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TCC staffer pays it forward at the CMVE

Meet Ed Sivells. He is a proud Navy veteran who is paying it forward at TCC.

Sivells is one of the certifying officials for the Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE). Last week, he submitted the 1 millionth application to certify a military-related student for educational benefits through the Veterans Administration’s new enrollment management site.

To mark the occasion, Ed is being featured in a video for the VA. And sharing his story.

Sivells is a retired Navy senior chief petty officer. He was a culinary specialist who served the Office of the Secretary of Defense, preparing meals in the White House. He also spent time in Washington, D.C. as an enlisted aide to Admirals.

When he retired from the military, he came to TCC to earn an associate degree and landed a position as a work-study student in the CMVE. He became a full-time staff member in 2017. “I found my calling in this place. When I saw the opportunity to serve military members and their families, it sparked a passion in me.”

He added, “You can hear the sound of relief in their voices when we help them find a path forward. I know what it’s like to walk in their shoes and this job is my way of giving back.”

Sivells earned a Hospitality Management degree from TCC and a bachelor’s in business administration from Regent University.

Sivells encourages other veterans to follow in his footsteps. “TCC is a veteran-friendly school with people here to help. TCC made me feel comfortable in the transition from the military and I’m grateful. Now it’s my joy to make things happen for other members of the military community.”

For more information about the CMVE, visit here.

TCC secures seventh consecutive grant aimed to help veterans transition to careers in trucking

Tidewater Community College received a seventh federal grant to help train military veterans and their spouses for careers in trucking.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently awarded TCC a $94,842 grant, which will be administered by the college’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE).

“So far we’ve helped more than 200 transitioning military, veterans and dependents train for a career in trucking at no cost to them,” said Alesia Wroten, veteran resource liaison with TCC’s CMVE.  “We are grateful to be one of two schools in Virginia to receive this funding, especially as the need for trained truck drivers is growing nationwide.”

TCC alum Tim Raub is a Navy veteran who now drives trucks.
Navy veteran Tim Raub earned his Truck Driver certificate at TCC.

According to the American Trucking Association, the United States will be short 175,000 drivers by 2026. A lack of drivers continues to make goods more expensive and delays orders as freight rates are climbing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a commercial truck driver is 55 years old. A significant percentage of these drivers will retire over the next 10 years.

TCC is one of 21 educational institutions that received funds from the $2 million federal grant to help train veterans for jobs as commercial bus and truck drivers.

Since TCC received its first grant in 2014, 220 veterans and spouses have enrolled in the Truck Driving program.

TCC students have a 98% pass rate on the DMV tests for commercial licenses.

Recipients of the grant pay nothing to complete the one-semester, 16-credit certificate. Students learn how to drive a truck in state-of-the-art simulators that allow them to practice in varied road and weather conditions. The program includes 140 hours of on-the-road training. Course work qualifies students to obtain the Class A CDL (commercial driver’s license) from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Classes are taught at the Center for Workforce Solutions on College Drive in northern Suffolk. Day, evening and weekend sessions are available.

Contact Alesia Wroten, at or 757-822-7714, for information on qualifying for the grant program.

TCC is among the top ten schools in the nation that are Best for Vets

Tidewater Community College was named the top two-year school in the Commonwealth by Military Times in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2021 rankings. TCC is also among the top ten schools in the nation in the Best for Vets rankings.

Best for Vets ranked TCC No. 1 in Virginia and ninth overall among two-year institutions in the nation.

“It’s a tremendous honor for TCC to be selected again as the top school for veterans in Virginia,” said Veronica Cianetti, director of military and veterans services for TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE). “The staff of the CMVE and the college work daily to serve the needs of our military-related students. In addition to providing excellent student support services, we work closely with military supportive business, industry and organizations to achieve our mission of facilitating educational and employability success.” 

Military-focused offerings include:

  • A partnership between Virginia Natural Gas and TCC for a workforce development initiative that trains veterans and transitioning military to fill the growing need for skilled workers in the natural gas industry. The week-long program, offered at the Virginia Beach Campus, began in 2017.
  • The Machining Skills Certification, a SkillBridge-approved program that trains military-related students in Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) machinery from setup to operation. CNC machinists are in demand throughout Hampton Roads and the nation. Military-related students may also use their GI Bill benefits to pay for this program. Contact Anthony Fontes, project coordinator, at for information.
  • Solar Ready Vets, a U.S. Department of Energy program in partnership with Naval Station Norfolk and TCC, offers transitioning military the chance to train for new careers in the solar industry. The entire program can be completed in just five weeks and the cost may be covered or reduced for veterans. For information contact Fontes at
  • Training in truck driving. TCC recently received the sixth grant to train military veterans and their dependents for careers in trucking. Recipients of the grant pay nothing to complete the one-semester, 16-credit certificate. Classes are taught at the Center for Workforce Solutions on College Drive in northern Suffolk.

