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From TCC to the mission field in Romania

Hannah Căldăraru found her “anywhere” at Tidewater Community College.

She got her start on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus in 2014 and earned a social sciences degree three years later. She also jumped into student life and was part of the Breakaway Bible Club, serving as president for a year.

In that role, she helped lead weekly bible studies and even hosted an event to bring awareness of human trafficking in South Hampton Roads.

Hannah and Tavi Căldăraru.

Fast forward nine years and Hannah is a missionary in Romania. She and her husband, Tavi, serve children and teens in the villages there.

“My three years at TCC were foundational and I grew in my faith through Breakaway. It was also there that I felt called to be a missionary overseas,” she said. “I just wanted to say thank you to TCC for helping open so many doors of opportunity, both educationally and spiritually.”

Tavi and boys from the village.

Hannah went on to earn a bachelor’s in psychology at Regent University in 2019.

“I would encourage students not to count out community college. It creates a great foundation for your higher education and allows you more time to explore interests if you still aren’t sure about your major,” Hannah said.

She continued, “My credits transferred flawlessly to Regent, and I was even awarded some financial help for high grades at TCC. And even though it is a commuter setting at TCC you can truly create a wonderful community if you are intentional about being involved with on-campus activities. I am living proof that from TCC you can go anywhere.”

TCC grads make strides in careers

Meet Nina Vahadi and Delaney Theilman. They are both Tidewater Community College graduates who earned Engineering degrees in May.

During summers both grads are making strides in their careers.

They are now encouraging others to follow their lead. “If I can do this, so can anyone. Take your time and don’t burn out,” Delaney said. Nina added, “Stick to your guns, and don’t let doubt take over. Just keep going!”

Nina and Delaney on TCC’s Norfolk Campus.

Nina, who landed an engineering aide position at Lockheed Martin, is spending this summer as a NASA intern and is working on the Lucy mission. During its 12-year primary mission, Lucy will explore a record-breaking number of asteroids, flying by one main-belt asteroid, and seven Trojans.

“This is really exciting because the mission is focused on the Trojan asteroids to interpret how our solar system started,” Nina said. “I’m going to be working on the hardware for a test flight simulator and can’t wait to get started!”

Last summer Delaney was the leader of TCC’s team for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Model Design Competition held in June. She led her team to take third place. “Practice makes perfect, and we did plenty of that preparing for this competition,” she said. “We had to come up with our own ideas and not use any kits.”

This ASEE competition is open to students at both 2-year and 4-year colleges. All of the TCC’s participants were members of the Engineering Club and the STEM Club.

Both women say they received phenomenal support from the college. They credit their professors for providing quality education. And also, for supporting them in outside projects.

“When I wanted to bring a wind project to the school, they backed me up and helped me write the grant proposal for the Repowering Schools Small Wind Turbine Research,” Delaney said. “That project is continuing even after I graduate from TCC.”

Nina added, “And when I wanted to bring NASA’s RockOn! program to the school they helped me get the funding.” The RockOn! program enabled students to learn and apply skills in building experiments for suborbital space flight. Student teams from across the nation participated in the program.

Looking back Nina says it’s amazing to see her forward progress. “I started studying biology and was thinking about the healthcare field. And then I realized that I wanted to build things and I found engineering,” she said.

Delaney never thought college was for her until the pandemic hit. “I found myself needing to retrain,” Delaney said. “I’ve been obsessed with Legos forever and spent hours watching TED Talks with women engineers. I was really inspired by their stories and decided to give engineering and TCC a try. I’m so glad I did!”

Both women are proud to represent women in the STEM fields. “There are many women in history who inspire us and have left big footprints for us to follow,” Delaney said. “But you still feel accomplished each step of the way and that in turn helps you keep going.”

Looking ahead, Nina is pursuing an engineering bachelor’s degree at Old Dominion University and will be working full-time at Lockheed Martin. Delany will continue her education at Virginia Tech and is studying computer and systems engineering.

Delaney is a proud Navy wife who has two dogs named Luna and Nova. Nina and her boyfriend also have two dogs they call Rocky and Billy.

Learn about everything TCC offers at Open House on June 3

Find your future at Tidewater Community College. Learn about TCC’s programs, including information technology, engineering, culinary arts, health sciences, maritime technologies and the many other potential career paths and transfer opportunities the college offers. 

Take the next step by visiting TCC’s Open House on June 3, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Norfolk and Chesapeake Campuses. Registration is not required, but recommended and can be done by visiting here

Visit our website for a complete listing of programs. There is plenty of time to enroll for fall classes, which begin on Aug. 21. 

