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TCC receives $250,000 donation from Banister Automotive for scholarships and more 

Tidewater Community College is the recipient of a $250,000 sponsorship and scholarship donation from Banister Automotive.  

“We are thrilled to partner with Banister Automotive to provide scholarship opportunities for our students,” said TCC President Marcia Conston. “We are grateful for this contribution and look forward to a continuing partnership with Banister Automotive to support our students and community.”

The donation will also fund a new TCC Presidential Scholarship for outstanding student scholars. The scholarships may be used to cover tuition, books, fees, tools, and all other needed materials for students to be successful.

In addition, the donation will be used to develop dual enrollment programs for high school students. Dual enrollment programs provide access to college classes for high school juniors and seniors, in an effort to give them a head start on their college careers.

Banister Automotive, established in 2017, is committed to supporting the community it serves. One of their goals is to support community initiatives and propel past barriers to get students into great jobs.

“Education is empowering which is why I stand behind the mission of community colleges and the vision of Tidewater Community College. TCC affords students in our region with the opportunity to attend college for little to no cost and succeed with the proper support; it is an effort we support at Banister,” said Dan Banister, Owner of Banister Automotive, which includes Banister Nissan of Chesapeake, Banister Nissan of Norfolk and Banister Ford of Marlow Heights Maryland.

Banister continued, “I serve on TCC’s Educational Foundation Board to represent my wife and children. We know what it’s like to have the college dream and want to ensure that all people have those opportunities. Our board is focused on reducing college debt for graduates. Currently, 3 in 5 TCC students graduate debt free. And we have dreams to make that 5 out of 5 students. We’d like to see all students stay local and get jobs with no educational debt. That would be a massive community achievement and a level of public-private engagement that moves the needle for our citizens’ success.”

The donation will be paid over five years beginning in 2023.

Student Speaker earns associate degree at 17

Allison Wilson got her start at Tidewater Community College while still in high school.

She participated in Early College and was part of the cohort from Churchland High School. “Making connections with people I’ve been in class with since third grade was definitely a highlight,” Allison said.

Allison is one of the 45 dual-enrollment students earning associate degrees before graduating from high school this summer. In addition, 98 high schoolers are earning TCC certificates this year.

She credits her mom, Lisa Wilson, with encouraging her to get a head start on college.

 “I remember spending hours in the kitchen with my brother as we attended the Lisa Wilson ‘school of public speaking,’” Allison said with a laugh. “That was where we learned to organize our thoughts, project our voices and represent the family, whether it be at church or school.”

All those lessons paved the way for Allison to be selected as the Speaker for the Graduates for TCC’s 74th Commencement Exercises, to be held on May 9, 2022 at the Chartway Arena on the campus of Old Dominion University.

Allison is earning an Associate of Science in Social Sciences at just 17.

“I started classes at TCC with an aspiring funeral director and one of my mother’s coworkers. Even though I was considerably younger than the others, they treated me like every other student. We quickly became family and our differences didn’t matter,” Allison said.

Allison holds a 3.9 GPA and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools.

“Coming to TCC while still in high school was a great way to get started on college and save money. I had a great support system with my parents and grandparents,” she said. “I gained study skills that will take me through all of my years in college.”

Continuing to learn during the pandemic brought unique challenges. “Virtual learning forced us to deal with barking dogs, crying babies and spotty internet service,” Allison recalled. “But it also made time for different classes to fit into our schedules and provided unique ways to connect with classmates online.”

While at TCC, Allison remained active in her high school class serving as president of the National Honor Society, vice president of the Student Council, head delegate of the Model UN Team and a participant in the Scholastic Bowl. She also enjoyed spending time with friends and just being a teenager.

Allison Wilson at Portsmouth Campus.

In the fall, Allison is transferring to William and Mary where she will study English and pre-law. She hopes to attend law school on the grounds as well, and one day be a state prosecutor.

Allison’s mom, dad, brother and grandparents will gather to celebrate with her at TCC’s Commencement exercises as she shares a message of encouragement.

