with keeping the material fresh. “There was definitely never a dull moment in his class!” he said. “He was dynamic, energized and did an amazing job presenting difficult concepts.”

O’Malley, a lifelong learner, plans to continue taking classes at TCC.

“I’m just making sure that I have all of the bases covered,” he said. “In this business, you can never overdo security.”

TCC scholarships help international student stay in school

Nigerian Emeakama Favour came to Tidewater Community College to study cyber security and get a head start on her future. Two scholarships from the college helped pave her way.

This summer, Favour is a camp host for the STEM, Robotics, Mechatronics and Maker camps, sharing knowledge and encouraging youngsters to follow their dreams.

“I came to the U.S. because the education system is one of the world’s best and my family encouraged me to do so,” Favour said.  “So far, it’s been great. I’m adjusting to the culture and learning how things are done here. The toughest thing has been to the cold weather in winter.”

To help pay for college, Favour, 24, received the Mary Ferrell Flickinger and E.C. Wareheim scholarships from TCC.

“These scholarships helped me experience the joy of learning. They covered most of my tuition for one semester and helped me stay in school,” she said.

Favour said she made the right choice coming to TCC because of the small classes and quality professors. “My professors have been very helpful. We’re dealing with real-world issues and using current software,” she said. “It’s amazing to be learning on the same tools that are used in the cyber industry.”

In her free time, Favour writes poetry and hosts a podcast called “Franc Poetry with Favour,” where she shares her work and invites poets from all over the world to share their poems and talk about their cities.

Once she earns her Career Studies Certificate in Cyber Security, Favour hopes to work full time as an IT security professional.

For more information about scholarships opening soon, click here.

Your certificate in network infrastructure along with your certifications can take you places in growing IT field

As a network infrastructure specialist, you’re a problem solver who enjoys troubleshooting challenges that range from login issues to an entire system being down.

As the computer system’s architect, the network infrastructure specialist is adept at creating, altering and managing a company’s hardware and software.

It’s not just a job for the present. It’s a career for the future.

As companies modernize their IT infrastructures, they face a host of obstacles related to keeping it running efficiently to meet business demands. The need for network technicians is increasing with starting salaries in excess of $60,000 per year.

Tidewater Community College’s Career Studies Certificate in Network Infrastructure will jumpstart your career in this burgeoning field where earning certifications are integral to success. Completing the 28-credit certificate prepares you to sit for the Cisco Certified Network Associate exam, which provides a rapid path for new IT professionals to advance in security.

Being able to secure a network properly is critical given constant hacking threats to private data. “To secure it, you have to know how it works,” said Professor Gregg Tennefoss, program head for network infrastructure certificate.

“I like the hands-on nature of it,” said student Daniel Force, earning the certificate along with his Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology. After he graduates next fall, Force plans to go directly into the workplace either as a network technician or as an entry-level engineer.

All his credits stack into the associate program.

All of the introductory classes for the certificate are online. Courses in software design and Java programming are part of the curriculum.

The final semester includes ITN 295 or Internet of Things, a new class that focuses on fast moving technologies.

“In simple terms, everything and everybody will be on the Internet from lightbulbs to health monitoring,” Tennefoss said. “The class will delve into the devices and software that allow the average person to actually create and program these devices.”

laser cutter
A laser cutter in TCC’s new maker space

Students in the course use TCC’s new maker and hacker space on the second floor (H-206) of the Advanced Technology Center on the Virginia Beach Campus. Inside the dynamic space, students will find 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, electronics equipment, computers and a plethora of tools to advance their projects.

“It’s a world of diversity in here,” Tennefoss said. “Anything you can think of, you can make.”

Then you take. What you make is yours to keep.

The hacker space is a lab for students to practice their offensive and defensive cyber security skills in a sandbox environment where freedom to experiment is encouraged.

Both spaces are ideal for peer learning and open to all staff, faculty and students – not just those enrolled in the network infrastructure program. TCC’s coding club meets there on Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m.

It’s also an ideal location for students to study for the CCNA certification, said Tennefoss, who often staffs the space and is available for assistance.

For further information on the network infrastructure certificate or about the maker and hacker space, contact

Maker and hacker space hours are as follows: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursdays 3:15-5:30 p.m.; Fridays 6-9 p.m. Additional hours will be added.

Computer-savvy alum at work for IBM

Hezroy Hammil identifies as a Virginia Tech Hokie thanks to starting at Tidewater Community College.

Now he’s putting his education to work at IBM’s Client Innovation Center. Hammil develops and tests cloud applications for the government. His work is on the leading edge of the field and involves automation using mirco-services to build dynamic applications.

“The coursework at Tech was immensely difficult, but TCC prepared me well for the higher level work,” he said.

TCC alumnus Hezroy Hammil graduated from Virginia Tech in May 2017.
Hammil graduated from Virginia Tech in May 2017.

Hammil graduated with his bachelor’s in computer engineering and a minor in cyber security from Tech in May 2017. He spent his first two years at TCC earning an Associate of Science in Science with a Specialization in Computer Science.

“What I remember most about college is graduating from Tech with my bachelor’s,” he said. “It was that pinnacle moment when I’d finally accomplished what I started.

“The journey was not easy. But I kept my eyes on my goals and now I’m where I want to be.”

While at TCC, Hammil jumped into college life at the Chesapeake Campus becoming a Student Government Association senator, and a year later, president of the group. “I got involved and realized right away that I had a passion for serving and giving back,” he said. “I also enjoyed advocating for the student body during a time when the new buildings were under construction.”

He and other student volunteers had an active voice in planning for the Chesapeake Campus Student Center. Hammil also served as chapter president of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools. He was also member of the Computer Club, Bible Club and Student African American Brotherhood.

“TCC laid the foundation for me to be doing what I have always wanted to do. The experiences I gained there propelled me to take on the next steps,” he said.

Hammil hopes to one day own his own computer business and be his own boss.

“I encourage people I meet to start at a community college before transferring into a four-year school,” he said. “Financially and otherwise, I’m in a way better position because of TCC.”