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Computer savvy grad turns hobby into career path

Jared Cochran has always been interested in science and technology. In fact, in his free time growing up he built computers with his dad.

He got his start at Tidewater Community College as a dual-enrollment student taking general education courses in English and pre-calculus.

“As a homeschool student, I had a lot of freedom to explore different areas and satisfy my curiosity,” Jared said. “I took college courses early, as well as watched science and math educators in my spare time.”

When Jared, 21, started full-time at TCC after high school, he found the move to college to be seamless.

“It was a smooth transition and I’ve gotten a lot of help from faculty who’ve acted as advisors and kept me on track,” he said.

Jaren Cochran at work in the Joint-Use Library.

He also realized he could use his computer experience to build a career. “It was eye-opening when I realized I could take that hobby and find valuable work in a field I really enjoy,” he said.

This December, Jared is earning an Associate of Science in Engineering with a 3.8 GPA. He is one of more than 1,350 graduates earning degrees or certificates next week.

“You come in with these expectations that engineering is going to be really difficult, and it is,” he added. “But it is also manageable with the support of faculty.”

Jared says Professors Paul Gordy and Kenneth Grimes have been a big part of his journey. “They recommended me for internships and were always there to help. They also shared their knowledge and real-world experiences in our classes,” he said.

The Portsmouth resident also found the college’s engineering resources to be state-of-the-art.

“Everything in the program really comes together and makes so much sense,” Jared said “And the tools in the labs are very high quality. We have a giant cabinet full of circuits, capacitors, inductors and so many other tools to complete our lab work.”

While at TCC Jared completed two highly competitive internships. The first was with Old Dominion University Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center. The second was with ODU in a research program for undergraduates.

Jared plans to continue at ODU for a bachelor’s in computer engineering. He would one day like to work as a hardware engineer and has his eye on larger companies like Intel Corp.

“Anyone can do this with work with persistence and a little stubborn streak,” he said.

“Engineering is all about trial and error and getting up to do it again.”

A $10K gift that keeps giving

It seems a little quieter around Tidewater Community College’s Norfolk Campus now that Business Professor Peter Shaw has retired from teaching.

Shaw was often seen in front of a TV camera doing interviews with local TV reporters about business issues of the day. Interestingly, Shaw completed more than 100 interviews over the last decade.

Shaw got his start at TCC as a student in the 1970s. He was the first of three children in his family to earn a degree. “My mom was a single parent and resources were tight. I came to TCC because the price was right and it was also very accessible,” he said.

A proud TCC alumnus, Shaw earned his Associate of Science in Business Administration in 1976. He continued his studies earning a bachelor’s in business from Old Dominion University and a master’s in business from William & Mary.

Shaw established a scholarship for TCC students just before he retired in 2022. The Business Pathway Scholarship was launched in 2021 with a $10,000 gift and has already provided scholarships for five students.

“I remember working my way through TCC and later Old Dominion and William & Mary. I got help from a lot of people and this is my way of paying back the generosity I received,” Shaw said.

Professor Peter Shaw with President Marcia Conston (left) and Dean Nancy Prather-Johnson.

Shaw taught business administration and management for 25 years at TCC. He says his fondest memories are those aha moments. “When you look in a student’s eye and see that they get it. Those are the moments I’ll treasure above anything else,” he said.

Shaw was well-loved by his students and recognized for his real-world knowledge of the topics he taught. He often mentored students and connected them with opportunities. One of his students, Griffin Leach, landed a summer internship at Towne Bank, thanks to the connections made by Shaw. Leach went on to work as an investment analyst on Wall Street and today is working in Washington, D.C. with a private equity group.

TCC alumnus Griffin Leach.

Recognized for his teaching excellence numerous times during his career, Shaw was TCC’s Professor of the Year in 2010 and he received the John and Suanne Roueche National Teaching Excellence Award from The League of Innovation in the Community College in 2012.

Shaw continues to serve the community as vice chair of the board of Future Hampton Roads. You can also still see him on local TV stations talking about current business issues.

