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Accelerated degree launches alum into the entertainment industry

Justin Jeffrey is on the way to landing the job of his dreams.

He may soon be working as an agent assistant for William Morris Endeavor (WME), one of the largest media and talent agencies in the world. WME represents plenty of big names in Hollywood including Oprah, Denzel, Tom Brady and Matthew McConaughey.

A 2016 graduate of Western Branch High, Jeffrey got his start at Tidewater Community College through the Accelerated Degree Program (ADP).

It was there that he met Khari Nixon who became a mentor and friend.

“Khari worked for a record label in Brooklyn and being able to talk with him and learn from him set me on the path to work in the industry,” Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey earned an Associate of Science in General Studies in 2017, one year after graduating from high school. He transferred to University of Virginia as a junior that same year.

“The ADP gave me a lot of flexibility in the classes I selected, providing me with a broad education,” Jeffrey said. “I also enjoyed the diversity of my classmates that included older students, military and those coming back to school after years in the workforce.”

The accelerated degree is offered 100% online. Participating students also receive personalized attention and dedicated advising, including monthly check-ins.

Applications are due Jan. 25 for the spring cohort. Learn about all the documents necessary to apply here.

Jeffrey, a first-generation college graduate, credits TCC staffers Kia Hardy, Cassandra Small and Johnna Harrell with investing in his success and helping him learn important lessons including time management and study skills.

The Chesapeake native completed a bachelor’s in communications and media studies at UVA in 2019.  

Since graduation Jeffrey has been working with Txyy, an artist from New Jersey. He plans to work for WME for now but would ultimately like to attend Cornell or Columbia law school and become an entertainment lawyer.

Learn more about the Accelerated Degree Program here. Email to connect with an advisor and get started.  If you still have questions, email TCC’s Virtual Student Support Team at or call 757-822-1111.

Parents establish $10,000 endowed scholarship in memory of their son

Christopher Garrett’s parents established a scholarship to help a Tidewater Community College student like him fulfill his dreams.

Chris was just 22 when he died in a single car accident on the way home from a friend’s house.

Chris was the Garretts’ first child – and second loss.

Stephen, their second son, died at the age of 3 from leukemia. Chris was his little brother’s match and bone marrow donor, a role he took to naturally. “Chris was a giving and selfless young man,” said his dad, Larry Garrett. “He made friends with everyone he met and never resented helping Stephen.”

Active in track and football in high school, Chris was also artistic. He dabbled in modeling and enjoyed acting in a local murder mystery group.

But Chris struggled academically. Diagnosed with a mental health condition, Chris saw his grades skip by senior year and, like most new graduates, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study.

At TCC, he got back on track.

Enrolled full time in the general studies program, Chris was benefitting from the personal, caring attention he received from his professors. Small class sizes and dedicated instruction helped. His grades improved.

The Garretts, touched by all the counselors and professors who reached out after Chris’ death, established the Christopher M. Garrett Memorial Scholarship in his memory.

“My wife and I think TCC offers something larger schools don’t – individual attention. Community colleges are willing to give adult students opportunities. We wanted to help,” Larry Garrett said. “That’s what we had in mind, helping another student and keeping Chris’ memory alive.”

This year’s recipient, Kayla Alesna, is an ideal selection for Chris’ scholarship.

Alesna, who struggles with a seizure condition, never thought college was in her future, much less a degree in information systems technology with a focus on databases.

“School was so hard for me growing up,” she said. “In high school, I would try and try and try and only make D’s and E’s. I gave up and just got my GED. I never thought I’d be able to go any further than that in my education.”

Things changed when she married and her son, Onyx, was born with disabilities.

Watching his persistence was a wake-up call for her. “My son never lets anything get in his way,” she said. “I realized I couldn’t just say all this stuff to him about working hard and going to school. I needed to show him how to do it.”

Alesna describes herself as “petrified” her first day of school. But, like Chris, she found support from her professors and staffer Elisabeth Jakubowski in the Educational Accessibility Office.

