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Collision Repair grant to help prepare industry-ready grads

Tidewater Community College’s Collision Repair program received a $5,000 grant from Caliber Collision through the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF). The grant was part of the Benchmark grant funding through CREF.

TCC is one of three schools to receive grants from Caliber to help elevate the skills of graduates. The funds will be used to purchase new tools, ensuring that students are training using the same state-of-the-art equipment that is used in industry.

TCC’s Collision Repair program prepares students for entry-level positions in non-structural repair and refinishing. Coursework covers panel replacement and alignment, glass replacement, dent repair, plastic and composite repair, vehicle preparation and paint defect diagnosis.

Upon completion of the program, Students earn their Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) certifications for Pro Level 1 and 2 in Non-Structural Repair and Pro Level 1 and 2 in Refinishing.

TCC’s program is supported by the Hampton Roads Autobody Association. For more information, visit here.

Nissan vehicle donation to enhance student training

Tidewater Community College’s Automotive Technology program got a boost this week thanks to Nissan North America.

Nissan donated 10 late-model vehicles to the college’s general automotive program to enhance student training. The donated vehicles include sedans, SUVs and even a 370Z sports car.

Nissan donated ten vehicles that will be used for students to train on.

“We’re thrilled by this donation that includes a hybrid Pathfinder, a diesel Titan XD and eight other well-kept vehicles,” said Beno Rubin, pathway dean for Manufacturing and Transportation at the college. “These vehicles will enhance student learning and ensure they are prepared to enter the automotive repair industry.”

The 10 Nissan vehicles are welcome additions to the Regional Automotive Center’s fleet of vehicles that includes Toyotas, Hondas, Subarus, Fords, Jeeps and Chryslers.

“Today’s technicians are highly trained on computers, mechanics and problem-solving skills,” said Harry Brown, fixed operations manager for Nissan North America. “And with the extreme shortage of trained techs, we are grateful for the opportunity to supply these vehicles and assist in training the next generation of technicians.”

Training vehicles includes SUVs, trucks and cars and even a diesel and a hybrid vehicle.

Stuart Mitcheison, TCC’s lead instructor for the general automotive program has been working as an automotive technician for three decades. He spent 23 years as a master technician for Nissan. In addition, for more than a decade he’s shared his knowledge with future technicians, first as a part-time instructor and now as a full-time faculty lead.

“This donation is a great boost for our general automotive program,” Mitcheison said. “With the variety of different vehicles and engines, these newer vehicles will greatly enhance the student’s experience at the college.”

Dan Bannister, owner of Bannister Nissan in Chesapeake and Norfolk said, “It’s awesome that Nissan is participating in this way. It’s phenomenal to be able to hire technicians trained on our vehicles by a master technician with decades of experience.”

TCC’s automotive technology program, accredited by the Automotive Service Excellence Education Foundation, prepares students for work in the field and provides updated training for those already working. Students learn general automotive repair, servicing and diagnostics.

The Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake has nine classrooms and 15 instructional bays.

“My favorite things about teaching are those aha moments when students put things together and just get it,” Mitcheison added.

TCC’s Regional Automotive Center is a 30,000-square-foot facility located at 600 Innovation Drive in Chesapeake. The center has nine classrooms and 15 instructional laboratories; a four-wheel chassis dynamometer, diagnostic scan tools, three alignment machines, and all of the necessary tools and equipment to deliver instruction. Students are trained on the latest equipment at the forefront of industry trends.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue to build a relationship with TCC to help our dealerships,” added Peter Rusin, district technical service manager with Nissan North America. “We see this as a win-win for all of us.”

To learn more about TCC’s Automotive Technology programs, email or call 757-822-5000.

Learn about everything TCC offers at two open houses, May 21 and June 25

Find your future at Tidewater Community College.

Learn about the gamut of TCC’s programs, including cybersecurity, culinary arts, health sciences, maritime technologies and the many other potential career paths and transfer opportunities the college offers.

Take the next step by visiting one of TCC’s open houses on May 21 and June 25 between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

On May 21, visit TCC’s Virginia Beach or Portsmouth Campuses.

On June 25, visit the Norfolk Campus, Chesapeake Campus and the Regional Automotive Center.

To learn about the academic programs to be represented at each campus visit here. Visit our website for a complete listing of programs.

There is plenty of time to enroll for fall classes, which begin on Aug. 22.

