The 2015 VCCS Student Leadership Conference was a great opportunity for John Tyler students to hone their leadership, networking and community outreach skills and to learn how to impact campus life as successful student leaders.
Held in November, a group of students representing Tyler travelled to Roanoke, VA for the conference. With a theme of "The Power of You,” they attended presentations on social media, random acts of kindness, leadership styles, dining savvy, salsa lessons, and a student organization round table. Students heard keynote speakers talk about service leadership and finding your true passion, and participated in the Stop Hunger Now campaign by packing meals to feed 20,000 people. They also met and connected with students from all 23 of Virginia’s Community Colleges.
In 2012, Anissa Ellis, armed with a sense of determination and a need for change, decided to take a leap of faith. She quit her job in information technology, her career for 15 years, took a 60 percent pay cut, and became a full-time nurse’s aide at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) – all while working on a Nursing degree at John Tyler Community College. Anissa did not make these decisions lightly. She had long held an interest in medicine, felt a need to give back to her community, and desires to do something more, something different, with her life. It was the death, however, of a friend from lung cancer at the age of 32 and the care her friend received that prompted Anissa to take action. “I knew I wanted to be there for other families, like someone was there for us,” she said.
Anissa wanted a competitive nursing program, so she researched her options. She chose Tyler’s program because of its reputation and high NCLEX pass rates. The work was demanding, but Anissa readily accepted the challenges and opportunities that arose. “John Tyler has had a profound effect on my life,” she said. “Not only have I had rigorous training for my new career path, but I have been able to travel the world. As a member of Phi Theta Kappa [Honor Society], I was selected as a delegate to represent nursing students from the United States and travel to Australia to study universal health care. I also had the opportunity through our Study Abroad program and a John Tyler Foundation scholarship to travel to Greece and study the ancient civilizations there. Both were breathtaking experiences that have provided an opportunity to take a more culturally diverse approach to my studies and career.”
Anissa completed her Associate of Applied Science Degree in Nursing at the end of the Fall 2014 semester. Since graduating from Tyler, she was promoted to a registered nurse at VCU Medical Center. Anissa says VCU is piloting a program with her in the surgical services/operating room area, which includes rotations in Acute Care Pediatrics, Surgical Trauma ICU and other specialty areas. “So far all of the departments I have interacted with have been very impressed with my performance and have offered me full-time positions,” she says. “They are not only surprised that I am a new graduate, they are also surprised that I graduated from a two-year program and not a four-year program. I credit not only my hard work but the preparation that I received in the John Tyler Nursing Program.”
Although Anissa is immersed in her work, she’s still making plans for her education. She wants to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing through the University of Alabama’s online RN to BSN program.
As she moves forward in her career and in her education, Anissa offers this advice to those who are just starting out at Tyler: “To anyone entering the Nursing Program, be prepared to work. It is not an easy program, and it shouldn't be. We have people's lives in our hands, and you need to be at your best in those situations. Develop a positive support system. Family, friends or find a mentor. There will be days that you doubt yourself, and those positive individuals in your corner are priceless. You will also run into negative people along the way. Identify who they are, and steer clear. Negativity will make things harder than they need to be. It is ok and expected that you will study a lot, but also find time to take care of yourself. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Find a hobby or something that you enjoy, and hold on to it.”
She also encourages everyone – whether interested in nursing or not – to follow their passion. “Because I am doing something that I love not a single day feels like work. I encourage everyone to chase their dreams. It is worth every moment!”
When Charis Armstrong was a high school student participating in local design firm Baskervill's Explorer Program, a Baskervill team member paid Armstrong a high compliment. "He told me that I think like an architect," beams Armstrong. To Armstrong, that means "thinking creatively, but rationally."
The recent Tyler graduate's track record proves the compliment right.
"In high school, I wanted to study interior design. But, when I got to Baskervill, it was really architecture that interested me. Interior design is all about putting your imprint on someone else's space. Architecture is about making the space itself. That's so exciting."
As Charis was approaching her high school graduation, she did her research. "Everything kept pointing to the University of Virginia (UVA). It had the two things I wanted: an excellent Architecture School and an impressive Asian Studies Department where I could continue studying Japanese." Unfortunately, after applying to UVA during the fall of her senior year, Armstrong was denied admission.