“TCC is where I began my college journey and my gift to TCC is my way of saying I have not forgotten that,” Shaw said. “I see my contribution as a way of paying ‘rent’ for living in our society.”

If you would like information about TCC scholarships or would like to help students in need, please reach out to TCC’s Educational Foundation by emailing

STEM Promise Scholar sets her sights on NASA career

Mya Day loves science and has always wanted to work at NASA.

As a Tidewater Community College STEM Promise Scholar, she is on her way to making this dream come true.

“I feel so fortunate to be part of STEM Promise. It’s pretty great having tuition covered, but it doesn’t end there,” Mya said. “The connections, internships and volunteer opportunities are also a big plus.”

Mya, 18, chose TCC because the Virginia Beach Campus is close to home, allowing her to ease into the college experience. “It’s been the perfect challenge and I’m getting a good education,” she said.

Mya is working toward an Associate of Science in Engineering and enjoying a full slate of science and math classes. She especially enjoys chemistry class with her now favorite instructor, Casey Clements. “She’s this high-energy teacher who doesn’t make you feel stupid for asking a question. I really appreciate that.”

Taking classes both in-person and online, Mya says it’s the best of both worlds. “I really enjoy being on campus for labs and making connections with classmates,” she added.

Mya was also selected to be part of the CIVIC Scholars Program, a collaborative initiative between the CIVIC Leadership Institute, Old Dominion University and TCC that fosters a spirit of civic engagement, professionalism and leadership in college students in Hampton Roads.

Mya plans to transfer to Old Dominion University for her bachelor’s in engineering.

“College is not easy,” Mya added. “But with persistence and work, I know it’s going to be so worth it in the end.”

TCC’s STEM Promise Scholarship program is accepting applications now through April 1. STEM Promise covers all tuition and fees for four semesters at TCC. Students who complete their degrees transfer to their selected universities as juniors. To learn more about the program visit here.

New “reverse transfer” agreement gives TCC students a new path to an associate degree

A new agreement between Tidewater Community College and Old Dominion University provides students with a new path to an associate degree.

TCC students who transfer at least 45-credit hours to Old Dominion University are eligible for an exclusive opportunity to earn their associate degree at Old Dominion.

“We are thrilled to offer this new opportunity to TCC students who transfer before earning their degrees,” said Kellie Sorey, PhD, TCC’s associate vice president for Academic Affairs. “This reverse transfer agreement, signed last week, strengthens our relationship with ODU while helping students achieve their educational goals.”

This unique “reverse transfer” program is a first between TCC and ODU. Eligible TCC students admitted to ODU who opt-in to the program complete classes as Monarchs. The credits earned at ODU are then “transferred” back to TCC to complete the associate degree.

Interested students admitted to ODU can get started by completing this form. For more information, contact TCC’s Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111.

Solo program by Portsmouth artist to be featured at Visual Arts Center

 Tidewater Community College’s Visual Arts Center will host the solo exhibition “Alison Stinely: Gilded Splinters & Other Work” from Feb. 2 through March 13.

The opening reception will be held on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. A gallery talk will precede the event at 6:30 p.m.

Galleries are free and open to the public.

The Portsmouth artist presents a provocative collection of mixed media paintings created by combining 3D printing and a variety of painting techniques. The highly distinctive and compelling large-scale painting and sculptural hybrids convey drama and power as they offer responses to conformity and societal norms, particularly with regard to the feminine.

The assistant professor of painting at Old Dominion University explores personal experiences and expectations and how she is affected by society and, consequently, self. By using female figures among historic and contemporary imagery, Stinely is able to symbolically emphasize that these ideals have persisted through time, regenerating the same narratives that are as significant today as they have ever been.

The VAC is located at 340 High St., in Portsmouth.

For information, call Shelley Brooks at 757-822-1878.

Her first geology class was at TCC. Now licensed in the field, alumna a shareholder in her company

As a licensed geologist and shareholder for Kimley-Horn & Associates, Michelle Wharton enjoys helping people meet their goals.

Tidewater Community College helped Wharton discover hers.

