Skip navigation

STEM scholar overcomes many obstacles to earn degree

Tidewater Community College STEM Promise scholar Rachel Roszko never thought she’d go to college. But when she took her son to tour Old Dominion University, she was inspired to pursue higher education as well.

“Going to school tuition-free made my dream possible. TCC would not have been an option for my family even if we ate PB and J sandwiches every day,” Rachel said. “Earning a full scholarship also gave me the boost and confidence to conquer college.”

The Air Force veteran will earn an Associate of Science in Science this May. The journey has been fruitful, but not easy.

Rachel, 43, has faced serious health concerns including a cancer scare, a heart arrhythmia requiring surgery, and a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, as a stay-at-home mom of three, including a special needs child, the demands on her time are also very real.

“Having so many medical issues and caring for my daughter can make it difficult to get out of the house,” she said. “But after enrolling at TCC, I had a full day of school in real time and that was a huge help to my mental health.”

Rachel is thankful that she could complete the bulk of her degree online. “Caring for my daughter and dealing with PTSD made it difficult to be in a traditional classroom program,” she said. “But with my online classes and teachers using document cameras and technology, it was like having a front-row seat in every class.”

She added, “My professors were supportive and worked with me through every situation. If I had a panic attack and had to leave class, my teachers were there making sure I was okay,” she said. “They are very human and understanding.”

With a passion for animals and conservation, Rachel hopes to parlay her degree into a career teaching biology. She will continue working on a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology at Oregon State University online.

Rachel’s latest rescue transport was a cormorant.

In her free hours, Rachel volunteers with local rescue agencies including Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge and Tidewater Wildlife Rescue. She picks up animals in trouble and transports them to local rescue centers or veterinarians. She has recently helped an opossum, a pelican, a baby cooper’s hawk and a cormorant find safe havens.

“I’ve always been an animal person but growing up I didn’t think I was smart enough for college,” Rachel said. “When I started homeschooling my kids, I fell in love with science. Once I took my first biology class at TCC, I was totally hooked.”

Rachel’s family is proud of her success. Her husband Bernie and children Rosie, Anthony, and Eden are her biggest cheerleaders. “I wanted my kids to see that there’s not ever a completely closed door and paths have forks in the road,” she said. “It’s never too late to do something you love.”

TCC’s STEM Promise Scholarship program is accepting applications now through March 31. STEM Promise covers all tuition and fees for four semesters at TCC. Students who complete their degrees transfer to their selected universities as juniors. To learn more about the program visit here.

Interested in fall scholarships at TCC? It’s time to apply.

Whether you’re a woman studying STEM, a recent high school graduate or a military-related student returning to school, we have scholarships to help you pay for classes.

Don’t miss out on free money to further your academic goals.

Applications for Tidewater Community College’s 2021 fall scholarship cycle are being accepted now through May 1.

Thanks to the contributions of individual donors and organizations, TCC’s Educational Foundation is able to provide scholarships to support students’ academic studies and achievements. Awards may be used for tuition, books and fees at TCC.

Most TCC Educational Foundation scholarships are worth $500 or more. They do not need to be repaid. Depending on your unmet need, you may be awarded more than one scholarship.

TCC scholarship recipient Dasha Chaney was awarded the Christopher M. Garrett Memorial scholarship for $1,800 and the Barnes and Noble Textbook scholarship for $600.

Chaney completed her Tidewater Community College cyber degree in just one year. “I’ve gone from nothing to something in three semesters,” she said.

Automotive student Sawyer Matthews received a $2,000 scholarship from the Hampton Roads Automobile Dealers Association. “College is expensive and every little bit helps,” he said.

Student Olivia Brichter earned the Tryntje and Norman Willcox Endowed Memorial Scholarship for $1,000 and a $600 Norfolk Campus General Scholarship.

“TCC allowed me to figure out what I want to do, without going into any student debt,” she said. “I’m really grateful.”

Start by completing the 2021-22 FAFSA to determine your eligibility for financial aid. Find the FAFSA online at List TCC as your school of choice by using code 003712.

Use your myTCC login and password to sign into the scholarship application system. From there, browse scholarship opportunities and apply for ones that fit you best. The system will recommend scholarships that are right for you.

For more information, visit here.  To learn about establishing a scholarship at TCC, contact the TCC Educational Foundation at or 757-822-1080.