“My message for my classmates is simple,” Allison said. “As we go to our four-year schools or start careers, we will take the lessons learned and apply them to our daily lives. We will remember the respect shown to us and replicate it. When things get hard, we push forward. Congratulations graduates!”

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 to host virtual information session for homeschoolers and parents

Homeschool families in search of educational options are invited to take part in a special virtual information session hosted by Tidewater Community College.

The session will be held via Zoom on Wednesday, Dec. 16, from noon to 1:30 p.m. RSVP here to receive the Zoom link.

The session is designed for homeschooled juniors and seniors who are interested in earning college credits while still in high school.

To qualify for TCC’s high school dual enrollment program, a student must be classified as a junior or senior in a qualified homeschool program and meet college readiness standards.

For information, contact Dionna Jean-Baptiste at

Surf’s up for TCC student

Rachel Wilson is making waves.

At 17, she’s a pro surfer, but she’s also a college student. Wilson is getting a head start on a degree with dual enrollment courses at Tidewater Community College.

The Virginia Beach native began taking dual enrollment courses at TCC last fall.  When she finishes high school in December, she will have nearly two semesters of college completed.

Online courses allow the homeschooled high school senior to travel to wherever the World Surf League Qualifying Series takes her.

“There have been no surprises at TCC. Online learning works for me, and the professors have been really great,” Wilson said. “It’s beneficial having deadlines and a schedule.”

Dubbed the “Giant Killer,” Wilson became the first female to qualify for the finals at the East Coast Surfing Championships last month in Virginia Beach. While the pandemic shut down competitions for a time, Wilson is stoked to be back on her board.

“I missed competing so much,” Wilson said. “I love free surfing, but competing is my favorite thing to do. I love getting to travel and compete against awesome people who push you to get better.”

Wilson, who regularly surfs at the First Street jetty, has set her sights on the World Tour, where she hopes to compete against the top 17 women in the world. “It’s super difficult to compete at that level, but with training and good coaches, I’m hoping to make it,” she said.

Wilson, who has earned all A’s in college, plans to pursue an associate in nursing at TCC.

“My sister-in-law is a nurse who came through the program. She inspired me to follow in her footsteps,” she said.

Before the pandemic, Wilson volunteered at Sentara Norfolk General, an experience that confirmed her passion for field.

 “My mom had some health problems, and I saw her getting care,” she said. “I’d like to be on the frontlines and also have a career where I can support myself.”

Wilson is the youngest of four and the third sibling in her family to study at TCC. “For me, TCC has been a seamless transition,” Wilson said. “And while I’m not getting the social aspects of college right now, I’m learning and working hard. That’s what is most important to me.”

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.”

TCC marks 68th Commencement Exercises with milestones, including huge numbers of dual enrollment grads

Tidewater Community College’s 68th Commencement Exercises celebrated several significant milestones on Monday evening at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. 

Among them:

Five students from the inaugural STEM Promise Program cohort graduated; each is planning to transfer. Four of them, Deloren Perry, Devon Singleton, Kasen Martel and Kathryn Synowiec are bound for Old Dominion University. Robert Sutton will transfer to Virginia Tech. All are juniors who earned four semesters of free tuition thanks to the Women’s Center STEM Promise Program launched in 2017.

President Greg DeCinque with the first group from the Priority Technical Training Center to earn career studies certificates in Automotive Chassis Systems.
President Greg DeCinque with the first group from the Priority Technical Training Center to earn career studies certificates in Automotive Chassis Systems.

Thanks to a new partnership with Priority Automotive and the Norfolk Sheriff’s office, TCC graduated its first class of nonviolent offenders from the Norfolk Jail. By learning at the PriorityTechnical Training Center in Chesapeake, 14 inmates were trained as automotive technicians, earning career studies certificate in Automotive Chassis Systems. All of them are eligible for full-time employment following their release.

Expanded partnerships with the Chesapeake and Portsmouth public schools led to TCC graduating its largest class of dual enrollment students. Fifteen earned career studies certificates in mechatronics, meaning they are one year away from completing associate degrees. Thirty-six other students earned career studies certificates in the fields of electrical wiring, welding and pharmacy technology. 