The high achiever from Great Bridge High School didn’t have a plan after graduation. Her parents pushed the military, but Wharton rejected that idea in favor of working while putting herself through college.

TCC made sense on multiple fronts. It was affordable, and class size was small. She didn’t want to feel swallowed by attending a large university as a freshman.

“It was a wonderful fit,” Wharton said.  “The campus was nice, the professors were great. It’s a good transition if you’re not sure what you want to do. Even if you do know, it’s a good place.”

Wharton first considered business, then environmental engineering and finally decided on environmental science. She took her first geology class at TCC and from there, she was hooked on the STEM field where jobs are plentiful.

“It’s a visual science, and as a visual learner, I found geology fascinating,” she said.

Wharton worked two jobs – balancing being a secretary at a local construction firm with taking pizza orders at Papa Johns – to pay for her schooling. Her final year, she was a bartender in Virginia Beach who juggled evening work with morning classes. Grants from TCC helped, too.

“I was focused, so I made it work,” she said. “I always had to work hard for my grades, but the professors helped. They were available. I remember meeting teachers in the city library after business hours.”

Wharton earned her Associate of Science in Science, a transfer degree that allowed her to enter Old Dominion University as a junior. A few years later, she earned her bachelor’s in science with a focus on geology.

“I was very much prepared for ODU,” she said. “I was on the Dean’s List. The transfer process was easy. I was employed immediately after graduation.”

A hidden benefit of going to school locally: Her professors are nearby for any on-the-job question that arises.

“Having local connections helps,” she said.

A year and change after her first job as an environmental scientist, Wharton was hired at Kimley-Horn in Virginia Beach, one of the nation’s premier environmental planning and design consulting firms. She was thrilled to later become a shareholder – a crowning moment for her and an emotional one for her parents.

“Life is a journey with many highs and lows,” she said. “Stay focused on your goals and hard work and commitment will pay off. Determination and commitment will set you apart.”

One of her new projects involves shoreline work connected to the TCC Real Estate Foundation, which is developing College Point in northern Suffolk.

Wharton is an advocate for TCC, noting, “Don’t overthink it. It takes commitment and accountability. If you want it, you can do it.”

TCC Alumni: Connect, Contribute, Celebrate

Salem High grad has a designer future in mind after completing TCC program

At Salem High, Grace Richardson was the PowerPoint queen.

But she didn’t consider a career in interactive design until sitting in a class at Tidewater Community College’s Visual Arts Center.

“Now I know what I want to do with my future,” said Richardson, in the midst of a summer internship with the digital mobile app team at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh. “Going to TCC was one of the best decisions I made. When I went to TCC, over those two years, I learned so much. I felt like I had an advantage by the time I got to a university. TCC was a really good foundation.”

Richardson graduated in December 2017 with an Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Design with a Specialization in Multimedia. She transferred into Old Dominion University’s five-year bachelor of fine arts program.

At Salem, Richardson embraced creating PowerPoints. She was choosy about typography choice and often added animation and color. However, she never linked that passion to a career in graphic arts, initially starting at TCC as a business major.

After a year, she discovered the offerings at the VAC, starting with a history class that gave her the “why” behind many of the most significant works of arts. She also took computer graphics, which introduced her to Adobe Creative Suite. It was her first experience using software to design.

“I got a C in that class,” she says. “I had never gotten a C in my entire life.”

The grade motivated Richardson even more, and now she cringes at that early work. When she took her second computer graphics class under instructor Heather Boone, she realized where the holes were in her those initial assignments.

“She pushes you,” Richardson said. “I learned to pay much more attention to detail and to understand why I was creating what I was creating.”

Prior to taking her first interactive design class, Richardson could not have explained what an interactive designer does. Now she’s immersed in the science of the field; her internship focuses on user interface as it relates to the bank’s mobile app.

“Honestly I feel like I have an edge because of the foundation from TCC,” she said.

Woof Weather app, designed by TCC alumna Grace Richardson
Close-up of Richardson’s Woof Weather app.