All are invited, especially: 

  • 2023 high school graduates and their families; 
  • adults who want to start or finish a degree, learn a new field, or advance in their careers; 
  • active-duty military and veterans, their spouses and dependents. 

You will be able to apply to TCC; learn about financial aid, grants and scholarships; explore academic options; tour campuses; and learn about campus life at all locations. 

If you have an eye on a four-year college, TCC can help get you there, too. Transfer agreements allow a student to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at TCC and gain guaranteed admission to most Virginia colleges and universities. 

Locations for TCC’s Open House are: 

  • Chesapeake Campus: Student Center 
  • Norfolk Campus: Student Center 

Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made to the Office of Educational Accessibility by emailing or calling 757-822-7751. 

For more information, call 757-822-1111 or email or visit this site

TCC celebrates more than 1,800 grads during May Commencement

There was a celebratory feel during Tidewater Community College’s 76th Commencement exercises as keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears led graduates to say together, “I did it! I did it! I did it!”

Earle-Sears, a TCC alumna, shared a message of encouragement with graduates, as she knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined from where I sat as a student graduating from TCC that one day I would be before you as second in command in the former capital of the Confederate states. Here I am.”

Family and friends gathered to celebrate more than 1,800 graduates at Chartway Arena on the campus of Old Dominion University. The evening graduation on May 8 was presided over by President Marcia Conston.

During the Lt. Governor’s address, she recalled her father’s early days in America. “My father arrived 17 days before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his ‘I have a dream speech.’ My dad had $1.75 in his pocket and he worked hard and used that money to get an education because he knew the doors would open as Dr. King said.”

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears was the keynote speaker at TCC’s May Commencement.

She went on to tell graduates that their newfound knowledge will become part of our narrative and highlight that Virginia is a great place to live, work and raise a family.

“Here you are today. Our country needs you to do well. We in America are not on this planet by ourselves. There are countries that mean us harm,” she said. “While America is not perfect. She is the best we’ve got. So, we are not going to burn our own house down. No! We have a saying in church in fact ‘I may not be what I’m supposed to be, but I’m not what I use to be.’ And that’s America. In fits and starts she is getting there.”

Earle-Sears added, “I’m so honored to be here to celebrate what you have accomplished. God bless you and God bless our great Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Student Speaker Jacob Ramirez.

The speaker for the graduates, Jacob Ramirez, 21, completed an Associate of Science in Engineering and is transferring to Virginia Tech where he will study computer engineering. A 2021 graduate of Salem High School, Ramirez wanted to stay close to home for college.

Ramirez said, “At TCC I’ve met and interacted with all kinds of people, each one with their own story to tell. I’ve learned from those experiences. And also learned the value of taking the time to get to know people wherever you are.”

He added, “Our time at TCC is just the first stop. We have transfer students going away to colleges, people going into the workforce and students who have already started their careers and families and returning to pursue degrees. Congratulations class of 2023. We’ve each taken a separate journey to get to where we are. And from here we can go anywhere!”

Ramirez participated in the STEM and Engineering Clubs while at TCC, completing many projects with classmates. He gained close friends and three from his core group will head to Tech with him in the fall.

The ceremony continued as families and friends cheered and snapped photos. Graduates crossed the stage and joined a TCC alumni network of 100,000 and counting.

If you missed graduation, you can watch the TCC livestream.

From TCC to the State Capitol

By now, most people know that Winsome Earle-Sears is the first woman, and the first woman of color, to serve as Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor. But you may not know that she got her start in higher education at Tidewater Community College.

On May 8, Lt. Gov. Earle-Sears will be the speaker for TCC’s 76th Commencement Exercises at Chartway Arena in the Ted Constant Convocation Center on the campus of Old Dominion University. 

She will share a message of encouragement with students, as she knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes. “I think it’s so awesome that I get to do this,” Earle-Sears said. “It’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do when I came to TCC trying to get my life straight.”

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears at her inauguration with husband Terence Sears.

Sears, 59, was born in Jamaica and came to the United States with her family when she was six. “My father had $1.75 in his pocket and arrived during the height of the civil rights movement, just days before Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream speech.’”

She added, “Growing up I had no excuse not to succeed. Education was what brought my father success and it will lift all boats.”

At 18, Earle-Sears was working as an electrician in the United States Marines. After four years of service, she left the military and married Terence Sears, a Marine officer. Earle-Sears was in her mid-twenties and a young mother of three children, all under the age of five, when she started at TCC.

Winsome Earle-Sears in her Marine uniform.
Winsome Earle when she was in the Marines.

