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“I definitely got my money’s worth at TCC.” – Student Speaker Jacob Ramirez

Jacob Ramirez found his career path in computer engineering at Tidewater Community College.

A 2021 graduate of Salem High School, Jacob wanted to stay close to home for college. He enrolled at TCC’s Virginia Beach Campus to study engineering. While there, he took computer engineering classes and found his purpose.

“I thought I was going to be a music person. That changed when I was able to fix a hinge on a shower door at my house. That’s what got me thinking about engineering and then it all came together at TCC,” he said.

This May, Jacob, 21, is earning an Associate of Science in Engineering. Jacob is the Speaker for the Graduates and will share his story during the 76th Commencement Exercises on May 8.

While at TCC Jacob participated in the STEM and Engineering Clubs. He also competed in the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Robotics competition with a team from TCC that took third place nationwide. Those experiences helped him learn to work on a team and offered hands-on training for his chosen career field.

“I gained experience in designing and problem-solving and learned how to actually build something,” he said. “We do this in class, but the clubs and activities take it to a whole other level.”

Jacob expanded his learning at the college by including musical studies. He was part of TCC’s Jazz band and took several music classes. An experienced band member from Salem High, Jacob is proud to become a member of the Virginia Tech marching band next fall.

“There’s a lot of learning to be done at TCC,” Jacob said. “I had the chance to interact with a diverse student body, making me more well-rounded as a student and a future computer engineer.”

A member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools, Jacob holds a perfect 4.0 GPA at TCC. “I enjoyed the people at TCC, the professors, the community. It was better than I could have imagined,” he said.

Jacob will transfer to Virginia Tech in the fall of 2023. He will be a junior in the computer engineering baccalaureate program.

A Virginia Beach native, Jacob gained lifelong friends at TCC, and three of them will attend Virginia Tech alongside him.

“I definitely got my money’s worth at TCC. But the best part is that I’m ready for the next steps,” Jacob said. “And I have a group of friends that are joining me on the journey. What could be better than that!”

Student Speaker earns associate degree at 17

Allison Wilson got her start at Tidewater Community College while still in high school.

She participated in Early College and was part of the cohort from Churchland High School. “Making connections with people I’ve been in class with since third grade was definitely a highlight,” Allison said.

Allison is one of the 45 dual-enrollment students earning associate degrees before graduating from high school this summer. In addition, 98 high schoolers are earning TCC certificates this year.

She credits her mom, Lisa Wilson, with encouraging her to get a head start on college.

 “I remember spending hours in the kitchen with my brother as we attended the Lisa Wilson ‘school of public speaking,’” Allison said with a laugh. “That was where we learned to organize our thoughts, project our voices and represent the family, whether it be at church or school.”

All those lessons paved the way for Allison to be selected as the Speaker for the Graduates for TCC’s 74th Commencement Exercises, to be held on May 9, 2022 at the Chartway Arena on the campus of Old Dominion University.

Allison is earning an Associate of Science in Social Sciences at just 17.

“I started classes at TCC with an aspiring funeral director and one of my mother’s coworkers. Even though I was considerably younger than the others, they treated me like every other student. We quickly became family and our differences didn’t matter,” Allison said.

Allison holds a 3.9 GPA and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools.

“Coming to TCC while still in high school was a great way to get started on college and save money. I had a great support system with my parents and grandparents,” she said. “I gained study skills that will take me through all of my years in college.”

Continuing to learn during the pandemic brought unique challenges. “Virtual learning forced us to deal with barking dogs, crying babies and spotty internet service,” Allison recalled. “But it also made time for different classes to fit into our schedules and provided unique ways to connect with classmates online.”

While at TCC, Allison remained active in her high school class serving as president of the National Honor Society, vice president of the Student Council, head delegate of the Model UN Team and a participant in the Scholastic Bowl. She also enjoyed spending time with friends and just being a teenager.

Allison Wilson at Portsmouth Campus.

In the fall, Allison is transferring to William and Mary where she will study English and pre-law. She hopes to attend law school on the grounds as well, and one day be a state prosecutor.

Allison’s mom, dad, brother and grandparents will gather to celebrate with her at TCC’s Commencement exercises as she shares a message of encouragement.