In a final portfolio, Richardson combined her best work, which was then evaluated by professional graphic designers. Among her favorite pieces: a Woof Weather app created in memory of her beagle hound, Bob Boy.

She designed an app that tells dog owners the best time of day to walk their dogs given weather conditions and includes a Facebook component allowing owners to create accounts for their animals and upload pictures. The interactive app connects dog walkers with others in their neighborhood who might also be walking their dogs at the same time and calculates mileage.

“I used icons so it could be understood by people speaking any language,” she said.

Richardson’s long-term goal is to be an art director. She recommends the TCC multimedia major to anyone with an interest in visual and graphic design. She found particular value in the general education requirements, noting, “You never know where your inspiration will come from. You have to pull from everywhere.”

Richardson is also thankful that C did not discourage her. “I put my work side by side with what I did then and what I do now,” she said. “It’s amazing how much I’ve grown as a designer. To be good at anything, you have constantly practice your skills and see what’s in and what’s out. That’s what I’m trying to do now.”


New Technical Studies program bridges gap between workplace skills and college degree

Back row, from left: Thomas Stout, TCC’s dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Todd Estes, director of TCC’s Apprenticeship Institute; Kellie Sorey, TCC’s associate vice president for academics; Brian Payne, ODU’s vice provost for academic affairs; Jane Bray, ODU’s dean of the Darden School of Education; Tammi Dice, associate dean for undergraduate education at the Darden School; Daniel DeMarte, TCC’s executive vice president for academic and student affairs. Front row: Ellen Neufeldt, ODU’s vice president for student engagement and enrollment services; Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani, TCC president

Thanks to a new transfer agreement between Tidewater Community College and Old Dominion University, adult and non-traditional students can earn college credit for their knowledge, training and skills in the workplace.

The agreement aims to address the growing needs of local business and industry partners by providing college credit to skilled workers who often need formal education to advance their careers.

Old Dominion’s Ellen Neufeldt, vice president for student engagement and enrollment services, joined Edna Baehre-Kolovani, president of TCC, at a signing ceremony on May 21.

Students who earn TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies with a Specialization in Technical Supervision, and have significant and documented occupational experience and technical training, can seamlessly transition to ODU’s industrial technology major, offered through the Darden College of Education.

“Together with Old Dominion, we have taken an innovative approach to breaking down the barriers that often inhibit adult learners with significant technical skills from furthering their education,” said President Kolovani. “We’ve created an academic pathway that they can carry over to the doctorate level if they choose.”

Various businesses, industries and agencies, such as Virginia Natural Gas and apprenticeship partners, approached TCC to explore how the college can help highly-skilled employees bridge the gap between professional expertise and formal education.

Kellie Sorey, TCC’s associate vice president for academics, said TCC welcomes opportunities to meet employers’ needs in innovative ways.

“The Technical Studies associate degree with the Technical Supervision specialization will allow TCC and ODU to recognize and reward individuals for their unique and significant work experiences in business and industry, the military and registered apprenticeship programs,” she said.

Those with documented technical skills and professional experience can receive nearly half of the associate degree with advanced standing credit, “putting them well on the way to completing the associate and bachelor degrees.” ODU will accept all credits awarded by TCC, she said.

Every student will take a new gateway course, co-created and co-taught by TCC and ODU faculty, during which their knowledge, skills and abilities will be assessed in order to award advanced standing credit.

Jim Kibler, president of Virginia Natural Gas, said his rapidly growing industry has many good employees who need formal education to advance.

“The ability to apply on-the-job experience toward furthering their education is a tremendous opportunity for our talented energy professionals to achieve their personal and professional goals,” he said. “We’re committed to rewarding and retaining an inclusive workforce to ensure our customers receive the most responsive, reliable service possible. After all, we are our customers too.”

Todd Estes, director of the Apprenticeship Institute at TCC, added, “This agreement represents an ideal intersection between higher education and workplace learning. It puts in place the framework, the assessment methods, where individuals can come in with significant experience or prior learning and actually be rewarded and acknowledged for what learning has already taken place.”