Portsmouth Public Schools dual enrollment graduates.
Dual enrollment coordinator Katina Barnes with the Portsmouth cohort of dual enrollment graduates.

In addition, six teenagers from the Portsmouth Campus are Governor’s Medallion recipients as they completed associate degrees while still in high school. This is the largest number of Governor’s Medallion winners ever from TCC. All will enter four-year colleges as juniors.

Student speaker Charleston Yancey will also be a junior at his next stop, Virginia Wesleyan University. Yancey, who earned his Associate of Science in Social Sciences, encouraged the Class of 2019 to persist past the pressure, speaking with a passion that ignited his classmates.

The class of 2019!

“No matter what you have endured in life, on this day you are defined by three words: ‘You did it!’” he said, the culmination of a spirited speech that left many of his classmates on their feet. ‘When you face new obstacles and new challenges, remember, you did it!

“If you did it once, you can do it again,” he repeated to cheers; nearly 1,000 graduates were in attendance.

Ruth Jones Nichols, chief executive officer of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, followed Yancey and admitted she wept after being asked to be the college’s keynote speaker, calling it a humbling honor.

“You don’t have to be Danny Glover or Glenn Close to connect with each of you in this moment,” she said. “I’ve been where you are today. I’ve experienced the range of emotions that come with taking your next step.”

Grads move their tassels to the right to signify that they are now TCC grads.

Jones Nichols encouraged the graduates to think of their new education as a passport and look for real-world experience to complement their academic achievements. She advised them to be wary of falling into the trap of following someone else’s timetable as a measure for success.

“Don’t allow the movement of others toward a destination to define when, where and how you use your passport in life,” said the admitted late bloomer. “Trust the process and the place where you find yourself in any given time.”

She concluded by alluding to an upcoming partnership between the Foodbank and TCC, which will establish a food pantry to help college students deal with food insecurity.

Jones Nichols added, “Use your education at TCC to continue creating the best possible life for yourself. Never forget that you truly can go anywhere.”

Chesapeake Public Schools dual enrollment graduates.
Chesapeake Public Schools had its largest cohort of dual enrollment graduates.

“Are you ready?” TCC President Greg DeCinque then asked the jubilant graduates, each of whom joined TCC’s alumni network of 100,000 strong after making their celebratory walk across the stage.

Norcom salutatorian, a TCC grad at just 17, bound for prestigious NSU program

Boudnoma Convolbo knows the road to be an orthopedist is a long journey.

The West African native values expediency, the prime reason why earning an associate degree while still in high school appealed to her so much.

Norcom High’s salutatorian will graduate from Tidewater Community College first with an Associate of Science in Science. The 17-year-old will enter Norfolk State University’s Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Science this fall and major in chemistry.

The rigorous honors program, which includes a scholarship and grant, addresses the shortage of minorities in the basic and applied sciences.

“It takes a lot of years to be an orthopedic surgeon,” she said. “I was thinking if I can cut out two years by doing part of college in high school, why not?”

Convolbo is one of six students from the Portsmouth Campus who will receive the Governor’s Medallion, awarded to those who complete associate degrees by taking part in a dual enrollment program where they earn four semesters of college credit while in high school.

“You have to find the balance that works for you,” said Convolbo, who also works 20 hours a week at the Portsmouth City Treasurer’s office. “I took a lot of AP classes at my high school knowing that the credits would transfer if I did well in the AP exam.” Boudnoma Convolbo

Her accomplishment is even more remarkable as Convolbo spoke no English five years ago. Her father’s Navy orders brought the family to the United States from her home, Burkina Faso, a land-locked nation near Nigeria.

A psychology class was a favorite and chemistry was a struggle, but Convolbo enjoyed her entire experience at TCC.

“I like the community here; the staff are amazing people,” said Convolbo, grateful for the help applying to the NSU program from Katina Barnes, coordinator of Dual Enrollment Academies on the Portsmouth Campus.