Information technology was, to her delight, a natural fit – and she discovered a passion for coding and problem solving in the lab. “It was totally different from high school; I was never scared to ask for help – and my professors were always there to offer it,” she said.

She finished her first semester with straight A’s.

“I thought ‘How did this happen?’ ” she said. “I realized I wasn’t just going to scrape through college; I was going to be successful.”

Jakubowski encouraged Alesna to compete for scholarships to help cover the cost of her computer and printed study materials.

But it was some scary medical news that spurred her to complete the applications.

“This was all happening right when I went through a scare with my son possibly having leukemia,” Alesna said. “I figured ‘Now’s the time we need it most. I’m going to go for it.’ Not long after that my computer died and I thought, you know, ‘What am I going to do now?’”

She won the scholarship – and it felt like kismet.

When Alesna learned the Garretts had a son who had died of leukemia she was shocked: “I had chills.” She sees a lot of similarities between Chris and her – both adult learners who found a second chance at education at TCC.

Even though she won’t graduate until December, Alesna is already getting calls for job interviews. “People want me to work for them in government positions – really good jobs,” she said. “TCC has made all of that possible for me.”

“It’s amazing for my son to see me succeed; to hear him say ‘Mommy, I’m so proud of you’; to win a scholarship . . . I’m just so proud of myself.”

For more information about available scholarships at TCC, visit To learn more about establishing a scholarship at TCC, contact the TCC Educational Foundation at or 757-822-1080.

TCC’s Norfolk Campus awards its first Governor’s Medallion

Jay Sellers is the first Tidewater Community College student to earn his associate degree from the Norfolk Campus while still in high school.

The homeschooled senior started at TCC taking 19 credit hours his first semester.

This May, Sellers, 17, will earn his Associate of Science in General Studies, enabling him to enter a four-year university as a junior. He hopes to be a Hokie at Virginia Tech by spring 2019.

“I needed more challenging classes and wanted to start working on college credits early,” Sellers said. “It feels great to be ahead of the game.”

Sellers 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.

Three Portsmouth Campus students are also receiving the Governor’s Medallion. 

While at TCC, Sellers became friends with classmates who were often a decade older than he was. “It felt kind of strange starting college so young, but it was definitely the right choice for me,” he said.

“I was always accepted and included in study groups. We spent free time together, too, going to the movies and just hanging out.”

While at TCC, Sellers discovered a love for science through early morning biology lectures with instructor Grace Murray. His older sister, Kiley, was in class with him.

“Jay’s calm, amicable, dedicated, and curious nature shines through and lends to his academic success,” said Murray “This blend of traits will certainly extend beyond college and allow him to achieve greatness throughout all avenues of his life.”

Sellers plans to pursue a bachelor’s in exercise science at Virginia Tech. He would like to give athletes and others who have lost mobility the chance to live life to the fullest. He hopes to earn a master’s in biomedical engineering and design prosthetics.

Sellers competes in triathlons and is a lifeguard with the City of Norfolk, working at the beach and the Norfolk Fitness and Wellness Center. He is currently training for a Kinetic Half Ironman triathlon that will take place this May.

TCC has been a family affair with Kiley also earning an Associate of Science in General Studies and now working toward a bachelor’s in speech pathology at Old Dominion University. Another sister, Emma, is four classes away from earning her associate degree in general studies.

“One thing I’ve learned is that it’s good to have a daily routine. Use a planner and don’t wait until the last minute to get things done,” Jay Sellers said. “With determination, you really can go anywhere from here.”

TCC donor’s scholarship plants seeds for student success

Sarah “Tata” White Kellam was 33 when she started selling plants from her greenhouse in a vacant lot on Virginia Beach’s Shore Drive. Her company, Mr. Greenjeans, blossomed into an interior plantscaping business company, selling, servicing and renting plants throughout Hampton Roads.

As her business evolved, Kellam also tended to the growth of her employees. She provided financial support for night school tuition “to help more women move forward in their college educations.”