Military-related students make up about one-third of TCC’s enrollment. The statistics used for the Bets for Vets survey do not account for dependents.

The rankings are based on the results of Military Times’ annual survey — a comprehensive school-by-school assessment of veteran and military student services and rates of academic achievement — as well as a detailed review of public data collected by federal agencies. The survey asks colleges and universities to document a wide array of services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to students with military ties, and to describe numerous aspects of veteran culture on a campus.

CMVE ready to assist military-related students with everything

Military-related students, we’ve got you covered.

Pose any question about almost anything, and Tidewater Community College’s Center for Military and Veterans Education will provide an answer.

“The buck stops here,” said Shelly Bearden, a VERITAS veterans resource liaison. “I’m not going to send anyone to another office. If something’s not working, if you’re frustrated with a process, if you have any kind of problem, I will make sure it gets solved.”

Bearden refers to herself as an advocate for all of the college’s military-related students. Echoing that are her colleagues Cassandra Harris, lead military academic advisor, and Alesia Wroten, also a VERITAS veterans resource liaison.

With the Navy a part of all of their backgrounds, the administrators don’t just understand the language of the military — they’re fluent in it. They understand acronyms, including myCAA, VMSEP and TA and can explain if you qualify.

They can answer any questions about GI Bill benefits. The email was set up specifically to respond to questions related to military-related students looking to use their GI Bill.

Wroten handles workforce programs geared toward military-related students seeking a short-term program that leads to immediate employment. A sampling:  

Wroten works with student vets to ensure they know all their options before selecting a program. “I make sure they know about all the workforce programs they can take advantage of,” she said.

Harris had been on base prior to COVID-19; now she is based at the Virginia Beach Campus with the others. She works primarily with active duty service members, but also assists veterans, spouses and dependents. She provides a range of services, including the evaluation of credit from military experience and prior college/universities attended to ensuring that qualified military-related students receive a domicile exception to pay instate tuition.

Harris also helps military who might not be able to finish the semester due to deployment or temporary assignment. “We can get them pulled out of class and get their tuition fully refunded,” she said.

She’s happy to help military-related students navigate the transfer process and will even advise a student vet on how many hours he or she can handle based on other obligations.

Bearden can assist former military looking to transfer to an Ivy League college as TCC is part of the Warrior-Scholar Project.

The CMVE is also able to direct veterans to a plethora of resources — from assistance to pay for books to filing a disability or unemployment claim.

“We take a holistic approach,” Harris said. “The CMVE is a one-stop shop.”

You don’t have to remember who does what if you’re a military-related student in need of assistance. Email for any questions. Virtual service is available daily or via phone; see this link for information.

Learn digital court reporting in just six weeks

Tidewater Community College prepares students for certification in the high demand, cutting edge field of digital court reporting.

Sponsored by TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE), the six-week program trains students in court and deposition procedures and practices, audio and video equipment and the complete process of advanced digital court reporting.

SkillBridge-approval enables eligible transitioning service members within 180 days of separation, with command approval, to participate in training as their place of duty. Students who successfully complete program requirements are guaranteed an offer of employment with Veterans Reporters Inc., either in Virginia or in their offices nationwide.

“There is a looming critical need for court reporters across the country,” said Batanya Gipson, project manager for military contract programs at the CMVE. “Many court systems are looking to digital court reporting as the answer. The digital court reporting program at TCC offers students the ability to make themselves marketable in this new and growing field.”

The next session begins April 16 and concludes May 25. Classes meet weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on the Virginia Beach Campus. Additional sessions are scheduled for:

  • June 18 – July 27
  • Aug. 20 – Sept. 28
  • Oct. 22 – Dec. 5

The course, recognized by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT), prepares graduates for the national certification exam.

Donna Jenkins completed the program last fall and was hired immediately by Veteran Reporters Inc.

“You have to be a very meticulous person,” said Jenkins, who works in Washington, D.C. “You have to be committed and you have to recognize the seriousness of what you’re doing because people’s lives depend on what you’re doing and the record you’re taking.”

Students must have a high school diploma or equivalent and basic keyboarding and computer skills to enroll.

Although the program is geared to transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses, enrollment is open to anyone.

The cost of the program is $3,950.

Students who complete the program earn 24 Continuing Education Units, a TCC certificate of completion and membership in AAERT.

Military-related students should contact the CMVE for information on using their education benefits to enroll in the digital court reporting program. Contact Gipson at 757-822-7724 or or email to enroll in the program.