“I remember my first English professor who was old school. She had us diagramming sentences and rewriting paragraphs,” Earle-Sears recalled. “She refused any typed papers, and we hated having to write the same paper twice. But that work taught us to understand the process of writing a paper. It was only later that we thanked her for being so no-nonsense. She would accept nothing but greatness.”

On starting at a community college, Earle-Sears says there were many things that made the experience valuable. “The small classes and affordability were helpful. And the quality of the education was not diminished because the same professors at TCC also taught at the four-year institutions,” Earle-Sears said. “TCC was a godsend for me, having been out of school for eight years. I had to brush up my skills and the administrators and professors showed such patience and encouraged returning students not to think we were less than others.”

Earle-Sears received an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from TCC in 1992. She continued her studies earning a bachelor’s from Old Dominion University in English and a master’s in organizational leadership from Regent University.

The newly elected Lt. Governor of Virginia.

On her time at TCC, Earle-Sears says she carries important lessons with her. “It’s not one thing, but the whole experience of being back in college with professors who understood you didn’t just graduate from high school, and you were quite rusty. They knew they would have to take a little bit more time with you and do a little bit more hand-holding. All while knowing that we were more like them in their current stage of life, and not a child coming into adulthood.”

She added, “You didn’t have anything to prove – except to yourself that you could do it.”

Earle-Sears doesn’t consider herself a trailblazer, but she does admire trailblazing women from the past. Specifically, her grandmother, who spent time serving the poor, the homeless and anyone in need. Also, Margaret Thatcher with her no-nonsense approach. And lastly, Nanny of the Maroons, the Jamaican who led African slaves to revolt against the British. Nanny became a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis.

Earle-Sears with her family.

As Lieutenant Governor, Earle-Sears presides over the Senate and is a member of several other state boards, commissions and councils. A former program manager for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and VISTA volunteer, Earle-Sears is a trained electrician and successful businesswoman. She is most proud of her community work of leading a men’s prison ministry and as director of a women’s homeless shelter.

During Commencement Earle-Sears will commend graduates on making the decision to start. “These graduates have made the best decision to start their lives. They are no longer wondering about the ‘what ifs.’”

She continued, “Don’t ever think that there was a time when things were easier. Times are relative. For some people, things have been historically easier, but where we are today shows we are overcomers. We must move forward for the sake of our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. We must move forward; we must forgive, and we must strive.”

Student chefs show off their skills

Culinary Arts students were all smiles as they displayed their skills during the first “Grand Buffet” since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family and friends gathered to taste savory sandwiches, spicy soups and a variety of cold foods during the Garde Manger (HRI 145) final cooking lab on Oct. 12.

“We are so excited to be here today, demonstrating our skills and gathering as a team,” said Takao Sheridan, TCC student chef. “This class has been a nice mix of difficulty, but more fun in general, especially with the companionship we develop in the kitchens.”

Garde Manger, meaning “keeping to eat” in French, originally referred to a pantry or food storage area. In modern culinary arts, the term refers to the chef who oversees cold food production, including salads and salad dressings, smoked and cured foods, and cold sauces or soups.

“This is the most advanced lab in the Culinary Arts program. This is where students apply the techniques and knowledge they’ve learned, demonstrating artistry and different flavor profiles,” said Chef Deanne Freridge, interim program head and instructor of Culinary Arts.

TCC Culinary Arts students planned, prepared, garnished and presented a variety of cold foods for sampling including sausages, pates, canapes and gourmet sandwiches.

For retired educator Tracey Moore, the class rounds out her catering certificate. Moore, who owns a home-based bakery, chose TCC so she could add catering and savory foods to her menu.

“I love cooking and chose TCC because I knew there were things I could learn here,” she said. “Also, as a breast cancer survivor, I dedicated my food today to honor other survivors and those still affected by the disease.”

Takao added, “This program has given me a great start and prepared me for additional education. I even hope to apprentice in Louisana where they offer Cajun cooking, a favorite Southern style.”

TCC’s Culinary Arts program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission. It is an affordable option for students with classes during the days and evenings. For more information, email or contact the Virtual Student Support Team at or by calling 757-822-1111.

TCC alum builds career as journalist and publisher

Susan Smigielski Acker got her start at Tidewater Community College’s Virginia Beach Campus in 1985, back in the day when a single-lane road led to campus.

“TCC was my second chance after a failed attempt at ODU,” Susan said. “I thought I’d be at TCC for just a year, but I liked it so much I stayed for two.”

Susan completed all of her general education courses at TCC and went on to earn a bachelor’s in communications and English at Old Dominion University.

“I found my love for poetry at TCC when I took an English class with professor Ruth Mack,” Susan said. “She introduced me to Emily Dickinson and it is something I still read today. The rhythm of the words is something that draws me back time and again.”