All are invited, especially:

  • 2022 high school graduates and their families;
  • adults who want to start or finish a degree, learn a new field, or advance in their careers;
  • active-duty military and veterans, their spouses and dependents.

You will be able to apply to TCC; learn about financial aid, grants and scholarships; explore academic options; tour campuses; and learn about campus life at all locations.

If you have an eye on a four-year college, TCC can help get you there, too. Transfer agreements allow a student to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at TCC and gain guaranteed admission to most Virginia colleges and universities.

Locations for TCC’s open houses are:

  • Chesapeake Campus: Student Center
  • Norfolk Campus: Student Center
  • Portsmouth Campus: Building A
  • Virginia Beach Campus: Bayside Building
  • Regional Automotive Center

Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made by May 19 and June 23, to the Office of Educational Accessibility by emailing or calling 757-822-7751.

For more information, call 757-822-1111 or email or visit this site.

Norfolk Truck Center donates equipment for TCC’s Diesel Technology Program

Tidewater Community College Diesel Technology students are learning on state-of-the-art equipment thanks to a donation from Norfolk Truck Center.

Through the Navistar International Corporation equipment donation program, Norfolk Truck Center donated an International A26 engine and an Eaton Fuller transmission to be used for training at the Regional Automotive Center.

To combat the trucking industry’s growing technician shortage, Navistar and its International dealer network collaborated to launch an integrated equipment donation program to supply accredited technical schools with training equipment and career opportunities.

“Having a relationship with Norfolk Truck Company elevates our training program,” said Beno Rubin, pathway dean for manufacturing and transportation at TCC. “Not only does their involvement enable our students to learn on relevant, late-model equipment, but also opens the doors to rewarding career opportunities.”

Norfolk Truck Company is also providing externship opportunities for students, enabling them to gain real-world experience at their locations.

For more information about TCC’s Automotive, Diesel and Marine Technology programs, contact Rubin at or contact the Virtual Student Support Team at or call 757-822-1111.

Priority partnership with TCC offers nonviolent offenders a second chance

Two years ago, TJ Sexton and Ahmad Bilal lived in jail. Today, both are employed full time making more than $50,000 annually.

They are two of the inaugural graduates from the Priority Technical Training Center (PTTC), a program launched in 2018 by Tidewater Community College, Priority Automotive and the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office to give nonviolent offenders a new lease on life.

“Teaching nonviolent offenders to make a good, honest living and put their past in the rearview mirror is good for our communities, good for our law enforcement agencies, and good for Priority,” said Dennis Ellmer, chief executive officer and president of Priority Automotive. “This may seem like an unlikely partnership, but it just makes perfect sense.”

Built and funded entirely by Priority, the state-of-the-art automotive training center opened with dealerships across the country scrambling to find highly skilled auto technicians to service vehicles that grow more technologically advanced by the day.

Program participants were incarcerated at the Norfolk jail and bused to the facility five days a week for classroom instruction and on-the-job training. The year-long program boasts 27 graduates from the first two cohorts. Twenty four of those graduates, after their release from jail, are employed full-time at Priority dealerships.

Ray Mattox, the fixed operations director at Priority Chevrolet in Chesapeake, recalls a time when the PTTC grads working there now couldn’t turn a wrench.

“When they started, I paired them with a mentor technician to be sure they were learning the skills correctly,” Mattox said. “Today, they are high performers in our service centers, and I absolutely don’t know what I would do without them.”

Program graduate Sexton notes that his living situation is 10 times better now, calling the program the biggest blessing of his life.

“This is my second chance,” he said. “I didn’t know how I was going to get to this place that I pretty much dreamed about. I live in a nice apartment. I’m building my credit and I have three cars. But the best part is that I have a job I enjoy and stability like never before.”

Troy Clifton, executive director of Priority Toyota Charity Bowl, is the program coordinator and unofficial cheerleader.

“Make no mistake, these are my guys. I may wear a suit, but they know they can trust me, and I’m going to go to bat for them,” Clifton said. “I’m gratified at how well the trainees bought into the program and how well the mentors and coworkers have supported them.”

“I didn’t think I’d have this life, and I have no idea where I’d be without the program,” added program grad Bilal. “Every day, I can take what I’ve learned and pay it forward. That means a lot to me.”