It was time for some rational and creative thinking.
Armstrong visited with a dean at UVA and talked about her transfer options for the Architecture School (A-School). The dean told her that she could attend a Virginia community college for two years, earn her associate degree, and if she met certain requirements, be guaranteed admission to UVA's College of Arts and Sciences.
"I knew there was no guarantee of being admitted to the A-School, but with guidance from the dean, I decided to adopt John Tyler Community College's General Studies Degree requirements to fit those advised by UVA's A-School for transfer students. The guaranteed admission agreement to the College of Arts and Sciences was my back-up plan."
With a solid framework in place, Armstrong enrolled at Tyler in the fall of 2013. She focused on her coursework and kept in close contact with both her UVA contacts and her academic advisor at Tyler, decisions that paid off. During a visit to UVA, Armstrong learned that the A-School had recently opened its summer session studio classes to visiting students. Armstrong quickly enrolled.
"The intense creativity demanded by the course made me sure I was on the right track," said Armstrong. "I met fellow students undergoing the transfer process. I even worked with a notable faculty member who offered to write a letter or recommendation for my application."
Early in 2015, Armstrong submitted a portfolio of art pieces from her art classes at Tyler and the UVA summer studio course, as well as her application and recommendations, to the University of Virginia. On May 1, Armstrong logged into UVA's online system and learned that she'd been accepted into the A-School's Class of 2017. In May 15, she proudly graduated from Tyler and celebrated her academic achievements - so far - with family and friends.
"This summer, I am headed to Charlottesville to complete two summer studios required of transfer students, and I'll begin as a third-year student this fall. In the fall, I'm even rooming with a friend I met last summer, only minutes from the A-School."
Best of all, Armstrong will be right where she knew she should be: deep in the creative process, surrounded by drafting paper, thin wood strips, glue, Exacto knives, mini handsaws and all the tools of the architecture trade at the University of Virginia. "With my story, I hope other students will see what's possible if you are willing to work for it."
Want to see where Tyler can take you? Visit www.jtcc.edu/transfer.
Asein Ta believes education is vital. He also believes in the importance of giving back. Because of that, he not only wants to become an elementary school teacher, he wants to teach English as a Second Language (ESL).
Asein was born in a rural area of Myanmar (Burma), and after losing his parents, he moved to Thailand, where he lived in refugee camps for more than four years. When the opportunity arose to move to another country, Asein asked to be taken to the United States. In 2008, he came to Virginia and was placed in the foster care system.
He first learned about John Tyler Community College while taking dual enrollment courses in high school. When he found out about Tyler’s Great Expectations program, which offers support and guidance to foster youth who want to get a college education, Asein says he knew the College would be a good fit for him.
Asein says he feels like he’s part of a family at John Tyler. He loves the College’s diversity, and he believes Tyler is helping students make better lives for themselves.
“Graduating from John Tyler gives me the confidence to continue my education at a four-year university,” says Asein. He will graduate from Tyler in May 2015. After graduation, Asein will transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to work on a bachelor’s and then master’s degree.
Hear more from Asein in the video Snapshots of the Class of 2015.
Amber Staton wants to make a difference in the lives of people who are facing life-altering challenges. Her passion for the field of human services stems from her own experiences. She has survived the suicide of a close family member; has been homeless; and is a mother who is juggling family needs with work and school. It’s not easy, but Amber is determined.
She says she’s thankful for what she’s discovered at John Tyler. She’s found strong mentors in the teaching faculty, financial support through scholarships and work-study opportunities, and flexible class schedules that help her balance her many responsibilities. “My time at John Tyler has meant so much to me. I had the chance to grow not only educationally. I found me during my time at JTCC. I learned who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do in life. I met amazing people along the way who helped me grow and when life tried to get in the way they pulled me back in. I got so many opportunities I never thought possible.”
Amber says she’s ready for her next challenge: completing a bachelor’s degree. She will do that at Mary Baldwin College, where she’s been accepted into the social work program. Eventually, she hopes to own a clinic that provides counseling services.
Hear more from Amber in the video Snapshots of the Class of 2015.
Jé Mira Johnson likes a good challenge. That’s why she’s pursuing a career in business. As one of eight children, sticking to a budget is important. So, with an eye toward finances, she opted to make John Tyler Community College the first stop in her college career.