Convolbo chose a future in medicine because she is fascinated by the human body. She poignantly recalls her grandmother buying and selling groceries back home. “When she came home at night, she was tired and had aches. I used to massage her. I liked it. That’s why I chose orthopedic surgery.”

“I didn’t speak the language and we didn’t know anyone here,” said Convolbo, fluent in French and her native dialect. “I learned English by myself. I spent most of my time in the library reading novels.”

Joining ROTC at Norcom advanced her learning curve.

“I was second in command, so I actually had to give orders and speak in front of the whole platoon,” she said. “That helped me a lot.”

Convolbo will walk in the TCC graduation in front of her parents,  four younger siblings and friends. “If you have a clear goal and know what you want to do, TCC is the way to get to it faster,” she said. “My life goal is to open a hospital in my native country.”

Trio of Portsmouth high-schoolers bound for college as juniors thanks to dual enrollment

Gabrielle Hutchings, Brandi Porter and Jaylyn Richard trade stories about night classes, chemistry homework and not enough hours in a day to complete everything on their to-do lists.

The teenagers also revel in an achievement that will allow them to enter four-year colleges as juniors thanks to already earning associate degrees from Tidewater Community College.

Norcom High’s Richard is 17; Hutchings and Porter, both from Churchland High, are 18. They will receive the Governor’s Medallion, awarded to those who complete associate degrees by taking part in a dual enrollment program where they earn four semesters of college credit while in high school.

TCC’s Norfolk Campus awards its first Governor’s Medallion. Norfolk’s Jay Sellers earns an Associate of Science in General Studies.

Porter is bound for the University of Virginia, Hutchings, deferred at Princeton, is headed to San Diego State, and Richard will transfer to Old Dominion University. The three will wear their medallions as part of their academic regalia when they graduate from high school in June one month after graduating from TCC on May 12.

“My high school approached me for this and thought I was a really good fit,” said Hutchings, graduating with an Associate of Science in Science and planning to be a dermatologist. “I couldn’t deny that being two years ahead going into a four-year school wasn’t a good fit. This was going to be the hardest pathway I could take, and I know that’s what they’re looking for in college.”

Porter is blunt about her reasons for tackling a load that requires year-round and evening classes. “Saving money,” she said. “I had to think long term. If I didn’t do this, I would have looked back at all the money I could have saved.”

Porter, who will graduate with an Associate of Science in Social Sciences, wants to work at the Pentagon and is considering a public policy major.

Richard had an example to follow in her sister, Johnessa, the college’s inaugural Governor’s Medallion winner in 2015. Jaylyn remembers watching Johnessa grind through her challenging schedule and told herself “not me” at the time.

Then the cost savings hit home as did watching Johnessa shine. “At graduation time, I watched her and thought, ‘This is so amazing. I want to do that.’ ”

Richard was able to combine her load at TCC with playing soccer in high school and being active in DECA and Future Business Leaders of America. She credits improving her time management skills with helping her complete an Associate of Science in Science.

“I write to-do lists out every single week,” said Richard, who has applied to a scholarship program at ODU that would allow her to join the Coast Guard this fall.

All of them tout the diversity of ages they found in the TCC classroom and cherish the mentoring relationships they formed with favorite professors, too many to name.

“I have a list,” Hutchings said.

While they will leave for their next step with an associate in hand, they talk most about the confidence gained from reaching that milestone.

Hutchings admits college in California would have daunted her prior to attending TCC.

“I proved to myself I could do this,” she said. “Getting over all the hurdles and proving that I could be successful in college before having to leave my mom and move across the country is huge.”

Plenty of days, they had doubts, but each persevered.

“You have to tell yourself in the end, it’s going to pay off,” Porter said.

“It’s a lot of sacrificing,” Richard agreed. “You have to learn to forgive yourself and treat yourself. Every time I would pass a big test, I would go to Starbucks.”

Added Hutchings, “You’re not always going to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you do this. There’s a little bit of a leap of faith that has to occur. It’s not for everybody. But it’s definitely worth it if you can do it.”

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