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The Kerley family has made TCC a family affair.

Rick and Sandra Kerley graduated from Tidewater Community College together and now they have two sons working toward degrees of their own.

Sandra was the first to enroll at TCC with the encouragement of her husband. She signed up for several business courses and met professor Linda Williams.

“Coming to TCC was scary and exciting at the same time. I thought I’d be the old person going back to school, but that was not the case. At TCC it’s not about your age, race, religion. It’s about learning and sharing ideas,” Sandra Kerley said.

She added, “After meeting Professor Williams, I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree. She became my mentor and friend, and I even worked with her doing research on the cost of textbooks and e-books for the textbook free “Z” degree.

Because of Sandra’s enthusiasm for the subject, Rick enrolled in business classes, but found a more satisfying path learning mechatronics from dean Thomas Stout. 

Rick Kerley working at Weyerhaeuser Company

“I was that kid who loved to take apart toys just so I could put them back together. As an adult, I took that love of hands-on work and turned it into a viable career option with my degree. Graduating from TCC alongside Sandra was one of the proudest moments of my life,” he said.

The couple graduated from the college in December 2014. Rick earned his Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics and Sandra was awarded an Associate of Science in Business Administration.

Rick is a millwright for Weyerhaeuser Company. He maintains and repairs advanced manufacturing equipment, including hydraulics, pneumatics, computer numerical controls, and also does structural work and welding. “My wife says she never seen me so happy to go to work and it’s true,” Rick said. “I never would have had a chance at this job without my degree.”

This week, Sandra begins working toward her bachelor’s in business administration at East Carolina University. “At TCC, I was never a number, but a face with a name. It was a very personal education,” she said. “My time there showed me what I want to do with the rest of my life – teach business at the community college level. We are like family and being part of TCC gave me a feeling I never had before.”

Sandra added, “I’m really shocked that I’ve gotten this far. After troubled teen years, three kids by 24 and a failed marriage by 26, I never thought I could do this. But here I am.”

Sons Jacob and Nathan George continue studying at TCC. Jacob is working toward his Associate of Science in Engineering and has his eye on Virginia Tech. Nathan is completing his Emergency Medical Technician training and hopes to join the fire department.

“Other than marrying my wife and having my children, coming to TCC was one of most important decisions of my life,” Rick said. “I used to live week to week. Now I can provide a better lifestyle for my family.”

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