It was the first of many contributions she would make to give back and help support women in business.

“There’s a saying I love: ‘You don’t know ’til you know,’” Kellam said, “I want to help people who want to know. You need education to get anywhere; that’s what I know!”

In 2017, she established the Sarah “Tata” White Kellam Scholarship at Tidewater Community College to support business and entrepreneurship students with a financial need who have demonstrated academic excellence and a commitment to education.

“I chose TCC because of the older demographic it served,” she said. “I wanted to support an older student, someone who was serious in their studies – who had some direction and interest in business. I was a little older when I started my business, and I wanted to help another woman with dreams.”

This year’s recipient, Dawn Johns, is just that.

A Navy veteran with 10 years of service, Johns was eligible for GI Bill benefits she was hoping to save for her more expensive Old Dominion University coursework.

“I learned about scholarships from Professor Angela Slaughter in my Business 100 class,” said the mother of two. “We were finishing early, so Professor Slaughter started walking us through the scholarship options. I went ahead and applied for 10 scholarships just sitting there in class.”

Johns searched for all the awards she was eligible to receive. “Some of them don’t even require an essay – you’re just completing the form,” she said.

To her surprise, she won several, including the scholarship established by Kellam.

“I take so much pride in being the recipient of a scholarship,” Johns said. “I know the process is competitive. Being selected made me feel honored, and I’ve pushed that much harder to make sure I keep my grades up. Every semester since I received this award, I have been a 4.0 student.”

Johns also credits the award for relieving a lot of financial stress and freeing up more time for her family and academics.

While at the college, her daughter attends TCC’s Child Development Center on the Portsmouth Campus, operated by YWCA South Hampton Roads, tuition her award helps to subsidize. She also applies her scholarship toward textbooks and a meal plan.

Graduating with her Associate of Science in Business Administration in May, Johns has already been accepted to Old Dominion and plans to complete a bachelor’s degree program in accounting. She will secure a second TCC degree, an Associate of Science in General Studies with a Specialization in Professional Communication, this summer.

She aims to open her own non-profit financial planning service to promote financial literacy and give back to neighborhoods like the one she grew up in.

Johns already offers this financial advice for others at TCC: “I’ve been showing all my friends TCC’s scholarship website and teaching them how to apply. These awards have been an important lesson learned. I want to share these opportunities with as many people as possible.”

As Kellam would say – “You don’t know ‘til you know!”

For more information about available scholarships at TCC, visit To learn more about establishing a scholarship at TCC, contact the TCC Educational Foundation at or 757-822-1080.

Earn an associate in one year at TCC’s Norfolk or Portsmouth Campuses

Students who want to fast track their education by earning an associate degree in just one year can take advantage of an accelerated degree option on Tidewater Community College’s Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses.

By enrolling in consecutive eight-week sessions, students can complete all 61 credits in one year for an Associate of Science in General Studies. Those who complete the degree and meet the required GPA for admission to their transfer institution will likely be admitted as juniors.

“This dynamic initiative is perfect for students willing to make the commitment to take classes consecutively for nearly a full year,” said Michelle Woodhouse, provost of TCC’s Portsmouth Campus. “Students who enroll in the accelerated degree program will receive the support of our dedicated advising staff to ensure a seamless transition to a four-year university or college.”

Classes on both campuses will be offered in five eight-week sessions beginning on Aug. 20 and concluding in July 2019.

Courses for each session are tentatively scheduled for Monday and Wednesday evenings, some Saturdays and online at the Portsmouth Campus.

Students able to attend classes every weekday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., can complete an accelerated degree on the Norfolk Campus. Some classes will be online only.

Recent high school graduates and adult learners, including military-related students, are eligible to apply. Applicants must complete the Virginia Placement Test and schedule an interview with the Portsmouth Campus Advising & Counseling Department.

Anyone with an interest in the accelerated degree program should email for information and logon to

The application deadline is July 23. Financial aid is available by completing the FAFSA.

