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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.

“Now that I’ve been at TCC for two semesters, I can say it was the best decision ever.” — Rachel Dunn, TCC student

Rachel Dunn is proud to be a Tidewater Community College Student Ambassador and Outstanding High School Graduate Scholar.

“I never really considered community college until my godmother encouraged me to apply,” Rachel said. “Now that I’ve been at TCC for two semesters, I can say it was the best decision ever.”

As an Outstanding High School Graduate Scholar, Rachel is earning her associate degree in two years and paying zero for tuition and fees.

“I started at the community college understanding that it would be a slower pace and I could gather myself and get ready for my four-year school,” she said.

Rachel Dunn at the Portsmouth Campus Student Center.

This scholarship includes required volunteer hours on campus, but Rachel sees this as another benefit. She engages prospective and current students during campus events and also works in the Portsmouth Campus Students Center.

“In the time I’ve known Rachel, I’ve seen how well she manages multiple responsibilities from maintaining a high GPA, to serving as a student ambassador, to caring for younger siblings and working a part-time job,” said Charlene Taylor, Student Center staff member. “I’ve never seen her shy away from a task and she is always willing to serve.”

The student ambassador program also includes leadership training, mentoring and public speaking. All of these opportunities add to the learning curve, especially the soft skills necessary for many careers.

Rachel got her start at the college while she was still in high school. She took dual enrollment classes as a senior at Churchland High. “I was nervous about college, but all that changed after my first class,” she said. “My professor was supportive and encouraging. It helped with my confidence and was just what I needed.”

Rachel is enthusiastic about animals and hopes to one day be a veterinarian. Her work at TCC gave her the courage to begin shadowing a travelling veterinarian in the area.

“I tell everyone no matter how uncomfortable you may be, get out there and give TCC a try,” Rachel said. “The people will be kind to you and the school is like a family. You can’t go wrong coming here.”

In her free time, Rachel spends time with her dog, Cody. She also enjoys hanging out with friends, bowling and helping the Churchland High softball team with their training. Rachel is a former player and was captain of the team during her senior year.

The deadline to apply for the Outstanding High School Graduate Scholarship is April 8, 2022. For more information, contact TCC’s Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111. To learn more about TCC’s dual enrollment program, visit here.

Don’t let COVID-19 sidetrack your college plans

“Don’t put your education on hold! Consider community college.”

That’s the message from Tidewater Community College alumnus Matt Zimmerman, a rising senior at George Mason University.  “With universities going to online learning because of COVID, it’s a good idea to do the math and see that community college makes sense,” Zimmerman said. “I got a great education at TCC and didn’t rack up any debt.”

Zimmerman received TCC’s Outstanding High School Scholarship, which includes free tuition and fees for four semesters of full-time study.

The recent Hickory High graduate earned an Associate of Science in Business Administration after achieving a 4.0 GPA.

Matt Zimmerman on Chesapeake Campus.

“I can’t say enough about my experience at TCC,” he added. “My professors were passionate about their subjects and took the time to provide an individual approach to learning.”

Zimmerman credits advisor Holly Desteli with helping him learn to balance college and life and keeping him on track with his degree plan.

“My absolute favorite thing about TCC was the open culture and the student center, a place made for connecting with peers,” he added.

The Chesapeake Student Center includes plenty of space for studying and relaxing and even includes a piano.

Zimmerman was a leader for Student Government Association and officer for TCC CARES, a community service club. He founded the Philosophy Club and was treasurer of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative youth organization.

He also volunteered for the Up to Us Challenge, which brings awareness about the national debt to campus. Through that involvement, he was offered a summer internship with the federal Department of Transportation, where he worked on comparative statistical analysis related to the global shipping industry.

“I got a good look into the professional world in D.C., which was massively different than anything I’d seen before,” he said. “I learned how to work on large projects with real deadlines. More importantly, I learned a set of social skills that you can only gain through experience.”

A high achieving student with low SAT scores, Zimmerman had few options for higher education after high school. But with his TCC degree, Zimmerman was accepted by University of Virginia, William & Mary in addition to George Mason.

Zimmerman is working toward a bachelor’s in philosophy. He is interested in pursuing a law career.

“It was a smooth transition to the four-year school, even though I’ve changed my major three times,” he said.

Zimmerman urges students to use the resources at TCC, including the tutoring and writing centers. 

“Reach out for help if you need it,” he said. “Don’t wait to get involved, and don’t waste money on a university when you can start local at one of the best community colleges out there.”

TCC’s fall classes begin Aug. 24. For information on how you can get started at TCC, email or call 757-822-1111. Visit here for information on scholarships.

Student speaker was always ahead of the rest

If you’re Lauren Lewis, why wait?

That’s her secret to graduating from Tidewater Community College at 18 years old. A month after walking in the college’s 69th Commencement Exercises on Dec. 16, she’ll transfer to Norfolk State University where she’ll be awarded junior status. Lewis, graduating with her Associate of Science in Social Sciences, is the student speaker for the graduates.

“We all have assignments we want to wait until the last minute to complete,” she’ll tell the class of 2019. “The key is don’t procrastinate.”

“With TCC as your foundation,” she says, “you can go anywhere,” — Lauren Lewis

Let’s just say Lewis comes by this wisdom naturally. Her parents had her reading by the time she was 2 years old. She devoured one Junie B. Jones book after another, adding the “Wimpy Kid” collection to her shelf in middle school.

“I’m really goal-oriented,” she admits, offering a snapshot of her thought process from her phone. It’s one of many to-do lists with deadlines. This particular one is academic-related with due dates for applications for NSU’s nursing program and summer classes. The final sentence from the checklist:

GRADUATION in Summer 2022 but can’t walk until December 2022

Lewis’ accelerated academic path started in the most inauspicious of ways. She didn’t want to dress out for gym at Churchland High, so her family agreed to pay for her to take it during her eighth-grade summer. That made Lewis realize how much she could achieve by using her summers wisely. She completed First College on the Portsmouth Campus and entered TCC with 16 credits.

She was 16 years old.

Lewis received the Outstanding High School Graduate Award Scholarship from the Portsmouth Campus. That pays the full cost of tuition and fees; in return, Lewis is a student ambassador. She will graduate from TCC without any student debt.

Lewis considered being a pediatrician but wants to be more hands-on with patients. “Being a pediatric nurse will allow me to do that,” she said.

Not surprisingly, Lewis is already looking ahead to 2020, planning out her class schedule so it balances with a part-time job. Another to-do list holds her accountable for a rare splurge: She’s saving for a Caribbean cruise in May. She makes sure she contributes to that fund on the 5th day of every month.

That might mean forgoing a latte or two, but Lewis is intent on nothing impeding her path once she sets her mind to it.

“It’s good to be different,” her mom always told her. Lewis lives by those words and can’t wait to get started with the next step of her journey.

“With TCC as your foundation,” she says, “you can go anywhere.”