Tyler’s flexible course schedule; approachable faculty, staff and administrators; resources; and student activities surprised Jé Mira. She says Tyler helped her get an internship with the Chesterfield Chamber, where she gained valuable hands-on, real-world skills. Jé Mira says thanks to her experiences at Tyler, she feels prepared for the next steps in her education and for her future career. “I feel like I am another step closer to achieving my dreams, and I didn't need to take out any loans to do it!”
After graduation, Jé Mira hopes to continue her education at George Mason University.
Hear more from Je’Mira in the video Snapshots of the Class of 2015.
Hanna Lamphere wants to help children realize their potential the way others have helped her discover hers. She wants to do that by becoming a teacher, then a school counselor, and eventually a school principal.
Hanna’s path to realizing her dream took an unexpected turn when she decided to leave the four-year college that she had enrolled in right out of high school. She said she felt in over her head and was left frustrated by the experience. After taking a few years off from school, Hannah realized it was time to refocus her efforts. She wanted a college education, so, she signed up for classes at John Tyler.
Hanna says Tyler’s faculty and staff inspire her to push herself. And thanks to that encouragement, Hanna says she’s become more confident in her abilities, and she’s gained the courage to dream big. “I think about how JTCC has prepared me to walk confidently into the next chapter of my life,” says Hanna. “Tyler has been such a profound part of my life and I am so grateful for the experiences I had here."
After earning her degree at Tyler, she plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to complete a bachelor’s degree. She eventually wants to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate degree.
Hear more from Hanna in the video Snapshots of the Class of 2015.
Jason Brown is grateful for second chances, and he’s determined to open doors for people who may feel they have no options. That’s what he says John Tyler Community College did for him. Jason describes himself as a recovering substance abuse user. His life experiences taught him valuable lessons, and he believes he has much to share with those dealing with similar challenges. That’s why he decided to pursue a Human Services degree at John Tyler. He says, before Tyler, doors kept getting shut, and now, his opportunities are many.
As he counts down the days to graduation, Jason is already looking ahead to the next step in his journey. He’s wants to continue his education at Virginia State University, earn a bachelor’s degree, and work in substance abuse counseling.
“I am excited to be finished, but I am sad to be leaving the people who have helped me discover who I am supposed to be. John Tyler has given me the tools I need in order to succeed,” says Jason.
Hear more from Jason in the video Snapshots of the Class of 2015.
Against a backdrop of vivid color appears a shy smile, an engaging grin, a cautious stare, a mischevious twinkle, a look of hope. For weeks, John Tyler Community College art students in Professor Colin Ferguson’s Portrait Class have worked carefully to create the fine details that make up each portrait. This is a special project for the student artists – one that goes beyond grades. These portraits are gifts for young people living in Ghana. They are part of the Memory Project, an initiative that gives children, from all over the world, who have been abandoned, orphaned, abused or neglected, a personal keepsake. This is the ninth year Tyler has participated in the Memory Project. In past semesters, Ferguson and his students have painted portraits of children from Nepal, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Peru, Uganda, Myanmar, Haiti and Ecuador.
Each students who participates in the project is given the photograph of a child or teen. Then, using techniques they learned in Ferguson’s class, they put brush to canvas, creating a likeness of their child. “This assignment continues to be one of the most significant to the students, and the quality of the work testifies to this,” says Ferguson, professor of studio art at John Tyler. “Ben Schumaker, who created The Memory Project, told me the portraits from John Tyler are consistently among the best he receives each year.”
This year, 17 portraits were painted by Ferguson and his students. From now until May 17, 2015, the paintings will be on display on the second floor of Eliades Hall at the College’s Midlothian Campus. After May 17, the portraits will be taken down, carefully wrapped and shipped to the Memory Project, which will deliver the paintings to the children who are featured in them.
The College’s participation in this project is supported by the John Tyler Community College Foundation.
Four students from the Nursing Program at John Tyler Community College spent spring break caring for children in the remote mountain regions of Central Honduras.