After earning her degree, Susan spent more than 30 years as a journalist telling the stories of Hampton Roads by writing business news and feature stories. She wrote for Inside Business, the Daily Press and Senior Advocate to name a few. She also spent time in media sales.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Susan and her husband Scott launched their own media outlet, VA Peninsula Media, to provide a locally operated outlet to cover the events and stories that are meaningful to Peninsula residents.

The media includes “VA Peninsula Magazine,” a free bi-monthly print publication distributed at more than 90 high-traffic locations such as restaurants, medical offices, breweries and coffee shops.

They also provide an online newsletter under the same name that covers community and entertainment news. It started with 40 subscribers and now has over 2,000.

“It’s going really well, and we enjoy providing a voice for all things Peninsula. As for me, I’m combining my love of writing and experience in media sales and doing it all under one umbrella,” Susan said.

VA Peninsula Media plans to expand next month to cover city government and economic development.  

“It’s amazing we’ve been successful considering our launch was during a time when nobody was going out. We were emphasizing virtual events then, now our goal is to get people out and enjoying the community.”

Susan encourages college students today to consider journalism and communication as a career. “We need good writers who can check their bias at the door,” she said.

“TCC gave me the start that led to a fulfilling career and that’s something I’ve always been grateful for,” she added.

Susan and Scott reside on the Peninsula and have two college-aged daughters, Charlotte and Julia.

From TCC to Regent Law School

Tanya Mills remembers how her mom struggled when she emigrated to the United States from Cuba.

“The process was brutal and time-consuming,” Tanya said. “But we were committed to making a fresh start in America.”

Mills was 10 years old then. Now at 44, she is a Tidewater Community College alum who recently earned a master’s in law from Regent University School of Law.

Tanya Mills in the mock courtroom at Regent Univesity Law School.

Tanya hopes to work in immigration law, helping to pave the way for other families coming to America.

“I never thought I’d earn an associate degree. I didn’t think education was for me. But then I saw I needed higher education to do what I’m called to do,” she said.

A single mother of two sons, Tanya studied business administration at TCC and took all of her classes on campus. She says that her professors were knowledgeable and hands-on. And they instilled in her a passion for learning which she has passed on to her sons.

Now grown, they’ve both taken classes at TCC. Her oldest son, Paris Blount, 22, recently earned a cyber security degree from Old Dominion University. Her youngest, Cairon Sanders, 18, started at TCC this summer and is working toward an Associate of Science in General Studies.

“When my sons wanted to quit college, I reminded them that once you have your education, it can’t be taken from you,” Tanya said.

The first-generation college student is grateful for her start at TCC because she had the freedom to learn but was also held accountable for her studies by the faculty and academic advisors. “I didn’t do well in high school and found community college to be a buffer for university,” Tanya said. “TCC has courses that can help you figure out your future and the environment is super supportive.”

Tanya in front of a replica of the US Declaration of Independence in the lobby of Regent Law School.

Tanya continued and earned a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Regent University. In 2022, she added a master’s in law to her accomplishments. She plans to use her law degree to argue cases in the U.S. Immigration Court and offer mediation and provide legal advocacy for families and individuals battling the U.S. immigration system.

“I was once told I wouldn’t amount to anything. But I pushed through all of that and I’m really proud of where I am today.”

Nissan vehicle donation to enhance student training

Tidewater Community College’s Automotive Technology program got a boost this week thanks to Nissan North America.

Nissan donated 10 late-model vehicles to the college’s general automotive program to enhance student training. The donated vehicles include sedans, SUVs and even a 370Z sports car.

Nissan donated ten vehicles that will be used for students to train on.

“We’re thrilled by this donation that includes a hybrid Pathfinder, a diesel Titan XD and eight other well-kept vehicles,” said Beno Rubin, pathway dean for Manufacturing and Transportation at the college. “These vehicles will enhance student learning and ensure they are prepared to enter the automotive repair industry.”

The 10 Nissan vehicles are welcome additions to the Regional Automotive Center’s fleet of vehicles that includes Toyotas, Hondas, Subarus, Fords, Jeeps and Chryslers.

“Today’s technicians are highly trained on computers, mechanics and problem-solving skills,” said Harry Brown, fixed operations manager for Nissan North America. “And with the extreme shortage of trained techs, we are grateful for the opportunity to supply these vehicles and assist in training the next generation of technicians.”

Training vehicles includes SUVs, trucks and cars and even a diesel and a hybrid vehicle.

Stuart Mitcheison, TCC’s lead instructor for the general automotive program has been working as an automotive technician for three decades. He spent 23 years as a master technician for Nissan. In addition, for more than a decade he’s shared his knowledge with future technicians, first as a part-time instructor and now as a full-time faculty lead.

