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Student speaker was always ahead of the rest

If you’re Lauren Lewis, why wait?

That’s her secret to graduating from Tidewater Community College at 18 years old. A month after walking in the college’s 69th Commencement Exercises on Dec. 16, she’ll transfer to Norfolk State University where she’ll be awarded junior status. Lewis, graduating with her Associate of Science in Social Sciences, is the student speaker for the graduates.

“We all have assignments we want to wait until the last minute to complete,” she’ll tell the class of 2019. “The key is don’t procrastinate.”

“With TCC as your foundation,” she says, “you can go anywhere,” — Lauren Lewis

Let’s just say Lewis comes by this wisdom naturally. Her parents had her reading by the time she was 2 years old. She devoured one Junie B. Jones book after another, adding the “Wimpy Kid” collection to her shelf in middle school.

“I’m really goal-oriented,” she admits, offering a snapshot of her thought process from her phone. It’s one of many to-do lists with deadlines. This particular one is academic-related with due dates for applications for NSU’s nursing program and summer classes. The final sentence from the checklist:

GRADUATION in Summer 2022 but can’t walk until December 2022

Lewis’ accelerated academic path started in the most inauspicious of ways. She didn’t want to dress out for gym at Churchland High, so her family agreed to pay for her to take it during her eighth-grade summer. That made Lewis realize how much she could achieve by using her summers wisely. She completed First College on the Portsmouth Campus and entered TCC with 16 credits.

She was 16 years old.

Lewis received the Outstanding High School Graduate Award Scholarship from the Portsmouth Campus. That pays the full cost of tuition and fees; in return, Lewis is a student ambassador. She will graduate from TCC without any student debt.

Lewis considered being a pediatrician but wants to be more hands-on with patients. “Being a pediatric nurse will allow me to do that,” she said.

Not surprisingly, Lewis is already looking ahead to 2020, planning out her class schedule so it balances with a part-time job. Another to-do list holds her accountable for a rare splurge: She’s saving for a Caribbean cruise in May. She makes sure she contributes to that fund on the 5th day of every month.

That might mean forgoing a latte or two, but Lewis is intent on nothing impeding her path once she sets her mind to it.

“It’s good to be different,” her mom always told her. Lewis lives by those words and can’t wait to get started with the next step of her journey.

“With TCC as your foundation,” she says, “you can go anywhere.”

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.”