Stacey Randolph, Cora Fearnow, Hannah Alvarez and Stefanie Burch were a part of a 17 person Friends of Barnabas Mountain Medical Mission Team lead by Tyler nursing faculty member Janet Arnold. The nursing students worked with nurses, doctors and support staff from the U.S. and Honduras to provide general medical care to some of the poorest children in the western hemisphere. Many patients had never seen a healthcare provider. Stefanie Burch observed, “It wasn't until I traveled to a place where people are in desperate need of medical help and education that I understood the true significance of the things I've learned and the career I am pursuing.”
The nursing students assisted with health physicals, vision screenings and tooth extractions. They administered vitamin A to prevent blindness and anti-parasite medications, applied fluoride to teeth, and checked blood pressures. In total, the team cared for 764 medical patients.
“The trip to Honduras was an unforgettable experience,” said Stacey Randolph. “I believe many of us enter into the nursing profession because we have a motivation to help others. This was a wonderful opportunity to work to help strengthen communities in Honduras and to bring back what we’ve learned to help our own communities.”
Medical care was not the only service provided. In each community visited, the nursing students found time to blow bubbles, paint fingernails, kick soccer balls, throw frisbees, cuddle babies and read stories with local children. “I never could have imagined how much the people of Honduras would impact me, said Hannah Alvarez. “They taught me to see life from a different perspective, to become grateful for the things that I used to take for granted, and to not worry about the small things in life."
To prepare for the trip, each student raised funds for their own travel expenses and for the medical supplies used during the week.
Grace Jackson loves science. She wants to understand cause and effect – especially as it pertains to the world’s oceans. That’s why she’s studying to become a marine biologist. She says her education at John Tyler Community College is helping her build a foundation that she hopes will lead to Old Dominion University, a master’s degree and her dream career. Jackson didn’t come to college right out of high school. She found herself in the workforce after graduation, but she soon found herself longing for more. So, she researched her options and chose Tyler.
Last year, Jackson was among the first students to be selected for the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Bridges to the Baccalaureate Dream-to-Goal program, which is run in partnership between VCU, John Tyler and Thomas Nelson Community College. During the summer months, Jackson spent eight weeks living in VCU dorms, learning about research techniques, and working in a research lab. She says the program, which spans two summers, is giving her new insight into how research really works and is providing her with practical experience both in a laboratory setting and on a larger college campus. She thanks faculty at Tyler for letting her know about the program and encouraging her to apply.
Gloria Horne says John Tyler Community College is helping her live her dream. After working for years in the retail industry, she is back in college, studying to become a nurse. Horne, a wife, mother and grandmother, says she always wanted a career in which she could help people. She decided to pursue a nursing career after observing the care and compassion offered by the hospice nurses who cared for her mother. She decided to attend John Tyler, so she enrolled and immersed herself in her studies and in student life. Horne is a scholarship recipient, member of the Chemistry Club and attended the Student Leadership Conference. And, she hopes to start an organization specifically for older students, to help them transition into college life. Tyler offers an abundance of resources, and Horne wants to make sure students understand what’s available to them – especially if it’s been several years since they’ve been in class. Once she graduates from Tyler, she wants to begin working as a nurse, and she hopes to transfer to Old Dominion University to complete a bachelor’s degree through the university’s distance education program.
Samantha Daniel wants to meet and work with people from different cultures so that she can better understand their perspectives and their needs. She understands the need to remain open-minded, especially when unexpected situations arise. After high school, Daniel had planned to attend a four-year institution. When her first choice wait-listed her, she decided to approach her education from another angle. She chose John Tyler Community College, but admits to being skeptical at first. Daniel says the College, its people and its offerings quickly won her over. She likes the ability to balance work and college, and she also is grateful for the College’s involvement in the community. Daniel is particularly excited to be the secretary of Tyler’s History Club, which is involved in an effort to save Virginia’s Rosenwald schools. After graduating from Tyler in the summer of 2015, Daniel plans to transfer to the University of Virginia or to William and Mary to major in international relations and minor in Middle Eastern studies.