Upon completion of the program, PTTC graduates have the opportunity to continue their education, earn new certifications and an Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology from TCC.

A state Senate joint resolution recently commended Ellmer for initiation and execution of the PTTC. Ellmer and Priority Automotive invested more than $2 million to establish the inmate training program. The program is on hold due to COVID-19 but is expected to resume in the future.

Priority Automotive CEO Dennis Ellmer (center) was recognized with a Senate joint resolution for creating the Priority Technical Training Center.

Live! From inside the classroom – Automotive

In this series, we provide a closer look at hands-on learning during COVID-19.

While COVID-19 means online learning for most Tidewater Community College students, some are back in the classroom for hands-on training. In fact, more than 400 sections of classes in interior design, automotive, health professions, welding, veterinary technology, culinary arts, visual arts, electronics technology and other programs have on-campus components. 

A peek inside an Automotive Technology instructional bay

Walk into one of the 15 instructional bays at the Regional Automotive Center (RAC), and you’ll see students at work on real cars using state-of-the-art equipment and tools.

In the Toyota lab, students learn about advanced electrical repairs with instructor Darryl Parker. Vehicles in the bay have been set up to have “problems,” which include nonfunctioning power windows, fog lights and headlights.

All of the students in the lab are second-year students who are also completing externship hours at local repair facilities.

Tips for learning

They work as a team! Before COVID-19, teams were larger, but social distancing and safety guidelines resulted in two-person teams collaborating to solve each problem.

Student voices

“It’s good to be back! My favorite thing is the hands-on with all the right tools. I’m absolutely glad to be here,” said Cody Kaneiss, who works at Charles Barker Lexus and hopes to become a master technician with his own shop.

“It’s hard to learn a lot of things we need to online,” said Jaiden Jenkins, who works at Casey Toyota. “It’s much better to be in here with the cars. I’m a little nervous being back because we are learning advanced electrical work, but not because of COVID.”

“With this kind of program, you really need the hands-on,” said Aaron Johnson, who works at Checkered Flag Toyota. “It’s a little more difficult now with the safety precautions, but well worth it!”

About the professor

Parker is a master technician with more than 20 years in the field. During labs he shares his real-world experiences and expertise with students.

“We are in our ninth week of face-to-face labs because we started in thesummer,” he said. “Students are working safely and doing an excellent job on their assigned tasks. It’s great to see everyone sticking to the guidelines.”

About the program

Students in the college’s Automotive Technology program prepare to become technicians at dealerships and shops across the state. TCC’s technologically advanced curriculum is based on the Master Automotive Technology standards set forth by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Students learn in the RAC, the area’s only high-tech facility for automotive technicians.

For more information about the Regional Automotive Center and the college’s automotive, diesel and marine technology programs, call Bobby Rowe, Sr. at 757-822-5176 or email

Scholarship student turning lifelong hobby of tinkering with cars into career

Talon Rodgers was one of those kids who liked to take things apart and put them back together.

As a teen,  he worked alongside his father, a master technician. “I started by helping flip cars and worked my way up to my own projects. I learned the business really from the inside out,” he said.

Today, Rodgers is a second-year student at Tidewater Community College pursuing an associate degree in diesel marine technician. He was recently awarded a $2,000 scholarship from American Boat Yacht Council Foundation.

Professor Abe Arispe recommended Rodgers for the award, noting, “Talon is meticulous in everything he does and is a standout student. He’s not afraid to ask questions and wants to be sure he has each task down pat.”

Rodgers said he was stunned by the award and grateful, as he is paying out of pocket for the program.

Rodgers chose the diesel marine program because he wanted to take his career in a new direction. “The marine field is high skill and demand and there are plenty of jobs,” Rogers added. “I’m doing something I enjoy but also expanding my knowledge.”

Continuing his studies during the COVID-19 pandemic has been seamless for Rodgers. “The hands-on learning is my favorite part of the program, and I’ve missed that,” he said. “But even so, remote learning has been set up well. I’m learning the material and staying on track.”

Talon Rodgers at the Regional Automotive Center.

TCC’s diesel marine technician program is just one of many offered at the Regional Automotive Center, a 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in Chesapeake. It has nine classrooms and 15 instructional laboratories. Students are trained on the latest equipment at the forefront of industry trends.  

Rodgers credits Arispe with making the instruction enjoyable. “Mr. Arispe is the best teacher I’ve ever had,” Rogers said. “He’s attentive to his students, very knowledgeable, and the way he describes the process of things is very informative and helpful.”