“My message for my classmates is simple,” Allison said. “As we go to our four-year schools or start careers, we will take the lessons learned and apply them to our daily lives. We will remember the respect shown to us and replicate it. When things get hard, we push forward. Congratulations graduates!”

Father and dual-enrolled daughter graduate together

Marvin Fletcher and his daughter SaNayah Hill were surprised to find out they are graduating from Tidewater Community College at the same time.

“I never thought my daughter and I would be wearing a cap and gown together. I’m utterly speechless,” Marvin said.

SaNayah added, “I feel like it will be a fun experience and not something a lot of people can say.”

Marvin’s degree has been a decade in the making. He is earning an Associate of Applied Science in Management. SaNayah, a junior at Deep Creek High School, is a dual-enrollment student earning a Career Studies Certificate in Emergency Medical Service/Emergency Medical Training.

“As parents, we want a better start for our kids,” Marvin added. “To see SaNayah graduate with a certificate at 17, I’m really proud. A lot of kids don’t aspire to do all that.”

A military veteran, Marvin served in both the United States Marine Corps and the Army. He spent 12 years doing transportation and logistics, with overseas tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait. “Serving in the military slowed down my studies as I moved around the country and did multiple deployments,” Marvin said.

Marvin credits TCC veterans’ advisor Howard Darden for helping make his graduation possible. “I needed my official transcript from the military so I would get credit for my PE class, and he made that happen.”

He added, “The help I received from the start from TCC’s military center has been monumental to my success and has everything to do with where I am now.”

A native of Portsmouth, Marvin remembers his family living paycheck to paycheck. “My sister Sonya and I would go outside and cut wood, so we’d have a fire in the stove and heat in the house. We had a very humble childhood,” he added.

Marvin also remembers failing at least two classes every year since sixth grade and having no one invested in his education. He attended summer school annually to pass each class and graduated from I.C. Norcom High School.

“I wanted different for my daughter,” Marvin said. “And that’s happened largely because of her mom and my support, and because of her hard work.”

SaNayah decided to pursue the EMT certificate because of her interest in medicine. She hopes to one day be a general practice physician.

SaNayah’s program included ride-alongs with area firefighters, something she called “intense,” but worth it. “I craved the experience and wanted to get out there and do it,” she said. “People often doubt themselves. But I say get out there and do the work and see what doors will open.”

Marvin added that he found a good fit at TCC. “I liked the teachers and the challenge of it all,” he said. “I enjoyed in-person classes then being able to go to faculty and staff and get the help I needed.”

Marvin plans to use his degree to open and manage group homes for disabled adults and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something he suffers from as well. He says that it’s a confidence booster earning this degree and a motivator to continue to serve.

“Life isn’t about where you start, but where you finish,” Marvin said. “There were times when I thought I couldn’t do it, but the staff at TCC motivated me and my family support systems made all the difference.”

TCC to hold its spring graduation exercises in person at Chartway Arena

For the second time since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Tidewater Community College will hold its commencement exercises in person. This year’s ceremony will be held on May 9 at 6 p.m. at Chartway Arena on the campus of Old Dominion University.

There is still time for current graduates to apply for graduation by using this form. For information about participating in Commencement, please visit here.

More than 1,300 students will graduate, including 143 students who have earned degrees or certificates one month before completing high school thanks to dual enrollment.

The Speaker for the Graduates is Allison Wilson, a dual enrollment student from Churchland High School. At 17, she is earning an Associate of Science in Social Science.

Allison Wilson on TCC’s Portsmouth Campus.

“Coming to TCC while still in high school was a great way to get started on college and save money. I had a great support system with my parents and grandparents,” Wilson said. “I gained study skills that will take me through all my years in college.”

In the fall, Wilson is transferring to William and Mary where she will study English and pre-law. She hopes to attend law school and one day be a state prosecutor.

The graduation speaker is TCC Board Chair Cynthia “Cindy” Free. A TCC alum, Free began her academic journey on the Virginia Beach Campus earning an Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy in 1986. A Hampton Roads native, Free is a member of the Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists Physical Therapy team. At the practice she manages and coordinates industrial rehabilitation, workers compensation, return to work practices, disability examinations, inventory, quality standards, students and personnel matters.

