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TCC holds “signing” ceremony for first STEM Promise Program Scholars

Tidewater Community College welcomed its first class of STEM Promise Program scholars with colorful balloons and celebratory drumrolls at a “signing” ceremony held Aug. 16 on its Chesapeake Campus.

Ten students will pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related disciplines at TCC and complete two-year associate degrees at no cost for tuition and fees under the innovative Women’s Center STEM Promise Program.

Just as college-bound athletes sign letters of intent, students signed ceremonial Certificates of Acceptance. Afterward, they donned TCC caps while more than 500 balloons cascaded from the ceiling.

TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani announced a $60,000 gift from Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) to the TCC Educational Foundation to fund the first year of the program in its entirety.

To her surprise, Philip Shucet, chief executive officer of ERC, pledged an additional $60,000 to fund the scholarships for a second year for the inaugural class.

“I’ve worked in the construction and engineering industry my entire career,” Shucet told the scholars. “I’ve seen firsthand the contribution that people like you have made and are willing to make to help make our world a little bit better place to live in.

“Because we are so interested in the success of your journey and we want you to succeed in that journey unencumbered by student debt, I’m especially pleased today to let you know that we are going to fully fund the second year of your academic journey.”

The TCC Women’s Center STEM Promise Program is designed to boost the number of women and minority students achieving STEM degrees. Scholarships cover the full cost of tuition for up to four semesters.

In thanking Shucet, Kolovani said, “I believe ERC’s generosity and foresight will not go unnoted and will inspire others to join us in support of TCC.”

Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, said the STEM Promise Program fulfills the overall mission of community colleges in three ways: providing college access, meeting industry needs, and ensuring diversity and inclusion.

He said, “While we don’t know what jobs will be in demand 10, 20 or 30 years from now, we know this: If you know how to make something or repair something, you will always be needed.”

Kolovani emphasized the goal of diversity and inclusion.

“Employers tell us they need a diverse talent pool to create the technologies we need today and tomorrow to grow our economy, ensure national security and improve lives,” she said. “TCC is proud to do our part to educate more women and minorities for these important STEM industries.”

Joining Shucet, Kolovani and DuBois were Aubrey Layne, Virginia’s secretary of transportation; and Mike King, chair of the TCC Educational Foundation Board.

“The STEM Promise Program offers a unique opportunity to create a wonderfully diverse talent pool,” Layne said. “You the recipients of these scholarships will be a vital part of our future workforce and will go on to apply your knowledge to improve lives and very critically, grow our economy. I’m very proud our community partner, Tidewater Community College, has taken a part in building such a great program.”

TCC alumna Carol Curtis, owner of the general contracting firm Noah Enterprises, talked about her journey to success, which began at TCC with a degree in civil engineering technology. “I came to TCC to study accounting but found my passion in dirt and concrete,” she said.

“Judging from my experience as a TCC student, I know you will be challenged and you may even encounter difficulties,” she told the students. “Get to know each other. Support each other.”

TCC’s 2017 STEM Promise Scholars and their programs are:

  • Xiaomin Chen, Zuni, Associate of Science in Engineering
  • Bianca Harold, Virginia Beach, Associate of Science in Engineering
  • Gabrielle Johnson, Chesapeake, Associate of Science in Science with Specialization in Computer Science
  • Kasen Martel, Chesapeake, Associate of Science in Engineering
  • Deloren Perry, Virginia Beach, Associate of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology
  • Valerie Randall, Chesapeake, Associate of Science in Engineering
  • Alexis Spangler, Virginia Beach, Associate of Science in Engineering
  • Robert Sutton, Virginia Beach, Associate of Science in Engineering
  • Katherine Synowiec, Virginia Beach, Associate of Science in Engineering
  • Alla Topp, Virginia Beach, Associate of Science in Engineering

Up to 20 more students will be awarded scholarships for fall 2018.

Those interested in supporting the TCC Women’s Center STEM Promise Program should contact James Toscano, executive director of the TCC Educational Foundation, at 757-822-1015 or