Rodgers encourages others to follow his path. “I did a lot of research before selecting TCC and it’s one of the better programs around, and not only in Virginia.”

 In his free time, Rodgers can be found tinkering with his Kawasaki Mean Streak and taking rides in the country.  “It’s something you can do alone and get some air,” he said.

On returning to school in the fall, Rodgers encourages his peers to continue moving forward.  “Don’t be afraid to set your mind on your goals and push through. You hit obstacles all your life, and COVID is just one of them.”

New automotive certificates prepare you for a career in just two semesters

Are you looking to train for an automotive career in a hurry?

Then consider Tidewater Community College’s new Career Studies Certificate in Maintenance and Light Repair. This certificate can be completed in just two semesters and includes the technical and hands-on training necessary for entry-level work in repair facilities and dealerships.

This certificate prepares students for the ASE certification exams in Steering and Suspension; Brakes; and the Virginia Safety Inspection exam.

If you want to learn even more, consider the two-semester Career Studies Certificate in Automotive Technician and prepare for the ASE exams in Engine Repair; Automatic Transmission/Transaxle; Manual Drive Train and Axles; and Heating and Air Conditioning.

Both of these Career Studies Certificates stack into the Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology and are taught by master technicians with years of experience in the field.

By earning a degree or certificate, you give yourself an advantage in the job market over those without formal training. TCC’s technologically advanced automotive curriculum is based on the Master Automotive Service Technology standards set forth by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Education Foundation.

All classes are held in the Regional Automotive Center, a 30,000 square-foot facility in Chesapeake featuring classroom spaces and instructional bays that facilitate hands-on learning on real vehicles.

Manufacturing and Transportation Pathway virtual open house set for May 23

Are you ready to launch your career into high gear? Then attend the Manufacturing and Transportation Pathway virtual open house on May 23.

Each program will host a ZOOM session at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. During that time you will be able to ask questions, learn about programs and speak with faculty.

The following programs will be participating:

  • Automotive Technology (including Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Subaru, & Toyota)
  • Collision Repair (Auto Body)
  • Diesel Technology
  • Machining (including Basic Machinist and CNC Operator)
  • Marine Technology
  • Mechatronics

The event is designed for everyone including high school students, recent graduates, adult learners and community members.

TCC’s Regional Automotive Center is the area’s only high-tech training facility for today’s automotive technician. The facility features nine classrooms and 15 instructional laboratory bays.

Machining and Mechatronic students can learn even more by getting hands-on experience in the Precision Machining Lab and the Robotics Lab, both on the college’s Chesapeake Campus.

To register for the online event, fill out this form.

For more information call 757-822-5000 or email questions to

TCC receives grant from TowneBank that will benefit visual, culinary, hospitality and automotive program expansion

The Tidewater Community College Educational Foundation is a recipient of a $500,000 grant from TowneBank. The funds will support the development of the TCC Perry Center for Visual & Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and the expansion of the Regional Automotive Center (RAC).

The 47,000-square-foot TCC Perry Center will be located in the NEON District at the former site of the Greyhound bus station at Brambleton and Monticello avenues. It will expand TCC’s visual arts education program and train the next generation of chefs by expanding the college’s culinary arts program, including housing a program in restaurant management in Norfolk.

“For 20 years TowneBank has been a gold standard for what a true community leader should strive to be, investing in a wide range of organizations that have helped grow our region’s economy and enhance cultural opportunities,” said TCC President Gregory DeCinque.  “We are honored by TowneBank’s incredibly generous gift to TCC and are humbled by their confidence as we work together to build the next generation in the workforce and educational training opportunities for our local community.”

TCC also recently received a grant of $500,000 over the next five years from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation in support of the new building slated to open in the fall of 2021.

The TowneBank grant will be used to provide challenge grant funds to encourage area automobile dealers to help build the expansion of the RAC, Hampton Roads’ lone high-tech education facility for the automotive, marine and diesel industries.

“Since 1968, Tidewater Community College has been a vital part of the Hampton Roads community. TowneBank is honored to support TCC in its ongoing efforts to provide quality education. We are excited to be a part of TCC’s bright future,” said Morgan Davis, TowneBank president and CEO.

