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“I’m very grateful to be earning my degree debt free.” – Paige Russell

Paige Russell discovered her passion for interior design while a student at Tidewater Community College.

She originally planned to study social sciences for a career in mental health counseling. But one semester in and she knew the field wasn’t a good fit for her.

“TCC gave me the chance to explore programs and I didn’t feel like I was wasting time and money. Once I found interior design, it was a game changer,” Paige said. “I enjoy it so much it doesn’t feel like work.”

A recent graduate of Great Bridge High, Paige is on track to earn her Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design in the spring of 2024.

Paige Russell in the Interior Design spaces on Chesapeake Campus.

“I love everything about this program. All of my teachers are great and have industry experience. They create classrooms that are really inviting and are always there to answer questions,” Paige said.

Paige followed her sister, Hailee, to TCC. They both are Outstanding High School Graduate Scholars, earning full scholarships to the college a decade apart.

“TCC was always on my radar because of my sister,” Paige said. “I knew I could complete my gen eds. What I didn’t know was how much I’d enjoy the community and the small classes.”

As an Outstanding High School Graduate Scholar, Paige also serves as a Student Ambassador on the Chesapeake Campus. In that role, she gives campus tours, serves at events and volunteers in the student center.

“I encourage everyone to try for this scholarship,” she said. “The work has helped me come out of my shell and grow. It’s been a tremendous learning experience and I’ve made a lot of friends.”

Paige also credits TCC staffers Sara Hair and Tyler Flanagan with investing in her success. “They always have their doors open and are there to provide guidance. It’s a big family here,” Paige said.

An intern at a local design company, Paige is learning the ropes from professionals in the field. She plans a career as a residential and commercial interior designer.

“I’m actually going to be job ready with my associate degree,” Paige said. “I’m very grateful to be earning my degree debt free.”

Now is the time to apply for the Outstanding High School Graduate Scholarship. High School seniors can ask their guidance counselors about the program. The deadline to apply is April 7. For more information, visit here.

Commercial design students put a new twist on old design in downtown Norfolk

Designing a historic landmark is a gem project for any interior designer.

For students in Tidewater Community College’s Designing Commercial Interiors class, that challenge came as part of a project this spring.

127 Bank Street
127 Bank Street

Students in Alex Reichardt’s IDS 222 had the opportunity to design the interior of 127 Bank St., a commercial building constructed at the turn of the century. The building, which is part of the Downtown Norfolk Historic District, is built with limestone in the classic revival style.  It is the only Norfolk bank to survive the Civil War.

Yureacia Norman Parker, the current building owner and president of Arbre De Vie Healthcare Services Partners, and architect David Klemt, had a vision for the project and waited for the designs to be completed as part of the students’ final exam.

The building will be the headquarters for Arbre De Vie and provide office space for other health care practitioners.

“The spaces literally sprang to life with students using the latest technology,” Parker said.

Students in Commercial Design provide renderings for 127 Bank Street in Norfolk, a historic building constructed at the turn of the century.
Students in Commercial Design provide renderings for 127 Bank Street in Norfolk, a historic building constructed at the turn of the century.

Students in Commercial Design use software tools that include Chief Architect, AutoCAD, Revit and Home Planner.  “The technology we have today enables us to feel as though we are walking through the spaces,” Reichardt said. “When working with clients, they can make decisions easily with quality information.”

Students presented their ideas in detail and included space planning, materials selection, furniture placement, as well as the aesthetic details of each of their designs. Students also considered accessibility and lighting in their planning.

Speaking to the class, Klemt added, “You brought the creative parts together and hopefully that creativity will stick with you. With the everyday practical elements of each job – from building codes and client requests – things don’t always go as planned. I applaud the work you have done. For those who went above and beyond the basics, know that the work will pay incredible dividends in your professional development.”

Architect David Klemt with student winners Paul Cage, Jillian Batson and Marisa Dankwa and owner Yureacia Norman Parker. Not pictured, Sarah Richmond.
Architect David Klemt with student winners Paul Cage, Jillian Batson and Marisa Dankwa and owner Yureacia Norman Parker. Not pictured, Sarah Richmond.

Four student winners were selected for top honors in the project with Marisa Dankwa awarded the top spot for her detailed work after designing every room on every level.

Jillian Batson placed second with a design that preserved the historic feel of the space. She added a lighting plan and materials board.

Sarah Richmond, who finished third, maximized accessibility and selected furnishings. Her design included detailed renderings of two floors.

Paul Cage placed fourth for his rendering that included details and an extensive lighting plan.

Parker and Klemt will take the designs and incorporate elements from each into the completed building renovation. Arbre De Vie will open on Bank Street next year and provide services for veterans and others including support groups and job training.

TCC degree put her on the path to be a Designing Woman

Melody Morris was working in her home office, doing medical billing and coding when she had her aha moment.

An HGTV and do-it-yourself enthusiast, Morris spent weekends doing home improvements and repurposing projects for family and friends.

“I love the creativity of design and bringing color and order to spaces,” Morris said. “I decided to put my passion for design to work in a career.”

Morris, 33, enrolled in Tidewater Community College’s interior design program in 2014 because it was affordable and the only accredited program in Hampton Roads.

After her first class, she knew she’d found her path.

“I love those reveal moments you see on shows like ‘Fixer Upper,’ and now I’m in a place where I get to present those moments to clients,” she said.

Morris, who earned her Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design in 2017, is working to build her own business. She also works part-time at Kempsville Cabinets doing kitchen and bath design. She is responsible for creating CADD files for all of the organization’s designers so clients can see how their spaces will look when transformed.

“I absolutely love seeing the excitement when clients see their desires put into action on a project,” Morris said. “There’s really nothing sweeter.”

Morris enjoyed the hands-on work and portfolio building projects at TCC, and, of course, her internship which led to a position at the cabinet company.

Her favorite professor was Ron Austin, who teaches kitchen and bath design. “He shares his knowledge freely with students because he wants us to do well,” Morris said. “I loved hearing his stories about the challenges you don’t see coming on the job, and how that really is the norm.”

Morris is working toward certification from the National Kitchen and Bath Association, a desired credential for those in the field.

A Chesapeake resident, Morris lives on a small farm and raises chickens, ducks and geese. She and fiancé Ryan Zuniga have two Chihuahuas, Luna and Toby.

“Now I’m doing work I love,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”