“I am very pleased to see the positive result of the strong partnership between ODU and TCC,” said ODU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Austin Agho. “This innovative, collaborative articulation agreement provides eligible TCC graduates the opportunity to seamlessly transfer into the bachelor of science occupational and technical studies degree at  Old Dominion University.

Petros Katsioloudis, chair of ODU’s STEM Education and Professional Studies Department, and a leader in creating the new agreement, said it meets a clear need.

“Currently, the industrial technology program enrolls roughly 120 students and is projected to add 300 students over the next two years,” Katsioloudis said. “We are extremely excited and confident that the new model will better serve the skilled workforce in our area and nationwide.”

Tammi Dice, associate dean for undergraduate education at the Darden College of Education, added that the College “extends the benefits of higher education to corporations. Ultimately, students can minimize unnecessary coursework based on prior learning assessments, which allows them to re-enter the workforce with a degree sooner and with advanced skill,” she said.

Those who have completed registered apprenticeships, active duty and transitioning military, and employees of companies with highly structured and robust training programs are ideal candidates.

“I can’t wait to get my journeymen, my employees enrolled in this program,” said Guy St. John, apprenticeship program manager for Oceaneering International. “ It’s going to be beneficial to the industry. It’s going to be beneficial to our community. It’s going to be beneficial to the nation.”

For details on TCC’s new associate degree, visit

A celebration of multiple firsts and a memorial for a special grad part of TCC’s spring commencement

During a Saturday afternoon of milestones and remembrances, Tidewater Community College celebrated the spring class of 2018 at its 66th Commencement Exercises.

In addition to more than 700 graduates walking in the ceremony at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani recognized the following milestones:

  • Four graduates, Brandi Porter, Gabrielle Hutchings, Jaylyn Richard and Jay Sellers, received the Governor’s Medallion, given to four teenagers who completed associate degrees while still in high school.
  • Alexis Spangler and Xiaomin Chen, are the inaugural students to graduate through the Women’s Center’s STEM Promise Program, which provides full scholarships to students pursuing STEM degrees at TCC. Each earned an Associate of Science of Engineering.
  • Another first: Christopher Newbill and Alyssa Shepherd, both Wilson High School seniors, became the first high school students to earn Career Studies Certificates in Maritime Welding.
  • Emma Tracy became the first recipient of the Associate of Fine Arts in Music.
  • Finally, five students from Chesapeake Public high schools, Zachary Booker, Hunter Edward, Brandon Halloran, Christian Keifer and Jalem Wilson, became the first recipients of the Career Studies Certificate in Electrical Wiring for Technicians.
Student speaker Tony Sawyer and President Kolovani at TCC's 66th Commencement Exercises.
Student speaker Tony Sawyer and President Kolovani at Commencement.

Keynote speaker Cheryl Turpin, an educator elected last fall to Virginia’s House of Delegates, encouraged the students to keep learning regardless of age.

“No matter your age, I see nothing but young minds when I look out to this crowd,” said the longtime science teacher.

Turpin’s journey has taken her from science teacher at Cox High School to the cover of Time magazine the week after she was elected to the House of Delegates. “If you follow your passions, you can achieve what you dream,” she said.

Student speaker Tony Sawyer, previously a high school dropout, talked about finding the desire to succeed at TCC thanks to the support he received. He graduated with an Associate of Science in Social Sciences.

“Education required a lot of sacrifices, but the lessons learned have been worth it,” said Sawyer, on the President’s List every semester at TCC and bound for Old Dominion University. “Today’s success is not an ending point. Let us apply the knowledge we’ve learned to make a difference.

Jordan McNair's classmates and President Kolovani on stage at Commencement.
Jordan McNair’s classmates at Commencement.

“As a former 16-year-old dropout, who is now a 49-year-old TCC graduate and attending the ODU honors college in the fall, I currently experience a new freedom from this education I no longer thought was possible,” he said.