The expansion of the TCC Perry Center and the RAC will largely be funded through private donations raised through Go Further! TCC’s Campaign for a Competitive Workforce. For information about donating, contact Steven Jones, executive director of the TCC Educational Foundation, at

Priority Automotive sponsors the college’s first Jordan McNair Memorial scholars

Nate Parker and Omar Lezcano never met Jordan McNair, but they are grateful for his life and passion for Hondas.

They are the inaugural recipients of the Jordan McNair Memorial Honda PACT Scholarship, sponsored by Priority Automotive.

Priority established the scholarship following the death of McNair, a student in Honda’s Professional Automotive Career Training program at the Regional Automotive Center.

The McNair scholarship, which is for second-year TCC students enrolled in the Honda program, covers half the cost of tuition.

2018-19 McNair Memorial scholars

Nate Parker and Omar Lezcano at the Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake.

Parker, 22, started off in information technology and realized it was not the field for him. He never considered automotive as a career until he learned about the programs offered at TCC.

“I’ve always enjoyed being able to look at something and figure out how it works,” Parker said. “My buddy went to another tech school, and that’s all I knew before coming here. At TCC you get hands-on training with master technicians on real vehicles.”

Parker currently works at Priority Honda and will graduate with his Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology in May. He plans to continue working at Priority but would like to travel to Europe to work on Hondas there.

Lezcano, 20, started working on cars with his cousin while in middle school. He decided to turn his hobby into a career once he visited the RAC.

“I never thought I’d go to school, but once I saw this facility with the instructional bays and vehicles, I knew I was supposed to be here,” Lezcano said. “The program has fast-tracked me at my work and been a great experience.”

Lezcano credits the Honda program with increasing his knowledge “through the roof” and providing opportunities even before graduation. He works at Priority Acura and will earn his associate degree in May.

Want to learn more?

For information on scholarships, visit

Go anywhere but first come to TCC’s open house on June 23

Find your future at Tidewater Community College.

Learn about the gamut of TCC’s programs, including cybersecurity, culinary arts, health sciences, maritime technologies and many other potential career paths and transfer opportunities the college offers.

Take the next step by visiting TCC’s open house on June 23 held on all campuses from 9 a.m. until noon.

There is plenty of time to enroll for fall classes, which begin Aug. 20.

All are invited, especially:

  • 2018 high school graduates and their families;
  • adults who want to start or finish a degree, learn a new field or advance in their careers;
  • active-duty military and veterans, their spouses and dependents.

You will be able to apply to TCC; learn about financial aid, grants and scholarships; explore academic options; tour campuses; and learn about campus life at all locations.

If you have an eye on a four-year college, TCC can help get you there, too. Transfer agreements allow a student to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at TCC and gain guaranteed admission to most Virginia colleges and universities.

Locations for open house are:

For more information, call 757-822-1111, email or visit

Honda PACT student’s memory lives on with completed project car and scholarship fund

Jordan McNair

Jordan McNair is fondly remembered as the “little brother” by his classmates in the Honda Professional Automotive Career Training (PACT) program at Tidewater Community College’s Regional Automotive Center.

McNair received his Career Studies Certificate in Automotive Chassis Systems posthumously after a fatal automobile accident ended his life in August 2017.

His parents, Dexter McNair and Paula Borchert, accepted his certificate following a standing ovation from his classmates.

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

Before his death, McNair and his classmates were working to restore his project car, a 2000 Honda Civic, which was flooded during Hurricane Matthew. The group worked nights and weekends, gaining hands-on skills as they fixed the car.

They started by swapping the engine and turning the car from an automatic transmission to a manual one. From there, they worked on systems including the brakes, air bags, fuel lines, the suspension and some wiring issues related to the flood damage.

“Jordan found his passion when he enrolled at TCC. It was the happiest and most focused I’d ever seen him,” Borchert said. “He and his classmates were full speed ahead working diligently at our home – rain – cold – it didn’t matter. They were determined to get his car going.”

After McNair’s passing, his classmates continued to restore the project car, spending their own time and money to buy parts and complete the project.

“This car represents his evolution – like Jordan it was a diamond in the rough,” said classmate Dominique Martin.

“We decided to finish the car for his family, as a reminder of his life’s passion. It was a little rough to keep going in the beginning, but doing this was a help, too,” added classmate Demetrio Gallegos.

