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From TCC to cyber crime fighter

At 10 years old, Jena Essary taught herself coding. No surprise then that at 19, she’s one of Tidewater Community College’s STEM Promise scholars.

Essary is completing her Associate of Science in Computer Science. The scholarship covers the cost of tuition and fees for four semesters. By taking textbook-free classes, she spent zero on textbooks, using open educational resources instead.

“This is a win-win for me, and definitely my passion,” said Essary who wants to make her future in the growing field of cyber security.

Essary could have gone almost anywhere after graduating from the STEM Academy at Grassfield High with a 4.6 GPA.

Jena Essary in a chemistry lab on the Chesapeake Campus.

“My dad was really pro-TCC, even though I wanted to start at Virginia Tech. But now, I’m really amazed at the academic quality and the friends I’ve made,” she said. “TCC isn’t what you would expect it to be. It offers more than you think.”

While here, Essary served in student government, helped plan the launch of a food pantry to serve needy students on campus and joined Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools.

“My favorite thing about TCC is the community feel, especially at the Chesapeake Campus,” she said. “We all know each other, and with the smaller class sizes, we get to interact with our professors.”

Essary recently received the Virginia Space Grant Consortium Community College STEM scholarship. She is using the $2,000 scholarship to help pay for higher-level math classes, outside of her degree track.

 “There’s a lot of pressure in high school to go to those big-name schools,” Essary said. “But do your own research. Figure out your own path. And if you choose TCC, get involved and build connections that will benefit you as you journey from here to the next place.”