TCC to celebrate spring commencement on May 12

Del. Cheryl Turpin will be the keynote speaker for Tidewater Community College’s 66th Commencement Exercises on May 12 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Commencement, which begins at 2 p.m., will be streamed live at

Del. Cheryl Turpin
Del. Cheryl Turpin

More than 1,300 will graduate, including several students who have earned degrees or certificates one month before completing high school thanks to dual enrollment.

Jaylyn Richard of Norcom High and Gabrielle Hutchings of Churchland High are recipients of the Associate of Science in Science. Churchland’s Brandi Porter will receive her Associate of Science in Social Sciences. Jay Sellers, homeschooled, earned his Associate of Science in General Studies. The four students will wear Governor’s Medallions as part of their academic regalia.

Wilson High’s Alyssa Shepherd and Christopher Newbill will receive Career Studies Certificates in Maritime Welding.

Five students from Chesapeake earned Career Studies Certificates in Electrical Wiring for Technicians. They are Zachary Booker (Western Branch), Hunter Edward (Deep Creek), Brandon Halloran (Oscar Smith), Christian Keifer (Grassfield) and Jalem Wilson (Great Bridge).

Turpin, elected to the Virginia House of Delegates last November, has more than 25 years of teaching experience as a Virginia Beach educator. She has spent the last nine years teaching Advanced Placement environmental science at Cox High School. She graduated with her master’s in education from the University of Virginia after completing her bachelor’s at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Student speaker Tony Sawyer, once a high school dropout, will graduate with his Associate of Science in Social Sciences. The Chesapeake resident will attend the honors college at Old Dominion University this fall to work toward a bachelor’s in human services.

TCC will award a posthumous Career Studies Certificate in Automotive Chassis Systems to Jordan McNair of Virginia Beach. McNair, 20, died in a car crash last August.

Generally speaking, you can’t beat this transfer degree

And the most popular associate degree at Tidewater Community College is . . .?

If you answered general studies, well done! TCC’s Associate of Science in General Studies makes the transfer process easy with all your credits applied to your four-year university of choice.

Students follow a flexible curriculum that allows them to be a junior in college upon completion.

Here’s why more than 5,000 students at TCC are pursuing the general studies associate:

The buzz on this degree

You design your schedule by taking classes in all of the major disciplines, including science, history, social sciences, mathematics and the humanities, giving you the broadest possible foundation for your future.

“I recommend the general studies degree because it can be customized to meet specific requirements of four-year schools. We can match class for class and make college transfer a really smooth process,” said Rhonda Goudy, the transfer counselor at the Chesapeake Campus. “We can also clean up errors if a student chose a wrong class before seeing an advisor.”

General Studies sounds so, well, general. Could it work for me?

 The broadness of the degree makes it an ideal option for bachelor’s degrees at universities requiring specific coursework or prerequisites. The associate can pave the way for work in any area from law to psychology to political science to mathematics and management.

Here’s what our students say:

Chidinma Owuama

Childinma Owuama

The Navy spouse selected general studies because it provides a seamless transfer to Old Dominion’s bachelor’s in nursing. “It’s very good to be able to pick the classes you need. It has been awesome, but not easy. With a lot of hard work, determination and commitment, you can get there.”

Owuama hopes to be a physician’s assistant.

Kayla Hood

Kyla Hood

“I came here so I could save money on college. I really like the flexible classes and enjoy going to the gym in the student center whenever I’m on campus.”

Hood plans to transfer to a university to study special education.

Vance Reynolds

Vance Reynolds
“I decided to take this route because universities are more expensive. I’m getting my general requirements out of the way before moving to Old Dominion to study cybersecurity.”

Reynolds plans a career in homeland security.

Salvador Fuentes-Calderon

Sal Fuentes-Calderon
“I chose general studies because I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school, and this seemed like a good way to get started. I’ve really enjoyed the variety of courses, from world religion to sociology to psychology. This degree introduced me to new concepts and experiences that I’m taking with me.”