“This donation is a great boost for our general automotive program,” Mitcheison said. “With the variety of different vehicles and engines, these newer vehicles will greatly enhance the student’s experience at the college.”

Dan Bannister, owner of Bannister Nissan in Chesapeake and Norfolk said, “It’s awesome that Nissan is participating in this way. It’s phenomenal to be able to hire technicians trained on our vehicles by a master technician with decades of experience.”

TCC’s automotive technology program, accredited by the Automotive Service Excellence Education Foundation, prepares students for work in the field and provides updated training for those already working. Students learn general automotive repair, servicing and diagnostics.

The Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake has nine classrooms and 15 instructional bays.

“My favorite things about teaching are those aha moments when students put things together and just get it,” Mitcheison added.

TCC’s Regional Automotive Center is a 30,000-square-foot facility located at 600 Innovation Drive in Chesapeake. The center has nine classrooms and 15 instructional laboratories; a four-wheel chassis dynamometer, diagnostic scan tools, three alignment machines, and all of the necessary tools and equipment to deliver instruction. Students are trained on the latest equipment at the forefront of industry trends.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue to build a relationship with TCC to help our dealerships,” added Peter Rusin, district technical service manager with Nissan North America. “We see this as a win-win for all of us.”

To learn more about TCC’s Automotive Technology programs, email or call 757-822-5000.

TCC to freeze tuition and fees for fifth year in a row

Tidewater Community College will freeze tuition and fees for the 2022-2023 academic year thanks to a unanimous decision announced on July 21 by the State Board for Community Colleges.

This marks the fifth year in a row that the Board has voted to hold tuition and fees steady for in-state students who account for more than nine out of every ten students served by Virginia’s Community Colleges.

The State Board’s decision means TCC’s in-state tuition and mandatory fees will remain at $185.35 per credit hour. Community college tuition and mandatory fees are approximately one-third of the comparable costs of attending Virginia’s public four-year universities.

“With prices rising on everything from food to gas, we are grateful for the decision by the State Board to freeze tuition and fees for our students. This reaffirms a commitment to removing barriers to higher education and ensuring access and affordability for our students and their families,” said TCC President Marcia Conston.

“I appreciate our community college board and presidents putting students and families first by keeping tuition flat,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Ensuring affordable access to high-quality workforce training is critical to connecting Virginians to unfilled jobs and the careers of the future.”

“We’re grateful to the governor and General Assembly, who enacted a state budget that allowed us to hold the line on tuition and fees,” added Interim Virginia Community College System Chancellor Sharon Morrissey.

Further, the State Board maintained the existing tuition rate for out-of-state students, which for TCC is $385.45 per credit hour.

“I tell everyone looking to go to college to start at TCC” — Juanica Walker

Juanica Walker came to Tidewater Community College to train for a new career. Her goal was to be able to provide a stable life for her special needs son, Gianni.

She found her calling while working as a nurse aide and medical technician in private homes and facilities for the elderly and those with intellectual disabilities.

“As a nurse aide, I always found myself advocating for my patients and making sure they had the services they needed,” she said. “Whether that meant bringing them clothing, or a birthday cake, or connecting them with community resources.”

She added, “When I was considering a career switch, human services just made sense.”

Juanica, 32, was concerned about starting college in her late 20s, especially as a single mom with anxiety and depression. “At first, I thought I can’t do this. Then I realized if I can’t help myself, I’m not going to be able to help anyone else.”

Juanica connected with Human Services Program Lead and Professor Ivory Warren. And with hard work and persistence, she earned an Associate of Applied Science in Human Services in two years.

“Ms. Warren is one of those professors you don’t want to fail around. She makes you strive for success. She’s also a counselor and professor, offering us life advice while we learn in her classes.”

During this time, Juanica also found resources for Gianni, now four years old. With a set schedule and many doctors and therapists, he is thriving with his autism diagnosis. He will start kindergarten in the fall.

“I tell everyone who is looking to go to college to start at TCC. With the resources and helpful staff, you can start small and take steps toward your future.”

While studying at TCC, the college provided Juanica with a free laptop, Wi-Fi, financial assistance for her son’s daycare and meals through The Community Feed at TCC.

She also engaged with the community through the TCC Human Services Club and the Women Overcoming Whatever group.

Juanica is now working full-time for Jewish Family Services as a Guardian Representative. She has 30 clients that she helps connect with resources while taking care of their personal affairs and living situations.

“I recently connected one of my clients with a son that he hadn’t seen in years. It was a truly special moment when they saw each other again,” Juanica said. “Those moments make the stressful days all worth it!”

