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Computers for Student Success – a win-win for students

Tidewater Community College student Daniele Sparks is ready for classes to start next month. This week, she visited Computers for Student Success and picked up a newly refurbished personal computer at no cost.

“I always told myself that I’d go back to school when my son started pre-school,” she said. “The time is now, but with everything getting so expensive, I can’t afford to buy a computer. This is a real gift.”

Lee Grimm, Blake Nietling, Gary Noah, Erin O’Meara, Eduardo Jimenez, Matthew Walsh and Sal Trinidad with TCC’s Computers for Student Success.

Computers for Student Success is run by TCC’s Computer Club and Professor Gary Noah. It launched in 2009 and has distributed close to 15,000 computers since the start.

“When we provide computers for students in need, they are very appreciative. I gave the first 150 computers away myself. I’ve seen a lot of thankful tears,” Noah said.

He continued, “To a single parent who has no computer, getting one can mean the difference between success and failure. Students can’t make it to the computer lab or library because of work and childcare needs. Sometimes they don’t have cars. We’re getting rid a barrier for them.”

Computers for Student Success is wholly supported by donations from individuals and the community  including Sentara Healthcare and Stihl Co.

TCC’s Computer Club members rehabilitate and update the older or in-need of repairing PCs and laptops and get them into the hands of students, families and nonprofits in Hampton Roads.

Jolina Santiago with her laptop from TCC’s Computers for Student Success.

“I’m so grateful for my new laptop. Without it, I’d have to drop my summer classes,” said Jolina Santiago, a TCC student who recently lost her car and home.

Computers for Student Success is taking applications now for Fall Semester. TCC students are encouraged to request a PC or laptop early as fall is the busiest time for the volunteer team. To start the process, use this form.

In addition to its service to the community, the club provides valuable hands-on experience to Computer Club members, many of whom are working toward Computer Science, Information Systems Technology or Cyber Security degrees at the college.

Computers for Student Success staffer Lee Grimm with volunteer Matthew Walsh.

“This is a great way to serve our community while gaining experience repairing computers and working as a team,” said Lee Grimm, who helps Professor Noah run the program.

Although Computers for Student Success volunteers are mostly IT students, anyone is welcome to join the volunteer team.

Volunteer Salvador Trinidad shows Daniele Sparks how to use her new PC.

“I like computers and diagnosing problems,” said Salvador Trinidad, a TCC student volunteer in business management. “My favorite part is helping students learn to use their new computers. My goal is to make it really user-friendly with no jargon.”

Noah added, “We’ve had some students who received a computer come back to volunteer and pay it forward for another student in need. We have stacks of computers to work on and everyone is welcome.”

More than 120 volunteers work with Computers for Student Success which is open Monday – Friday from noon to 5 p.m. The eight-room office is located in the Lynnhaven building, room E108, on the Virginia Beach Campus.

Computer Science Professor Gary Noah with stacks of refurbished PCs.

“We know the work we’re doing is changing lives. That’s why we are here 51 weeks of the year,” Noah said, standing in front of a wall of computers and thank you notes from grateful students.

For more information about Computers for Student Success, contact Noah at

The evolution of tolling with Elizabeth River Crossings

Drivers who take the Downtown or Midtown tunnels have benefited from the advanced technology of Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC), 100% build-for-cloud tolling system.

Tidewater Community College students had the opportunity to learn about tolling technology with an in-person lunch and learn event with Jim Doerflinger, ERC’s Chief of Information Technology.

Held in the college’s Advanced Technology Center in late April, Doerflinger explained the evolution of tolling technology and demonstrated how the technology has helped to reduce traffic congestion in our area.

“This event was very beneficial for our students and faculty. It was fascinating to learn how technology impacts the tolling industry from both the perspective of the end-user or those who pay the toll, as well as the technology that is used behind the scenes,” said Nancy Prather-Johnson, dean of business, computer science and information technology.

Students also gained insights about information technology internships and careers in Hampton Roads.

ERC is a long-time supporter of TCC’s STEM Promise Scholarship program, helping to provide full scholarships for 20 students each year as they earn their associate degrees in STEM-related fields.

“ERC is passionate about STEM education. Our hope is to increase STEM education overall, but especially for women and minority students,” said Doerflinger. “We’re proud to partner with TCC to provide a promising future for these students, without them having to worry about tuition expenses.”

