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“I had an advantage coming to TCC with a degree, but the classes I took there built skills I didn’t have.” – James Read

Meet James Read.

He came to Tidewater Community College as an adult learner with a computer science degree from James Madison University.

After working as a help desk technician, and also doing residential electrical work and home security installations, he wanted more.

“I came to TCC looking for a career transition into cybersecurity. I see this as a national security issue,” Read said. “With Ransomeware attacks on the rise and shutdowns like the Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds, it’s easy to see the growing need for trained cyber professionals.”

While at TCC, Read earned a Career Studies Certificate in Cyber Security. Thanks to the credits he earned while completing his bachelor’s degree, he is now at work on a master’s in cybersecurity at Old Dominion University.

Read is one of three TCC students to receive the National Science Foundation CyberCorps Scholarship for Service. The scholarship will cover tuition and fees for his master’s degree.

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

“I definitely had an advantage coming to TCC with a computer science degree, but the classes I took at TCC built skills I didn’t have,” Read said

While at TCC Read was president of the Cybersecurity Club, an organization he also credits for adding to his learning.

“During the pandemic, we went virtual but kept on leaning together. I think being part of the club helped with the transition to online learning,” he added.

“When learning together it’s important to know that you’re not competing with the people around you. You can succeed at your own pace as long as you do the work,” Read said.

Read sends a shoutout to faculty members Joel Kirch and Gregg Tennefoss for the mentoring and hands-on learning they facilitated. He added, “I had so many opportunities at TCC and was pleased with the quality of my cyber education.”

“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.”

Scholarship recipient set to launch a future that includes tuition at NSU, a stipend and a job waiting

Kayla Dio Robinson’s future is taking off, thanks to earning a scholarship opportunity that pays for her bachelor’s degree, provides a healthy stipend, and guarantees her a job afterward.

Robinson will receive her Associate of Science in Science with a Specialization in Computer Science at Tidewater Community College’s 67th Fall Commencement Exercises on Dec. 17 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Next, she heads to Norfolk State University to work for her bachelor’s in computer science with a specialty in information assurance. A government job will be waiting when she graduates.

Robinson’s TCC professors tipped her off to the National Science Foundation CyberCorps Scholarship for Service, which pays tuition and fees for the final three years of study for a bachelor’s degree, provides book and health insurance allowances, and gives the recipient a $22,500 living expense stipend.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” Robinson said.

TCC and NSU partnered in the initiative, which addresses the need for a diverse group of qualified computer, network security and cybersecurity professionals. It requires the student to serve in a branch of the government for three years after graduation.

Robinson, 22, completed a rigorous application process and interviewed with Jonathan Graham, professor and director of NSU’s Information Assurance Research and Development Education Institute.

After Robinson met with Graham to tour the NSU Institute, which has been designated as a center of excellence by the National Science Foundation, he offered her the scholarship.

“It was just amazing to hear about,” she said.

The Salem High School graduate wasn’t a confident student when she entered TCC and was undecided on which career path to follow. Because she wasn’t set on a major, she liked the idea of exploring possibilities at TCC without accruing significant student debt.

“I figured it out here,” said Robinson, who started with interior design classes before moving into engineering.

That was a giant leap, but she’s always loved space, admiring what NASA represents. While at TCC, she participated in a NASA program that allowed her to attend a social at Kennedy Space Center for a rocket launch. Later, she took part in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars summer program, which included a four-day engineering workshop at NASA Langley.

Robinson realized she favored the programming aspect of her engineering classes at TCC, and she switched her path to computer science. Admittedly, she hopes that government job ends up being at NASA.

“I’m open to anything; it all sounds interesting,” she said. “I would love to work for NASA, though. That’s the dream job.”

As for that stipend, Robinson, of course, has plans for that.

“I’m finally going to buy a car,” said Robinson, as her 1994 Jeep can no longer get her to class. She made a computer program to help her choose the most fuel-efficient model.

Robinson will graduate alongside her boyfriend, Jared Austin, earning his Associate of Science in General Studies. Her mother, sisters and grandparents will attend the ceremony, and her father will also be making the trip from Illinois.