During the conferring of degrees, Jordan McNair was awarded a posthumous Career Studies Certificate in Automotive Chassis Systems. McNair, a student at TCC’s Regional Automotive Center, died in a car accident last August. He was 20 years old.

Jordan McNair's parents, (center) Dexter McNair and Paula Borchert, accept his certificate during a standing ovation from classmates.
Jordan McNair’s parents, (center) Dexter McNair and Paula Borchert, accept his certificate during a standing ovation from classmates.

McNair’s family received an inspiring standing ovation from the graduates. His classmates, who finished restoring his project car, a 2000 Honda Civic, presented his family with his certificate.

Priority Automotive’s Jim Rose, McNair’s employer, also announced a new $12,000 scholarship, the Jordan McNair Memorial Honda PACT Scholarship, sponsored by the dealership. The scholarship will assist second-year TCC students enrolled in the Honda PACT program.

TCC’s alumni base of more than 100,000 continues to grow with the addition of the 1,500 graduates who are part of the class of 2018.

She came to TCC without a plan but will leave with an associate degree, a full-time job and no student debt

When Christine Dela Cruz immigrated to this country five years ago from the Philippines to join her father in Virginia Beach, she didn’t know what was next.

Word-of-mouth led her to Tidewater Community College, and with the help of academic advising on the Virginia Beach Campus, she discovered a career path she had never considered.

Dela Cruz will graduate this week with an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT). She’s already been hired at Sentara Virginia Beach General as a lab technician. She has no student loan debt thanks to two scholarships she received from TCC in addition to her financial aid.

You can bet she’ll be savoring all of it during commencement on May 12 at 2 p.m., at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

“I’m the first in my generation to graduate college,” Dela Cruz said. “You could say my dad is pretty proud.”

Christine Dela Cruz looks through a microscope at TCC's clinical laboratory.
Christine Dela Cruz is the first in her family to graduate from college.

Dela Cruz, 24, considered nursing, but her fascination working with machines and preference to work indirectly with patients made her a better fit for working in a lab. Rapid job growth is projected for the medical laboratory technology field, where technicians assist physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of disease by performing tests on tissue, blood and other body fluids.

It’s an ideal match for a lab rat like Dela Cruz.

“Mycobacteria look like galaxies under a microscope,” she said. “There’s so many awesome things to see. It’s fascinating how minute organisms have a gigantic effect on the body. I also like working behind the scenes and solving the unknown organisms we had in microbiology. I felt like I was an investigator on ‘CSI.’ ”

Dela Cruz stresses that MLT is a rigorous program, particularly given that the Philippine dialect Tagalog is her native language. She also worked full time initially, enduring 12-hour shifts starting at 5 a.m., then napping in her car before heading to class. Professor Angela Bell is demanding of her students, Dela Cruz said, but also supportive and mentoring.

“Always, always, always she’s available,” she said. “All of the professors help you all the way through and they keep pushing you. They help you. That’s what I really like about the program. They don’t leave you hanging.”

Once Dela Cruz started the clinical portion of the program, she realized why the demands were necessary. She felt completely prepared for her three clinical rotations, where, she said, expectations are high.

“We compete with universities and other colleges, but all I’ve heard from my rotations is how TCC students excel,” she said.

Dela Cruz is also grateful for TCC awarding her the Alexsandria Manrov Scholarship, given on behalf of the late science professor, and the Barnes & Noble Scholarship.

“TCC helped out my family big time,” she said.

The MLT program boasts a pass rate of 100 percent the last three years on the state board exam that Dela Cruz feels well prepared to take in June. Bell also said 100 percent of those students have found employment in the field. Dela Cruz is actually among a selected few who is paid for her work during clinicals.

“She is such a hard worker,” Bell said. “She’s one of those students who’s all about helping others. In lab if anyone is having difficulty, she jumps in and tries to explain.”

Dela Cruz plans to work toward her bachelor’s in medical technology, an online program she can complete at Old Dominion University. She would eventually like to become a pathologist.

TCC’s Norfolk Campus awards its first Governor’s Medallion

Jay Sellers is the first Tidewater Community College student to earn his associate degree from the Norfolk Campus while still in high school.