 Juanica is continuing her studies at Old Dominion where she says she is well prepared. “There are no surprise moments, everything rings a bell because of my start at TCC.”

Learn about everything TCC offers at two open houses, May 21 and June 25

Find your future at Tidewater Community College.

Learn about the gamut of TCC’s programs, including cybersecurity, culinary arts, health sciences, maritime technologies and the many other potential career paths and transfer opportunities the college offers.

Take the next step by visiting one of TCC’s open houses on May 21 and June 25 between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

On May 21, visit TCC’s Virginia Beach or Portsmouth Campuses.

On June 25, visit the Norfolk Campus, Chesapeake Campus and the Regional Automotive Center.

To learn about the academic programs to be represented at each campus visit here. Visit our website for a complete listing of programs.

There is plenty of time to enroll for fall classes, which begin on Aug. 22.

All are invited, especially:

  • 2022 high school graduates and their families;
  • adults who want to start or finish a degree, learn a new field, or advance in their careers;
  • active-duty military and veterans, their spouses and dependents.

You will be able to apply to TCC; learn about financial aid, grants and scholarships; explore academic options; tour campuses; and learn about campus life at all locations.

If you have an eye on a four-year college, TCC can help get you there, too. Transfer agreements allow a student to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at TCC and gain guaranteed admission to most Virginia colleges and universities.

Locations for TCC’s open houses are:

  • Chesapeake Campus: Student Center
  • Norfolk Campus: Student Center
  • Portsmouth Campus: Building A
  • Virginia Beach Campus: Bayside Building
  • Regional Automotive Center

Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made by May 19 and June 23, to the Office of Educational Accessibility by emailing or calling 757-822-7751.

For more information, call 757-822-1111 or email or visit this site.

TCC alumna baking up sweet dreams in Virginia Beach

Walk into 17 Hands Coffee and you will be delighted by the smells and sights around you, from the glass cases filled with delicious baked goods, to the array of aromatic coffees and teas, to the warm décor.

17 Hands Coffee opened in 2019, the dream and inspiration of Tidewater Community College alumna Robin Simmons.

Robin and her staff serve freshly made quiches, scones, cakes, pies and a very long list of coffee and tea drinks that are sure to please.

“I love putting together beautiful, rustic, classic desserts. Our blueberry lemon scones are the most popular thing we bake. They sell out daily. Our shortbread coffee dipper is also a favorite,” she said.

It all began when Robin came to TCC to earn a business degree after graduating from Great Bridge High. “I had to take some pre-college classes and that was possible at TCC. I really applied myself because I had a goal and was able to graduate with honors which really helped my self-esteem,” she said.

With her degree in hand, Robin went to work for Inside Business and later, a local commercial printer.

“I had an associate degree in my pocket and many businesses required a degree and some experience,” she added. “What I know now is that If I hadn’t gone to school, I would not have been able to work where I worked and made the money I made to open my shop. It also gave me the confidence I needed.”

Robin says she still uses what she learned at TCC to run 17 Hands Coffee. “It’s helpful on the job to be able to speak to people with some knowledge under my belt,” Robin said. “And specific classes like accounting, business law and public speaking have been important for the journey.”

Robin partners with other local businesses including Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Company for her coffee beans and Kewi Inspired Teas in Virginia Beach for tea latte concentrates. She also prints 17 Hands merchandise from a local printer and features local artists on greeting cards featured in the shop.

“One of our top priorities is to be a strong part of our community,” Robin said. “We also strive to set the bar high for everything we make and bake, as well as the service we provide.”

Robin takes care of her staff of bakers and servers. “I want this to be the best place to work, so we offer benefits, paid-time-off and profit-sharing,” she said.

Robin and the bakers at 17 Hands Coffee are gearing up for Valentine’s Day. If you are looking for a sweet treat for your sweetheart, you can find gift baskets, cakes and other desserts by visiting the store or ordering online.

Marking her success are 12 awards for her baked goods from the Virginia State Fair and an expansion next month into the commercial space adjacent to her location at 1830 Kempsville Road in Virginia Beach. Her place will soon boast another espresso bar and expanded seating.

“Success came for me after taking those first steps at TCC,” Robin said. “What I’ve learned is that when it gets hard, you have to love what you’re doing. It’s not about the money.”

TCC Career Services staff provide resume help and connections to jobs

So you’ve got that degree or certificate. Now what?

Landing a job in your field may be easier than you think. And TCC has resources to help you.

First things first

The first step is to develop a polished resume and cover letter. TCC’s Career Services office offers appointments and staff are there to help you present your education and experience in the best light.