Fuentes-Calderon plans to complete his bachelor’s at Old Dominion and apply to the Chesapeake Police Academy.

About the curriculum

You will complete 38 credits of general education, including English, math, science and history. You will fill in the degree with 21 hours of humanities, social science and other approved electives. Along the way, you will gain an education that builds communications and critical thinking skills and research, analysis and problem-solving skills. Complete the 61 credits in as little as four semesters or take classes part time.

In addition, you can take day, evening and online classes on any TCC campus, or you can complete the program 100 percent online.

Where can you go?

 As we often say, from here you can go anywhere. With the required GPA, you can take advantage of transfer agreements with nearly every public college and university in Virginia and many private colleges, including:

  • University of Virginia
  • James Madison University
  • Old Dominion University
  • Virginia Tech
  • Norfolk State University
  • Regent University
  • Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Liberty University

Bonus: First-time college students who meet GPA and other requirements may qualify for a two-year transfer grant of up to $1,000 applied toward tuition for their junior and senior years.

Questions?  Contact TCC’s New Student Support Team at 757-822-1111.

Accelerated Degree puts your education in high gear

Interested in fast-tracking your education? Tidewater Community College’s Accelerated Degree may be for you.

TCC is accepting applications for students interested in earning an Associate of Science in General Studies in just one year through its Accelerated Degree program. Upon completion, students may transfer their credits to a four-year college or university to work toward bachelor’s degrees.

This five-session program satisfies freshman and sophomore general education requirements at most Virginia public colleges and universities. Students who complete the degree and meet the GPA required for admission at their transfer institution will likely be admitted as juniors.

“The Accelerated Degree gives students the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree in three years,” said Jeffery Boyd, provost of the Norfolk Campus. “It’s a great fit for recent high school graduates and adult learners who are motivated and disciplined.”

Accelerated Degree students attend classes in eight-week sessions on the Norfolk Campus for nearly one year to earn the necessary 61 credits. Classes are tentatively set to meet Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The academic schedule is:

Session I: Aug. 20 – Oct. 15, 2018
Session II: Oct. 17 – Dec. 14, 2018
Session III: Jan. 14 – March 11, 2019
Session IV: March 18 – May 11, 2019
Session V: May 13 – July 9, 2019

Students who participate in the accelerated program can save thousands by completing two years of college at TCC versus a four-year institution. In addition, students receive personalized attention with a low faculty-to-student ratio and regular academic advising.
Want to know more?
Prospective students must complete admission requirements that are specific to the Accelerated Degree. The first step is to apply for TCC admission, and then contact Cassandra Small for more information. Small can be reached at 757-822-1723 or

Need more help? Contact TCC’s new student support team at 757-822-1111 or

Visit for details.
Here’s what recent graduates are saying about the Accelerated Degree

James Pettway

James Pettway came to TCC after serving as a hospital corpsman in the Navy for five years. He selected the program because he wanted to get through school quickly. “I grew up poor and was the definition of, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I never even considered college before. I didn’t have the ambition or the drive. My first and only job before the Navy was at Walmart.”

While in the Navy, Pettway discovered his passion for medicine. At TCC, he learned he could be successful in the classroom. “When I got through those first courses, I realized that I was capable. I applied the same ambition and focus I used in the Navy to be successful. I did it because I put my head down and believed I could.”

Pettway is now at George Washington University studying nursing.

Stephanie Leggett graduated from Granby High in 2016, and while she took AP classes, she didn’t make the grades. She learned about the Accelerated Degree program from her high school guidance counselor.

Stephanie Leggett

“This program has shown me that I can accomplish great things,” she said. “I can get a degree in one year and things can get better. For me, it was important to be challenged so I wouldn’t get bored.”

Leggett excelled in the classroom and jumped into campus life. “The college is really diverse, and there’s a lot going on outside the classroom,” she said. “I see things differently now and believe anything is possible.”

Leggett transferred to Old Dominion. She wants to be an attorney to advocate for social justice.