The homeschooled senior started at TCC taking 19 credit hours his first semester.

This May, Sellers, 17, will earn his Associate of Science in General Studies, enabling him to enter a four-year university as a junior. He hopes to be a Hokie at Virginia Tech by spring 2019.

“I needed more challenging classes and wanted to start working on college credits early,” Sellers said. “It feels great to be ahead of the game.”

Sellers 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.

Three Portsmouth Campus students are also receiving the Governor’s Medallion. 

While at TCC, Sellers became friends with classmates who were often a decade older than he was. “It felt kind of strange starting college so young, but it was definitely the right choice for me,” he said.

“I was always accepted and included in study groups. We spent free time together, too, going to the movies and just hanging out.”

While at TCC, Sellers discovered a love for science through early morning biology lectures with instructor Grace Murray. His older sister, Kiley, was in class with him.

“Jay’s calm, amicable, dedicated, and curious nature shines through and lends to his academic success,” said Murray “This blend of traits will certainly extend beyond college and allow him to achieve greatness throughout all avenues of his life.”

Sellers plans to pursue a bachelor’s in exercise science at Virginia Tech. He would like to give athletes and others who have lost mobility the chance to live life to the fullest. He hopes to earn a master’s in biomedical engineering and design prosthetics.

Sellers competes in triathlons and is a lifeguard with the City of Norfolk, working at the beach and the Norfolk Fitness and Wellness Center. He is currently training for a Kinetic Half Ironman triathlon that will take place this May.

TCC has been a family affair with Kiley also earning an Associate of Science in General Studies and now working toward a bachelor’s in speech pathology at Old Dominion University. Another sister, Emma, is four classes away from earning her associate degree in general studies.

“One thing I’ve learned is that it’s good to have a daily routine. Use a planner and don’t wait until the last minute to get things done,” Jay Sellers said. “With determination, you really can go anywhere from here.”

TCC donor’s scholarship plants seeds for student success

Sarah “Tata” White Kellam was 33 when she started selling plants from her greenhouse in a vacant lot on Virginia Beach’s Shore Drive. Her company, Mr. Greenjeans, blossomed into an interior plantscaping business company, selling, servicing and renting plants throughout Hampton Roads.

As her business evolved, Kellam also tended to the growth of her employees. She provided financial support for night school tuition “to help more women move forward in their college educations.”

It was the first of many contributions she would make to give back and help support women in business.

“There’s a saying I love: ‘You don’t know ’til you know,’” Kellam said, “I want to help people who want to know. You need education to get anywhere; that’s what I know!”

In 2017, she established the Sarah “Tata” White Kellam Scholarship at Tidewater Community College to support business and entrepreneurship students with a financial need who have demonstrated academic excellence and a commitment to education.

“I chose TCC because of the older demographic it served,” she said. “I wanted to support an older student, someone who was serious in their studies – who had some direction and interest in business. I was a little older when I started my business, and I wanted to help another woman with dreams.”

This year’s recipient, Dawn Johns, is just that.

A Navy veteran with 10 years of service, Johns was eligible for GI Bill benefits she was hoping to save for her more expensive Old Dominion University coursework.

“I learned about scholarships from Professor Angela Slaughter in my Business 100 class,” said the mother of two. “We were finishing early, so Professor Slaughter started walking us through the scholarship options. I went ahead and applied for 10 scholarships just sitting there in class.”

Johns searched for all the awards she was eligible to receive. “Some of them don’t even require an essay – you’re just completing the form,” she said.

To her surprise, she won several, including the scholarship established by Kellam.

“I take so much pride in being the recipient of a scholarship,” Johns said. “I know the process is competitive. Being selected made me feel honored, and I’ve pushed that much harder to make sure I keep my grades up. Every semester since I received this award, I have been a 4.0 student.”

Johns also credits the award for relieving a lot of financial stress and freeing up more time for her family and academics.