One-on-one resume writing assistance is available by appointment by calling 757-822-7228. You can also have your resume reviewed by a Career Services staff member by emailing Babi Brock at

Resources for jobs

Next, visit TCC’s College Central Network (CCN). This free, web-based tool is designed to help students and alumni connect with employers looking to fill a wide range of jobs.

All you have to do is register to be a user and then you can browse open positions, upload a resume and create a shareable portfolio to showcase examples of your work to employers. Other resources include the CCN app, access to career advice podcasts, job postings alerts, and upcoming career fairs.

A place to go

TCC’s Career Services Office, located in the Virginia Beach Campus Student Center, Room KS42, has computers and fax machines you can use in your job search. The office also has postings on job opportunities and resource guides.

If you’re still not sure what you want to do, the college has a Career Coach Tool to match your degree or certificate, along with your interests in career fields.

Making important connections

Remember to also talk with your professors as they may have contacts in your fields of study and can often provide you a reference or even leads to open jobs.

More information

For more information about TCC’s Career Services call (757) 822-7228 or email Babi Brock at or Shauna Woods-Springer at

Join TCC for Open House on all campuses and the RAC, Aug. 7

Recent high school grad? Transitioning military? Looking for a promotion? Discover all that community college offers.

Tidewater Community College is opening its doors on all campuses for Open House on Aug. 7 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Prospective students and their families are invited to visit TCC’s campuses in ChesapeakeNorfolkPortsmouth and Virginia Beach and the Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake.

Advisors will be on hand to help students choose a pathway, apply for admission, get financial aid help and tour the campuses.

Whether you plan to take a full load or just one class, TCC offers a range of options to prepare you for the next step.

Students who are attending college for the first time or recent high school graduates are eligible to receive a free laptop when they enroll and pay for classes.

Tidewater Community College offers 150-plus programs ranging from engineering to the visual and culinary arts, to automotive, as well as cybersecurity and other options in computer science.

TCC is a great option for students looking to transfer to the four-year school of their dreams and want to get those general education requirements out of the way without accruing loads of student debt. Transitioning military and career changers can also learn more about program options.

Open house will be at the following locations:

  • Chesapeake Campus: 1428 Cedar Road
  • Norfolk Campus: 300 Granby St.
  • Portsmouth Campus: 120 Campus Drive
  • Virginia Beach Campus: Advanced Technology Center, 1800 College Crescent
  • Regional Automotive Center, 600 Innovation Drive, Chesapeake

Walk-ins are welcome, but you can also register for the event. For questions, email or call 757-822-1111.

Students looking to train for careers in advanced manufacturing have two new options

Are you looking to train for a mechatronics career in a hurry?

Then consider Tidewater Community College’s new Career Studies Certificate in Mechatronics Trainee. This certificate can be completed in just two semesters and includes the technical and hands-on training necessary for work in advanced manufacturing facilities. The coursework focuses on safe work habits and the basic skills needed for an entry-level skilled worker.

If you want to learn even more, consider the two-semester Career Studies Certificate in Mechatronics Technician. You will learn to perform maintenance on mechanical, electrical and control systems, and also how to troubleshoot machinery.

“We developed this curriculum with our industry advisory committee as a way to train skilled technicians for work as quickly as possible,” said Eric Beaver, Mechatronics department chair. “Once students are on the job, they often get the rest of their studies paid for by their employer. These new certificates are a win-win for everyone.”

Kerry Tebow earned the associate degree and has worked in the industry for a decade.

Both of these Career Studies Certificates stack into the Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics and are taught by expert instructors with industry experience. With the graying of the advanced manufacturing workforce, skilled technicians are in high demand. 

The associate degree covers motor controls, hydraulics, computer programming, pneumatics, programmable logic controllers and more. It is a one-of-a-kind program in Hampton Roads.

Workers already in the field can train to advance in areas that include new construction, maintenance and assembly lines in major manufacturing plants.

The median pay for a Mechatronics technician with an associate degree is $59,800 according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Mechatronics courses are offered days and evenings. Laboratory work is completed in the Precision Machining Lab and the Mechatronics Lab on the Chesapeake Campus.

For more information about the Mechatronics program, email Beaver 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.”

Accelerated Degree student now has open door to VCU

Mekhi Moore planned to attend Virginia Commonwealth University right after high school.

When he didn’t get in, he had to come up with a new plan.

Moore, 19, started searching options on Tidewater Community College’s website and found the Accelerated Degree Program (ADP).

“Right away I saw this as a way to get to VCU as quickly as possible, so I signed up and never looked back,” he said.

Accelerated Degree student Mekhi Moore in the library on Norfolk Campus.

