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Recent high school graduates can LEAP into college with free tuition, books and a new laptop

Recent high school graduates can get a head start on college with Tidewater Community College’s LEAP (Learn. Explore. Accelerate. Persevere.) program.

Students looking to start college sooner, lighten the fall course load or shorten the time to degree completion can benefit from TCC’s LEAP program.

Eligible students must earn their high school diplomas or GEDs between January and June of 2023. Once in the program, students receive a LEAP scholarship to cover tuition and books. In addition, students taking 6 or more credits are eligible to receive a free new laptop.

LEAP students can take 3-12 credits during Summer Session and apply the credits toward their TCC program or transfer the credits to their four-year school.

Students can participate in Summer Session during five time periods, each designed to meet individual student needs. They include a 10-week session starting on May 22, an early 7-week session starting May 22, a late 7-week session starting June 5, an early 5-week session starting May 22, and a late 5-week session starting July 5.

Students may also apply to continue at TCC for Fall Semester 2023 and complete up to an additional 12 credits using scholarship funds. Scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who are already committed to a four-year school for the fall are eligible to transfer credits

Students interested in LEAP can apply by visiting here. For more information, email or call the Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111.

TCC scholarship honors former President Kolovani

The Tidewater Community College Educational Foundation announced that an endowed scholarship has been established in the name of President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani, who retired from the college on June 30.

The college-wide scholarship was funded through gifts from the TCC College Board, the boards of the Educational Foundation and Real Estate Foundation, and college leadership.

President Kolovani received the surprise announcement on June 28 at the annual Joint Board Reception, which honors outgoing board members and incoming chairs. She also was presented with a joint board resolution recognizing her six years of service to the college.

She has requested that the endowment go toward any need-based scholarship request “so that the fund can have the greatest impact on our students.”

Donations are still being accepted for the scholarship at For more information, contact Alexandra Rice at 757-822-1647 or

Parents establish $10,000 endowed scholarship in memory of their son

Christopher Garrett’s parents established a scholarship to help a Tidewater Community College student like him fulfill his dreams.

Chris was just 22 when he died in a single car accident on the way home from a friend’s house.

Chris was the Garretts’ first child – and second loss.

Stephen, their second son, died at the age of 3 from leukemia. Chris was his little brother’s match and bone marrow donor, a role he took to naturally. “Chris was a giving and selfless young man,” said his dad, Larry Garrett. “He made friends with everyone he met and never resented helping Stephen.”

Active in track and football in high school, Chris was also artistic. He dabbled in modeling and enjoyed acting in a local murder mystery group.

But Chris struggled academically. Diagnosed with a mental health condition, Chris saw his grades skip by senior year and, like most new graduates, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study.

At TCC, he got back on track.

Enrolled full time in the general studies program, Chris was benefitting from the personal, caring attention he received from his professors. Small class sizes and dedicated instruction helped. His grades improved.

The Garretts, touched by all the counselors and professors who reached out after Chris’ death, established the Christopher M. Garrett Memorial Scholarship in his memory.

“My wife and I think TCC offers something larger schools don’t – individual attention. Community colleges are willing to give adult students opportunities. We wanted to help,” Larry Garrett said. “That’s what we had in mind, helping another student and keeping Chris’ memory alive.”

This year’s recipient, Kayla Alesna, is an ideal selection for Chris’ scholarship.

Alesna, who struggles with a seizure condition, never thought college was in her future, much less a degree in information systems technology with a focus on databases.

“School was so hard for me growing up,” she said. “In high school, I would try and try and try and only make D’s and E’s. I gave up and just got my GED. I never thought I’d be able to go any further than that in my education.”

Things changed when she married and her son, Onyx, was born with disabilities.

Watching his persistence was a wake-up call for her. “My son never lets anything get in his way,” she said. “I realized I couldn’t just say all this stuff to him about working hard and going to school. I needed to show him how to do it.”

Alesna describes herself as “petrified” her first day of school. But, like Chris, she found support from her professors and staffer Elisabeth Jakubowski in the Educational Accessibility Office.

Information technology was, to her delight, a natural fit – and she discovered a passion for coding and problem solving in the lab. “It was totally different from high school; I was never scared to ask for help – and my professors were always there to offer it,” she said.

She finished her first semester with straight A’s.

“I thought ‘How did this happen?’ ” she said. “I realized I wasn’t just going to scrape through college; I was going to be successful.”

Jakubowski encouraged Alesna to compete for scholarships to help cover the cost of her computer and printed study materials.

But it was some scary medical news that spurred her to complete the applications.

“This was all happening right when I went through a scare with my son possibly having leukemia,” Alesna said. “I figured ‘Now’s the time we need it most. I’m going to go for it.’ Not long after that my computer died and I thought, you know, ‘What am I going to do now?’”

She won the scholarship – and it felt like kismet.

When Alesna learned the Garretts had a son who had died of leukemia she was shocked: “I had chills.” She sees a lot of similarities between Chris and her – both adult learners who found a second chance at education at TCC.

Even though she won’t graduate until December, Alesna is already getting calls for job interviews. “People want me to work for them in government positions – really good jobs,” she said. “TCC has made all of that possible for me.”

“It’s amazing for my son to see me succeed; to hear him say ‘Mommy, I’m so proud of you’; to win a scholarship . . . I’m just so proud of myself.”

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 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.