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Meet two military students who are part of the TCC family

This Veterans Day and every day, we honor our military service men and women and their families who have stepped forward to serve, no matter the circumstances. Their dedicated service is invaluable, and their sacrifices will never be forgotten. Thank you, vets!

Mohammed Aljuboor and Obmarie Rodriguez are among the thousands of active-duty military members who are part of the TCC family. Here are their stories.

Mohammed Aljuboor has two years of active service in the Navy. He works in Port Operations assisting arriving ships coming into port after deployments. Mohammed is pursuing an associate degree in cybersecurity, with the goal of becoming a network systems administrator.

Mohammed decided to go to TCC because the staff work to ensure active-duty service members can attend college and achieve their educational goals in spite of their unpredictable work schedules.

Mohammed moved to the US from Iraq and experienced some hard times during the transition. Those hard times helped build Mohammed’s character and made him believe failure is part of building success.

Thriving professionally and academically, Mohammed hopes to earn multiple degrees before leaving active duty and to motivate his shipmates to advance and grow in life.

Obmarie Rodriguez is an Aegis Fire Controlman with six years of service in the Navy. She decided to pursue her general studies associate degree at TCC in order to live out her motto, “Vincit Qui Se Vincit,” which means “He conquers who conquers himself.”

Her family instilled this motto in her as they moved to the mainland U.S. from Puerto Rico without financial stability and were unable to speak English. But they had dreams and goals.

Her mother was the first in the family to go to college and Obmarie was the first to join the military. Obmarie has set her sights on becoming a Limited Duty Officer or Chief Warrant Officer by the end of her time in the Navy. She encourages others to push themselves, conquer themselves and conquer those things around you that inhibit your growth.

TCC welcomes close to 8,000 veterans and military-related students on its campuses. In fact, one-third of TCC’s student body are veterans and their families. To find out more about TCC and its program and services for veterans, email or call 757-822-1111.

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.”


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.

Navy veteran on the road to success with cyber security degree

When Navy veteran Shawn Goodwin retires from his 9-to-5 job in 13 years, he and wife Karen plan to hit the open road in their RV to see small-town America. “We want to travel all over the U.S. and see landmarks, beaches, mountains, streams and everything but the big cities,” he said.

Thanks to earning his associate degree from Tidewater Community College in December, he’ll have the income to support his travels. His Associate of Science in Information Systems Technology with a concentration in Cyber Security will enable him to do cybersecurity work while he’s on the go.

“I see myself working sporadically during the day as required, to keep an income stream with enough to fund our adventures,” he said.

A self-described computer nerd, Goodwin, 42, was a Senior Chief electronics technician when he retired from the Navy. He served 20 years and completed tours around the globe and a stint in Antarctica supporting the National Science Foundation.

“That was my favorite tour!” he said. “I provided tech support for the portable and high-frequency radios used to communicate around the continent.”

After the military, Goodwin found work as an information technology program manager for Navy contractors. He enrolled at TCC because of the quality of the cyber security program with its designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency.

“TCC fit my work schedule,” he said. “The flexibility of the classes and the adult learners in class with me at night made it an excellent experience.”

Goodwin meshed well with his cyber professors, particularly Rob Guess, director of cyber security, who he calls a super nerd. “I’m about his age, and I just get him. He’s extremely smart and knows his stuff.”

Using his GI Bill, Goodman earned his TCC degree debt-free.

The father of three children, Goodwin is encouraging his youngest to enroll at TCC. “I see kids struggling with classes and I encourage them to keep their minds on their studies.”

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