In September 2015, the Virginia Beach City Council appointed Free to the TCC College Board. Since her appointment, she has participated in commencement exercises, college convocations, Virginia Community College System legislative receptions, dedications, groundbreakings and other college events. In addition, Free has actively served on the College Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee, the Executive Committee, chaired the Advocacy Committee and TCC Educational Foundation, as well as served as Board chair since 2019.

Free has a passion for dance and graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She has danced at ODU and at the TCC Roper Performing Arts Center.

Commencement will be streamed live at

For more information about graduation, visit here or call 757-822-1111.

TCC graduates celebrate success at first in-person Commencement since 2019

Big smiles and resounding cheers were part of Tidewater Community College’s first in-person graduation since the start of the pandemic.

The week before Christmas, the college celebrated its newest graduates – more than 1,800 in total – at the 73rd Commencement Exercises at Chartway Arena inside Norfolk’s Ted Constant Convocation Center.

The evening graduation on Dec. 20 was presided over by President Marcia Conston.

TCC President Marcia Conston.

The speaker for the graduates, Shelby Ouellette, 21, who completed an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice, is a Navy spouse who has her sights set on law school. She will continue her studies through the Honors College at Regent University.

Ouellette’s educational journey included prior failed attempts at college. “We all have to take the time to understand who we are and what we have to contribute to this world,” she said. “When I was working at Starbucks, we hosted ‘Coffee with a Cop’ and watching officers interact with the people they serve, inspired me and made me realize what I wanted to do.”

Ouellette started Spring Semester 2020 just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and TCC’s move to remote learning. “The time given to us by professors in break out rooms allowed us to get to know each other and I have never met a more unique, diverse set of students,” Ouellette said. “We stood by one another, ready to support each other.”

She added, “Take this hard-earned degree and make the most of it because we know we have what it takes to face the challenges coming our way. I’m proud of us.”

Keynote speaker Del. Jay Jones, a practicing attorney and member of the Virginia House of Delegates, encouraged students by talking about accomplishment.

“You have all experienced the glow of achievement and the realization of goals,” Jones said. “The diplomas that you will soon hold bear marks of that success.”

He continued, “A success born of late nights, many, many countless cups of coffee and a steely resolve to continue the work until that last paper was written and the last exam taken. Each of you should feel proud of whatever path you walked – or ran – to bring this moment today.”

The ceremony continued as families and friends cheered and snapped photos. Graduates crossed the stage and joined a TCC alumni network of 100,000 and counting.  

If you missed graduation, you can watch the TCC livestream.

Kudos to TCC’s Fall Class of 2020

Four days before Christmas, Tidewater Community College celebrated its 71st Fall Commencement Exercises virtually.

The full stream of the ceremony is available here.

“This celebration demonstrates the tenacity and strength of our students and the TCC community,” said TCC President Marcia Conston, presiding over her second virtual commencement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Conston acknowledged the college’s military-related students, who make up one-third of enrollment and she commended the faculty and staff for their role in student success. Several faculty and staff members also recorded “shoutout” videos offering their congratulations to the 1,206 graduates.

Many applauded the resilience of the graduates to complete their journeys despite the pandemic.  Faculty members from the ESL Department congratulated the students in multiple languages.

The ceremony featured two student speakers — Grace Motley, a Women’s Center STEM Promise Program scholar, who received her Associate of Science in Computer Science and Joseph Baca, who earned his Associate of Science in Social Sciences.

“I cannot even begin to describe the many life lessons I have learned, and I am sure I am not alone,” said Motley, who thanked the professors and STEM Promise Program coordinator Jaedda Hall who helped her complete her degree.

Baca embraced the “community” part of being a TCC student, acknowledging his peers, professors and faculty members for helping him persevere. “Know there is no timetable on experience in life, but we must have the courage to face it,” he said.

Michelle Woodhouse, TCC’s vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer, presented the 1,026 graduates. President Conston conferred the degrees.

Prior to the ceremony concluding with a benediction, alumna Rickkita Taylor, recently a guest on “Ellen,” welcomed the college’s newest graduates to join an alumni network that is more than 100,000 strong.