While most of us think of it taking at least two years to earn an associate degree, TCC’s accelerated option allows students to complete all of their credits in just one year.

For Moore, the doors to VCU are now open.

“I’ll be attending my dream school in the fall and living with my best friend in an apartment off-campus,” he said.

Moore will enter VCU as a junior and begin work on his bachelor’s degree in math. Additionally, he hopes to earn his teaching credential.

While at TCC, Moore says he made some great connections, even though all of his classes were online because of the pandemic.

“We worked closely as a cohort. We had classes together, studied together and helped each other,” he said. “While the program is rigorous, we had everything we needed to be successful.”

Moore graduates from TCC this summer with an Associate of Science in General Studies.

Mekhi Moore on Norfolk Campus.

He credits the college with giving him more than a degree. “I’m more confident. I also know how to manage my time and balance work and school,” Moore said.

Moore has a lot to say to high school juniors and seniors.

“Keep your options open and make smart decisions,” Moore said. “I’m leaving TCC with no student debt and a head start on college.”

Moore hopes to give back by becoming a high school math teacher. He wants to help guide students in those last years before adulthood.

“I still hold on to the life lessons from some of my best teachers and I want to do that for other kids,” he said.

 Moore added, “I’ll graduate from college at 21 and be teaching before most people earn their degrees. TCC’s accelerated degree made that possible.”

To learn more about the program and receive help applying to TCC, contact the college’s Virtual Student Support Team by emailing or calling 757-822-1111.

TCC’s Respiratory Therapy program earns national recognition

Tidewater Community College’s Respiratory Therapy program is a recipient of the 2021 Registered Respiratory Therapy Distinguished Credentialing Success Award.

TCC’s program is one of eight in the nation to receive this distinction from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) for eight consecutive years.

TCC offers one of eight respiratory therapy programs in the state. Five are associate degree and three are bachelor’s degree programs.

TCC Respiratory Therapy graduate Daniel Velazquez.

“The COVID-19 pandemic certainly highlighted the importance of our graduates,” said Denise Bieszczad, program head for respiratory therapy at the college. “We provide critical training for front line health care workers and have continuously had the highest pass rates on national examinations of any school in Virginia, even those programs offering bachelor’s degrees.”

She attributes the program’s success to several factors, including the Regional Health Professions Center on the Virginia Beach Campus. The state-of-the-art facility offers a high-fidelity simulation laboratory that allows faculty to provide students with the most authentic educational experience.

Respiratory Therapy lab and simulators on the Virginia Beach Campus.

The college also partners with all major area health care providers to offer clinical rotations for students.

“Because of this exposure, our students get to observe respiratory care practitioners developing health care plans and evaluating therapies using critical thinking,” Bieszczad said. “They see firsthand the real-world benefits of working as a team to solve life-threatening clinical problems every day.”

Program Head Denise Bieszczad arranged to donate TCC ventilators to Sentara hospitals during the height of the pandemic.

Award winners must have three or more years of outcomes data; hold accreditation without a progress report; document registered respiratory therapy credentialing success of 90 percent or above; and meet or exceed established CoARC thresholds for certified respiratory therapist credentialing success, attrition and job placement.

For more information about the college’s Respiratory Therapy program, contact Bieszczad at 757-822-7412 or

TCC to offer first funeral directing degree in Virginia

Tidewater Community College introduces a new funeral directing degree this fall.

The 61-credit Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Directing prepares students to provide compassionate care for families and individuals after the loss of a loved one. The program also focuses on the business skills necessary to manage the daily operations of a funeral home.

The first and only funeral directing degree to be offered in Virginia, the program was developed by TCC after the General Assembly passed a bill to approve separate licenses for funeral director and embalmer.

“This program creates a path to licensure for people who don’t want to be in the preparation room,” said Frank Walton, TCC’s Funeral Services program head and owner of Walton Funeral Home.

“Students will gain insights into funeral home operations and management while learning to provide care for grieving families,” Walton added.

TCC’s funeral director program will be offered 100% online.

Courses include psychology of death and dying; introduction to business; principles of public speaking; business law; and principles of funeral management.

State licensure requires a 2000-hour externship at a local funeral home, giving students important hands-on training. Students will also prepare to take the state funeral laws exam and state board exam.

Upon graduation, students will be certified crematory operators and ready for work in funeral homes across Virginia.

TCC also offers an Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Services for students interested in obtaining licenses for both directing and embalming. The extensive curriculum covers everything from chemistry and restorative art to funeral service law. The program also gives students hands-on training in the embalming lab on the Virginia Beach Campus.

 Fall classes begin Aug. 23.

For more information on TCC’s programs and services, email or call the Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111.