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TCC delegation advocates for G3 at General Assembly

College Board Chair Cindy Free and President Marcia Conston led a contingent of 16 Tidewater Community College representatives to the General Assembly on Jan. 29 to press the case for G3, Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature program to put community college within reach of more Virginians.

G3 stands for “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back.” The governor’s $145 million budget proposal would provide “last-dollar” funding for low- and middle-income students who are eligible for in-state tuition, have applied for federal and state student aid, and are pursuing an education in one of five areas key to the state’s economic development: IT/computer science, health care, public safety, skilled trades and early childhood education.

“If this program is approved by the General Assembly as part of the state budget, it would be a gamechanger,” said President Conston. “We estimate eligible TCC students would number in the thousands.”

Anna Mae Taborn, a student at the Portsmouth Campus, is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology, one of the eligible programs, and she hopes to become a beneficiary. But she said the trip to Richmond benefitted her in another way.

“With the knowledge of the program, I can push it to others who should take advantage of it,” she said.

Aspen Roadcap, a Chesapeake Campus student majoring in liberal arts and business administration, told legislators that she sees her friends struggle with rent and bills while working multiple jobs to pay tuition. “This would help them concentrate on college,” she said.

Meeting with nearly 20 legislators over a few hours, members of the TCC contingent said they encountered little opposition to the budget proposal. “It’s a bipartisan issue,” said Board Chair Free.

The TCC representatives were introduced from the floor of the Senate by Sen. John Cosgrove of Chesapeake, who graduated with an engineering degree from TCC before attending Old Dominion University. “Hopefully my story truly embodies the TCC motto, ‘From Here, Go Anywhere,’ ” he said. He offered a special welcome to President Conston as she takes the helm of “my beloved institution.”

Norfolk Campus student Caroline Conlon said she went to the General Assembly not knowing what to expect. “I was interested to see the process,” she said.

For Norfolk Campus student Shaniqua Hall, “I was so honored to be meeting very important people and having them hear my story. I was happy to be here.”

Also representing TCC were board members Jerome Bynum, Bill Crow, Mark Hugel, Delceno Miles and Andy Tysinger; Educational Foundation Board member Paul Battaglia and Executive Director Steven Jones; Corey McCray, interim executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs and vice president for Workforce Solutions; Emanuel Chestnut, interim Norfolk Campus provost; and Marian Anderfuren, vice president for communications.

On first visit to TCC as governor, Northam meets with women veterans

In February, Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly declared the third full week in March as Women Veterans Week in Virginia. On Friday, the inaugural observance concluded with a roundtable at Tidewater Community College’s Virginia Beach Campus to give female veterans a chance to bend the governor’s ear on issues important to them.

The event was organized by the Office of the Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs and TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education.

Northam said his administration will continue efforts from the previous administration of Gov. Terry McAuliffe to improve veterans’ experiences in Virginia.

“We have effectively ended veteran homelessness,” he told the 13 members of the roundtable. “Through our Virginia Values Veterans – V3 – program more than 31,000 vets have been hired.” The goal, he said, is to keep valuable, well-trained former military personnel in Virginia.

He noted that Virginia has the largest percentage of female veterans in the country, and he wanted to hear from the panelists about their challenges.

Oluyinka Adelegan, who served in the U.S. Army as a Medical Service Corps officer, said her transition into civilian life was positive. Given her medical training, she had job offers from several health systems but added, “It’s a tough decision whether to stay in Virginia.”

Gov. Ralph Northam listens to panelist at Women Veterans Roundtable

“No it’s not,” the governor responded with a laugh, adding that he wants to keep medically trained veterans in Virginia by further streamlining the process of getting corpsmen and medics into civilian jobs through Virginia’s Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) Program.

The women made a point that, after 20 years or more of service, veterans are eligible for benefits including health care and mental health counseling. “But if you don’t have 20 years or you don’t have a job, you’re on your own,” said one panelist. Northam said that situation would improve if a state budget is approved with an expansion of Medicaid.

Child care is another hurdle for not only veterans, but also active-duty service members – especially single parents. “If you don’t have income, you can’t find child care and you can’t go to school,” said Cassandra Harris, an on-base TCC representative at Naval Station Norfolk.

Child care providers need to be trained in how to deal with children whose parents are in the military, especially when they are deployed. “They need extra care,” said Dawn Johns, a TCC student. “They need someone to watch and understand their actions and behavior.” She said her daughter attends TCC’s Child Development Center, operated by the YWCA of South Hampton Roads, on the Portsmouth Campus.

Kathy Owens, a retired Navy pilot, said some reciprocity or coordination among states with school calendars, GPA calculations and advanced placement credits would also be ideal.

However, the biggest complaints were reserved for something the governor does not control: VA medical centers, especially the one in Hampton. “They’re swamped,” said Juanita Williams, a Navy vet. “The VA is the primary health care provider for so many.”

Asked what she would do if she were governor for the day, one panelist said, “I would have an easy button.’ I want someone I can call, and if they don’t know the answer they’ll find out, not transfer me 15 times.”

Another said, “We shouldn’t have to call our senators and representatives to get help.”

“Our veterans should be at the top of the queue, not the bottom,” Northam said. “I hear you.  I don’t have the answers, but my administration and I are committed to working with the VA and finding solutions.”

Two new members of the House of Delegates from Virginia Beach, Del. Cheryl Turpin and Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, were on hand. Also among those in attendance were representatives for Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Tim Kaine, Rep. Donald McEachin and Rep. Bobby Scott.

Veronica Cianetti, director of military student support at the CMVE and an Army veteran, said TCC is unique in its wraparound services for veterans, noting, “It was great to have Governor Northam here today so he could get a little taste of what we do at TCC.”