The restored Honda is unveiled to family and friends at the college's Regional Automotive Center.
The restored Honda is unveiled to family and friends at the college’s Regional Automotive Center.

“For me working on the car was a learning experience. Jordan and I were teammates, doing the lab work together in class. It felt right for me to be there to help see this project through,” added Damien Rose.

The car looks new with lustrous black paint and orange accents.

Honda PACT instructor David Lee has been part of the project, providing his time and expertise to the work. “This was Jordan’s calling,” he said. “You could really see his focus intensify once he started working at Priority Honda. I’m really proud of how we all came together for this family.”

TCC Collision Repair students also worked on Jordan’s Honda.

Priority Automotive’s announcement of the Jordan McNair Memorial Honda PACT scholarship through the TCC Educational Foundation was a surprise at commencement. The $12,000 scholarship will cover half the cost of tuition for two students in the Honda PACT program for two years.

 “Jordan would be doing backflips if he could see the car now,” Borchert said. “Our family will be eternally grateful for the sacrifice and love shown by his classmates and instructors.”

Dexter McNair added, “One of his favorite sayings was ‘run it.’ And I know with this car, he would be saying it’s time; let’s ‘run it.’”

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.

From TCC to Antarctica

Tidewater Community College’s Zach Steinmiller is taking distance learning to a whole new level.

As a diesel mechanic working toward his Associate of Applied Science in Diesel Technology, Steinmiller, 22, was looking for a place to complete his cooperative education when he found a position with Pacific Architects and Engineers, Inc. in Antarctica.

Two months later, the Yorktown native boarded a plane to Christchurch, New Zealand en route to his final destination, McMurdo Station, Antarctica. The 9,100-mile journey took more than 25 hours.

“I was searching online job sites when I saw this posting and I thought ‘why not?’ I’m young and I just kind of went for it,” he said.

Steinmiller shows off one of the heavy-duty vehicles used for research.

Steinmiller’s work includes upkeep of all the heavy equipment used for scientific research, including cranes, front-end loaders and bulldozers. He also helps maintains a fleet of trucks, vans and military vehicles.

“It has been an amazing experience to work and live in a place that few people have been before. So far it’s never been above freezing, but we are outfitted to work in the climate,” he said. “I’m learning a great deal because it was fast-paced and there were not that many diesel technicians on the job.”

Cooperative education, a key component of the hands-on learning required for all automotive students, includes 160 hours of documented work for those studying diesel technology.

Classwork focuses on instruction in basic diesel engine systems, diesel truck electrical systems, advanced engine systems, introduction to hydraulics and heavy-duty drive train systems.

Steinmiller initially was studying nursing, but when he got to his anatomy and physiology classes, he changed direction and went back to engines, his first love. Now he’s sure he made the right choice and credits TCC faculty with building his skills and exposing him to new information in every class.

Steinmiller worked with staffer Dave Brown at the college’s Regional Automotive Center to arrange credit for his work down under.

Steinmiller communicated with Brown via email and Skype. In addition, his supervisor completed reports on his work. Steinmiller also sent videos showing actual footage of repairs.

An outdoor enthusiast, Steinmiller’s favorite part of the journey has been exploring a pristine continent largely unaffected by humans.

Close-up of the military-transport vehicle.

“There are some really beautiful sites,” he said. “We climbed volcanic mountains and found views that would steal your breath away. The air is crisp and it is very quiet. There are places where the silence is stunning.”

“Antarctica is a protected land and you can’t bring any outside plants or containments to the place,” Steinmiller added. “Our mission is to support the scientists doing research, but also to keep the place pristine. I’d absolutely never want to see big business here.”

Steinmiller is just a few classes shy of earning his degree. He plans to return to the United States to complete two diesel classes and four more general education courses.

From there, he hopes to travel the world.

Steinmiller has set his sights on becoming a machinery technician on a container ship, working on engines that are four stories high. He is also considering working as a heavy equipment mechanic.

He notes that the work he is doing in Antarctica is preparing him well for work in other harsh climates like Russia, the Middle East and Greenland.

“It was something landing on ice and seeing the surface spray all over the plane. Everything about the experience was new, except the work, which I was well prepared to do,” he said.

“Every instructor I’ve had knows their stuff and the training has been good,” he said.

“What I learned so far is that with motivation, dedication you really can ‘go anywhere.’ I encourage others to go for it. If you see an opportunity – take it!”