“We are embedded in the fabric of Hampton Roads and are so proud of you for persevering and finishing strong,” she said. “I encourage you to take advantage of your achievement by attending networking events and embracing all the opportunities offered by TCC Alumni to “connect, contribute and celebrate!’ ”

All graduates had their names and corresponding degrees or certificates scroll on screen.

TCC cancels Spring Commencement Exercises

Tidewater Community College will not hold its 2020 Spring Commencement Exercises scheduled for Monday, May 11, at Chartway Arena in Norfolk. 

On Tuesday, Glenn DuBois, chancellor for Virginia’s Community Colleges, announced the cancellation of all May commencements due to recent CDC guidance that  calls for avoiding gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks because of a rise in coronavirus cases in the Commonwealth. 

The VCCS announcement is also in compliance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s statewide ban on all gatherings of 100 or more people. 

“We will find an alternate and safe way to honor our graduates,” said Marian Anderfuren, TCC’s public information officer. 

The college’s Commencement Committee will consider alternatives, such as rescheduling for the summer or holding a virtual commencement. Those details will be announced as soon as they are confirmed. 

“What’s difficult is that the very things that make commencement meaningful also makes them dangerous in this pandemic,” DuBois said. “While it’s a celebration of individual achievements, it’s a community celebration. Many of the same family members who travel far and wide to attend are at particularly high risk with this virus. And the hugs and high-fives that come naturally to so many of us in that moment fly in the face of the social distancing practices we are asked to observe.” 

Read his entire statement. 

While TCC remains open and staffed, the college will move to remote instruction starting March 23. TCC extended its Spring Break by a week to allow faculty time to prepare. By April 1, the college will evaluate whether to continue remote delivery of classes or return to in-person instruction. 

TCC is maintaining a comprehensive web page with information about its response to COVID-19. 

Savoring milestones at the 69th Fall Commencement

The week before Christmas, Tidewater Community College celebrated its newest graduates at the 69th Fall Commencement Exercises at Chartway Arena inside Norfolk’s Ted Constant Convocation Center.

The evening graduation on Dec. 16 was the final one presided over by interim President Gregory T. DeCinque. Marcia Conston, sitting in the stands with her husband, Clidell and daughter Mahari, will assume the presidency on Jan. 6, 2020.

TCC President Gregory DeCinque with keynote speaker Scott Miller, president of Virginia Wesleyan University,

“We look forward to your leadership and dedication to TCC’s mission,” President DeCinque said.

In addition, President DeCinque asked for applause for physics Professor David Wright, a viral video sensation over the last few days thanks to a student tweet with 25 million views and counting.

“David, you clearly love what you do, and you convey that passion to your students. You are one of the many TCC faculty worth the price of admission,” DeCinque quipped.

The speaker for the graduates, Lauren Lewis, just 18, has already completed an Associate of Science in Social Sciences. Recipient of the Outstanding High School Graduate Award, she entered TCC with 16 credits thanks to taking dual enrollment classes while in high school.

“You can’t underestimate what you are capable of,” said Lewis, who graduated from Churchland High at age 16. “To me, TCC has contributed to that mindset, and I am sure that is true for most of us.

“With TCC as your foundation, you can go anywhere!”

Lewis’ “anywhere” is Norfolk State University. She plans to be a pediatric nurse.

Keynote speaker Scott Miller, the president of Virginia Wesleyan University, urged the graduates to savor the evening’s moment.

“The hours upon hours you pored over books and laptops after working all day or all night have all been worth it,” he said. “Take a deep breath and sigh of relief.”

Miller told the graduates “You’re highly motivated critical thinkers, leaders and learners. You’re generators of good ideas and perceptive insights. You love your 757 community and contribute to it in many ways. We’re inspired by your example of hard work and commitment to ambition and success.”

Miller echoed what Lewis said, “From here, you truly can go anywhere. It’s my sincere hope that I’ll see you there soon.”

As families and friends cheered and snapped photos, graduates crossed the stage and joined a TCC alumni network of 100,000 and counting.  

If you missed graduation, watch the TCC livestream here.