While at the college, her daughter attends TCC’s Child Development Center on the Portsmouth Campus, operated by YWCA South Hampton Roads, tuition her award helps to subsidize. She also applies her scholarship toward textbooks and a meal plan.

Graduating with her Associate of Science in Business Administration in May, Johns has already been accepted to Old Dominion and plans to complete a bachelor’s degree program in accounting. She will secure a second TCC degree, an Associate of Science in General Studies with a Specialization in Professional Communication, this summer.

She aims to open her own non-profit financial planning service to promote financial literacy and give back to neighborhoods like the one she grew up in.

Johns already offers this financial advice for others at TCC: “I’ve been showing all my friends TCC’s scholarship website and teaching them how to apply. These awards have been an important lesson learned. I want to share these opportunities with as many people as possible.”

As Kellam would say – “You don’t know ‘til you know!”

For more information about available scholarships at TCC, visit To learn more about establishing a scholarship at TCC, contact the TCC Educational Foundation at or 757-822-1080.

TCC to celebrate spring commencement on May 12

Del. Cheryl Turpin will be the keynote speaker for Tidewater Community College’s 66th Commencement Exercises on May 12 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Commencement, which begins at 2 p.m., will be streamed live at

Del. Cheryl Turpin
Del. Cheryl Turpin

More than 1,300 will graduate, including several students who have earned degrees or certificates one month before completing high school thanks to dual enrollment.

Jaylyn Richard of Norcom High and Gabrielle Hutchings of Churchland High are recipients of the Associate of Science in Science. Churchland’s Brandi Porter will receive her Associate of Science in Social Sciences. Jay Sellers, homeschooled, earned his Associate of Science in General Studies. The four students will wear Governor’s Medallions as part of their academic regalia.

Wilson High’s Alyssa Shepherd and Christopher Newbill will receive Career Studies Certificates in Maritime Welding.

Five students from Chesapeake earned Career Studies Certificates in Electrical Wiring for Technicians. They are Zachary Booker (Western Branch), Hunter Edward (Deep Creek), Brandon Halloran (Oscar Smith), Christian Keifer (Grassfield) and Jalem Wilson (Great Bridge).

Turpin, elected to the Virginia House of Delegates last November, has more than 25 years of teaching experience as a Virginia Beach educator. She has spent the last nine years teaching Advanced Placement environmental science at Cox High School. She graduated with her master’s in education from the University of Virginia after completing her bachelor’s at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Student speaker Tony Sawyer, once a high school dropout, will graduate with his Associate of Science in Social Sciences. The Chesapeake resident will attend the honors college at Old Dominion University this fall to work toward a bachelor’s in human services.

TCC will award a posthumous Career Studies Certificate in Automotive Chassis Systems to Jordan McNair of Virginia Beach. McNair, 20, died in a car crash last August.

Student Art and Design Exhibition opens March 24 at TCC’s Visual Arts Center

Tidewater Community College’s Visual Arts Center (VAC) will host the 47th Annual Student Art and Design Exhibition from March 24 through April 19. The event features more than 150 works, including studio arts, photography, graphic design, ceramics and glassblowing, created by students for art classes since last March.

“Fine Tuned with Patience” by Alexandra Brannon

The exhibition’s awards presentation is March 31 at 11 a.m. at the Commodore Theatre, 421 High St., in Portsmouth. The opening reception will follow at noon at the VAC at 340 High St.

Events are free and open to the public.

Robert Sites, artist and painting instructor at the Governor’s School for the Arts, is this year’s judge. During the event, Sites will present $3,285 in awards recognizing artistic excellence.

“Space Fabric” by Taylor Harvey-Thornton

Programming for the exhibition includes illustrated lectures by a visiting artist and a visiting art historian. On April 3, Alison Stinely, assistant professor of painting at Old Dominion University, will present “Gilded Splinters and Other Works.”

On April 11, Kimberli Gant, McKinnon curator of modern and contemporary art at the Chrysler Museum, will present “Legacy of a Curator.” Both programs begin at 12:30 p.m. at the VAC in room 208.

For information, call Shelley Brooks at 757-822-1878.