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Governor’s Medallion recipient en route to ODU for mechanical engineering

When Lauryn Thompson was in middle school, her load included introductory classes in Algebra and Spanish. So it was only natural that at Churchland High, she continued to accelerate by attending Tidewater Community College.

The 17-year-old will graduate from TCC in May with an Associate of Science in Social Sciences. Thompson will attend Old Dominion University this fall and study mechanical engineering.

Thompson is one of 13 students on the Portsmouth Campus who will receive the Governor’s Medallion, awarded to students who earn associate degrees or certificates while still in high school. TCC will award 30 Governor’s Medallions overall, the most in college history.

Thompson’s work ethic has carried her. In addition to her academic slate, Thompson logs as many as 50 hours a week in e-commerce at Kroger. Remote learning has been a challenge, but her work schedule forces her to organize her time wisely.

Thompson is used to juggling. Up until her junior year in high school, she competitively cheered at Churchland, so when she had practice and class back-to-back, she made the most of the time before and after.

“It takes discipline,” she said. “It might be easy to lay in bed all day, but I have to get up and get started.”

Mature even as a youngster, she persevered this last year while watching her father recover from a massive stroke. That left both parents not working, as her mother recently completed a master’s degree.

“There was a lot going on,” Thompson said. “Honestly, I had a very good childhood and I’ve been very privileged. I’ve never been through such a hard time. It was a lesson.”

Enjoying math, she chose mechanical engineering and was accepted into ODU’s honors program, which gave her a scholarship and stipend.

Thompson will be among the student speakers at TCC’s first-ever virtual commencement on May 11.

Her message? “You can do it.”

“When I tell people I’m graduating with my associate degree, they’ll say, ‘What? How?’ ‘When do you have time?’ ”

Thompson responds, “When you really want to do something, you do it. There were times where I wanted to give up, but then I realized that I’ve come too far. I realized that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As I am nearing the end of this program, I realize that this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

2020 Governor’s Medallion recipients

Portsmouth Campus

Lauryn Thompson, Associate of Science in Social Sciences

Nichelle Ellis, Associate of Science in Social Sciences

Alyesia Watkins, Associate of Science in Science

Courtnie Bagby, Certificate of General Education

Rodney Barber, Certificate of General Education

Carter Canfield, Certificate of General Education

Ashley Hamlin, Certificate of General Education

Victoria Hayes, Certificate of General Education

Lily Madojemu, Certificate of General Education

Kayla Norman, Certificate of General Education

Jonathan Pierce, Certificate of General Education

Melanie Pineda, Certificate of General Education

Lisbeth Flores Aguilar, Certificate of General Education

Virginia Beach Campus (inaugural graduates of TCC’s  Entrepreneurship and Business Academy)

Claire Boyton, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Karmina Buensuceso, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Landon Elforsi, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Morgan Evans, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Leora Friedman, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Makayla Harvey, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Morgan Harwood, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Sam Kenslow, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Jane Ogenyi, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Sandra Onodu, Associate of Science in Business Administration

N’kosi-Sanai Poole, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Robert Smith, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Savannah Taylor, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Michelle Wilches, Associate of Science in Business Administration

Chesapeake Campus

Rocco Boyd, Certificate in General Education

Carly Pond, Certificate in General Education

Zoey England, Associate of Science in Social Sciences

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.”