Christopher Bryant, TCC’s vice president for Institutional Advancement added, “In addition to their engagement with academics, ERC has been an incredible partner in providing STEM scholarships to TCC students. We’re thrilled that Elizabeth River Crossings has been our pioneer scholarship supporter in the STEM fields and look forward to expanding those student opportunities with other industry partners.”

MLK Scholarship winner all about giving back to his campus and community

Johvanny Torres makes it his mission to help, whether getting a stranded motorist on the road, explaining a computer error message to a struggling student or coming to the rescue of an entire apartment building of displaced residents after a catastrophe.

The Tidewater Community College student isn’t looking for payment or even thanks. He’s simply honoring the father he lost at the age of 13 by making the world around him a better place day by day.

Torres, 34, is the recipient of the college’s 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, which will be awarded on Feb. 23 at a half-day conference titled “TCC 360: A Dialogue on Black Life and Legacies.”

The former Marine dates his community service efforts back to his childhood in north Philadelphia when something as simple as picking up trash made an impact. At TCC, he took a semester off when residents at Wayfair Apartments in Virginia Beach had their leases terminated abruptly after Hurricane Matthew damage and ensuing asbestos removal.

Torres fought for tenant rights with city officials and connected as many residents as he could with resources to help them with moving, food and furniture.

More recently, he helped with an initiative on the Virginia Beach Campus. As president of Computers for Student Success, he was the inspiration behind the idea to provide single mothers and military moms with Chromebooks before the holidays.

The idea was born after Torres experienced the challenges of single parenthood firsthand, caring for his 2-year-old son, Kavon. The night before a pre-calculus test, Kavon was sick, something Torres hadn’t faced before.

“I wasn’t ready for it,” he admitted. “He wanted me to hold him all night. I was supposed to be studying and getting ready for a test.”

That’s when he realized how often single moms go it alone. On Dec. 16, Computers for Student Success handed out 55 Chromebooks in gift boxes.

Torres is working toward his Associate of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology. He plans to transfer to Old Dominion University to pursue a degree in computer engineering after he graduates from TCC in spring 2019.

He is also active with TCC’s Veteran Mentoring Program and Student Government Association. Typically, though, most of Torres’ service is on the fly. In helping a student who had come by campus to pick up her refurbished computer, Torres walked her to her car, which didn’t start. He took a peek under the hood, drove to a nearby auto supply store to get the parts and fixed it himself.

Torres’ admiration for King dates back to his middle school days when he wrote an essay on the Civil Rights advocate.

“He had a way of using words to get people’s attention,” Torres said. “If he didn’t have your attention, he would show you. He was a man of action.”

The TCC scholarship recognizes a student who exemplifies the teachings and example of King.

When Torres receives his scholarship later this month, four of his nieces and two nephews will be in attendance. “Whenever something happens to me, a milestone, I want them to be there,” he said. “I want them to see all you can achieve.”

Navy veteran on the road to success with cyber security degree

When Navy veteran Shawn Goodwin retires from his 9-to-5 job in 13 years, he and wife Karen plan to hit the open road in their RV to see small-town America. “We want to travel all over the U.S. and see landmarks, beaches, mountains, streams and everything but the big cities,” he said.

Thanks to earning his associate degree from Tidewater Community College in December, he’ll have the income to support his travels. His Associate of Science in Information Systems Technology with a concentration in Cyber Security will enable him to do cybersecurity work while he’s on the go.

“I see myself working sporadically during the day as required, to keep an income stream with enough to fund our adventures,” he said.

A self-described computer nerd, Goodwin, 42, was a Senior Chief electronics technician when he retired from the Navy. He served 20 years and completed tours around the globe and a stint in Antarctica supporting the National Science Foundation.

“That was my favorite tour!” he said. “I provided tech support for the portable and high-frequency radios used to communicate around the continent.”

After the military, Goodwin found work as an information technology program manager for Navy contractors. He enrolled at TCC because of the quality of the cyber security program with its designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency.

“TCC fit my work schedule,” he said. “The flexibility of the classes and the adult learners in class with me at night made it an excellent experience.”

Goodwin meshed well with his cyber professors, particularly Rob Guess, director of cyber security, who he calls a super nerd. “I’m about his age, and I just get him. He’s extremely smart and knows his stuff.”

Using his GI Bill, Goodman earned his TCC degree debt-free.

The father of three children, Goodwin is encouraging his youngest to enroll at TCC. “I see kids struggling with classes and I encourage them to keep their minds on their studies.”

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