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From TCC to the mission field in Romania

Hannah Căldăraru found her “anywhere” at Tidewater Community College.

She got her start on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus in 2014 and earned a social sciences degree three years later. She also jumped into student life and was part of the Breakaway Bible Club, serving as president for a year.

In that role, she helped lead weekly bible studies and even hosted an event to bring awareness of human trafficking in South Hampton Roads.

Hannah and Tavi Căldăraru.

Fast forward nine years and Hannah is a missionary in Romania. She and her husband, Tavi, serve children and teens in the villages there.

“My three years at TCC were foundational and I grew in my faith through Breakaway. It was also there that I felt called to be a missionary overseas,” she said. “I just wanted to say thank you to TCC for helping open so many doors of opportunity, both educationally and spiritually.”

Tavi and boys from the village.

Hannah went on to earn a bachelor’s in psychology at Regent University in 2019.

“I would encourage students not to count out community college. It creates a great foundation for your higher education and allows you more time to explore interests if you still aren’t sure about your major,” Hannah said.

She continued, “My credits transferred flawlessly to Regent, and I was even awarded some financial help for high grades at TCC. And even though it is a commuter setting at TCC you can truly create a wonderful community if you are intentional about being involved with on-campus activities. I am living proof that from TCC you can go anywhere.”

From Cavalier Manor to TCC to leader with human trafficking task force

Growing up in Portsmouth’s Cavalier Manor, Courtney Pierce dreamed of working for a Fortune 500 company.

Instead, after earning an Associate of Science in Business Administration from Tidewater Community College, she found a career closer to her heart.

Every day she uses what she learned at TCC at Samaritan House, where she oversees grant funds from the Department of Justice to help a social service program better respond to victims of human trafficking in Hampton Roads.

Courtney Pierce is a member of the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force.
Courtney Pierce is a member of the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force.

“I manage a federal budget and have to be concerned about the sustainability of the grant,” said Pierce, who also holds a bachelor’s in Leadership and Management from Regent University. “I also engage with community groups and use my public speaking skills learned from my time at TCC.”

Pierce initially worked at Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and as a victim advocate at Samaritan House, where she helped clients file for protective orders and accompanied them to court.

“It’s a privilege and honor to do this work,” Pierce said. “My role is to ensure we’re compliant with all of the requirements for the grant. I also shape the services we offer to include the best and promising practices to help clients heal.”

Pierce says working for Samaritan House is a continuation of her family motto, “Love God – serve others,” noting, “My family was always helping people, whether they needed a place to stay or a job.”

She refers to her clients as the real heroes. “They’re the ones doing the work; we provide the support they need to make lasting changes,” she said. “For me, I lend an ear and get to be a container for their sacred stories. That’s something that I’ll never take lightly.”

TCC’s hosted a human trafficking panel with Adriana Mirarchi, Homeland Security Investigations; Courtney Pierce, Samaritan House; Ebony Velazquez, Attorney General’s office of human trafficking; Shorntail Goodrich, TCC alumna; Krista Fulton, Norfolk Commonwealth Attorney’s office; and Rebecca Stone, Norfolk Police Department.
TCC hosted a human trafficking panel with Adriana Mirarchi, Homeland Security; Courtney Pierce, Samaritan House; Ebony Velazquez, Attorney General’s office; Shorntail Goodrich, TCC alumna; Krista Fulton, Norfolk Commonwealth Attorney’s office; and Rebecca Stone, Norfolk Police.

Ultimately, Pierce would like to work in restorative justice, which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.

One of the highlights from her time at the college was the 2008 commencement when she was proud to be among the hundreds of students receiving certificates and degrees. “My parents encouraged me to attend graduation, and it was there that I really saw the impact TCC has on so many lives and the community,” Pierce said.

She is happy to share about her success at TCC and encourages those coming after her, saying, “Take advantage of everything TCC offers from the small classes to the tutoring centers. It took me three years to earn my degree, and I know you can do it, too!”

Navy veteran paying it forward

Coby Dillard stumbled into college one sunny afternoon while walking down Granby Street in Norfolk. The Navy veteran had just completed work with Gov. McDonnell’s campaign and was looking for a job to support his family.

He realized he was on Tidewater Community College’s Norfolk Campus.

“I stepped into the veterans services office and when I left, I had a full course load and a part-time job as a work-study student,” Dillard said.

Eight years later, Dillard is the coordinator of veterans and military services at University of California at Santa Barbara and working on his doctorate in higher education leadership and management through Regent University.

“This is my first time leading a program, and I’m excited to build relationships with veterans and military-related students,” Dillard said. “It’s my greatest joy to connect students with resources and help them find their own paths to success.”

Dillard earned his Associate of Science in Social Sciences from Tidewater Community College in 2012. He went on to earn his bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies at Norfolk State University and a master’s in human service counseling from Regent University.

While at TCC, Dillard held many positions from financial aid assistant to academic advisor in the college’s Center for Military and Veterans Education. He also worked briefly with military students at Regent University.

As a TCC student, Dillard was president of the Student Government Association on the Norfolk Campus from 2011-12.

Dillard credits several faculty and staff members with investing in his future, including Linda Jacobs, a veterans benefits advisor he met that first day on campus.

Now Dillard is paying it forward.

“Everyone is going to leave the military at some point. I’ve seen so many people come to me with three days left in the service and no idea of the next steps,” he said. “I help veterans, military spouses and active duty military navigate their benefits and plan for the future.

“I feel like this is a calling. I’ve changed from someone who hated school to a lifelong learner, and I know it’s going to impact my family.”

Dillard and wife Trieasha have a son, DJ, who is 11 and a daughter, Allie, 9.

For students coming after him, Dillard promises, “If I can do it, so can you. Find what you love and then do the work to get there.”