Patricia Faris finds inspiration in all that surrounds her. Her artist’s eye is drawn to the way light dances across a face, to the many nuances of color displayed in nature, and to the way light plays with shadow. With so much beauty, Faris says it can be difficult to select just one subject to focus on in her art. She admits, however, to having a favorite – the horse. “It provides multiple opportunities for light, shadow and color,” says Faris. “I guess it’s their beautiful form, their motion and their spirit that captivates me.” Faris’ passion for these powerful animals is evident in her work, “Montpelier Hunt Races, No. 1,” which was named the John Tyler Community College Foundation Art Award winner for 2015. “I was exhilarated and could not believe that I was the winner,” Faris said. “It was, to me, a confirmation that I may be going in the right direction with my work.”
Faris, who lives in Midlothian, says her interest in art began in kindergarten, when one of her drawings was published on the cover of the school newspaper. Her father, an architect, encouraged any form of art, and Faris says she and her sister always had a supply of crayons and watercolors with which they could experiment. Although her love of art continued through high school, Faris decided to pursue a career in nursing. In 1983, she graduated from John Tyler Community College with her degree and went on to work in neurosurgery. In 2005, Faris decided to go back to school to explore her artistic talents. She says she ended up back at Tyler because it was close to home, was affordable, allowed her to take classes without declaring a major, and offered classes that were small and personal.
Faris recently retired from nursing, but she continues to hone her art skills. She is enrolled in an art class at Tyler and has just completed the second painting in her Montpelier Hunt Races series. She plans to create three more for the series, and once those are completed, she hopes to have all five paintings go on display in the Richmond area. In the meantime, her first Montpelier Hunt Races painting will be featured on the new John Tyler Community College Foundation Art Award poster.
A lot of kids talk about becoming a doctor or lawyer when they grow up. Khiree Stewart knew that he wanted to report news since he was five-years-old. That passion stuck with him when it was time for him to go to college.
Stewart enrolled at John Tyler Community College in the fall of 2008. He considered going to a four-year university but decided to go to John Tyler because of its prime location, small classes and tuition and fees that are about one-third of what he would've spent at a typical four-year college or university in Virginia. While Stewart was taking classes at Tyler, he interned at Q94 in Richmond, where he learned the "in and outs" of radio broadcasting,
Stewart graduated from John Tyler in the summer of 2011 with an associate degree in arts and sciences and continued his education at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). He interned at CBS 6 during his time at VCU.
In December 2013, Stewart graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a minor in general business. That same month, he accepted a job as a news reporter at WHSV TV-3 in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Stewart plans to earn his master's degree, and his ultimate goal is to work for a national news agency.
Learn more about Stewart at www.khireestewart.com.
Entering Michele Kelly’s art classroom at Spring Run Elementary School is like entering a rainbow. The room – and Kelly herself – burst with color and pure joy. Everywhere you look there is something interesting, colorful and inspirational to see, and Kelly moves quickly among the numerous art supplies, materials and books, chatting and laughing.
Clearly, Kelly is not the type of person who can sit at a desk all day, and it’s hard to image her as anything other than an art educator. She is perfect for the role, and John Tyler Community College made it all possible.
When Kelly had been out of college for 24 years and her children were getting older, she felt the need for a change. Art had always interested her, and with the help of a counselor at Tyler, she decided to enroll in the College’s art program.
“I was intimidated when I started, but the faculty at Tyler – especially Mikell Brown and Colin Ferguson – took me in and treated me like family. They encouraged me.” As she moved through the art program at Tyler, Kelly considered a career in commercial arts, but faculty members encouraged her to consider art education. “I was a lunch lady before I came to Tyler, so they knew I liked working with kids. And, I knew I wanted a career where I could be with working with kids, doing great things.”
After completing her fine arts certificate at Tyler, Kelly transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). When she graduated from VCU in 2008, Kelly earned her position at Spring Run, and she’s been happily splashing color around the school ever since.
Shawn Fenner worked for more than ten years as a writer and editor at a local newspaper, but he felt a strong pull to do something more. He wanted to be a nurse. Fenner researched his options and chose the Nursing Program at John Tyler Community College. Fenner described the program as “well-respected in the community,” and the experience delivered.
For Fenner, Tyler’s Nursing Program was challenging and eye-opening. The instructors, his classmates, and his clinical experiences helped him learn the skills necessary to become a nurse and, at the same time, discover more about his own capabilities and interests. “Nursing is about knowledge, but also comfort,” says Fenner. “You want to make people feel as much at ease as possible.”
Fenner graduated from Tyler in 2012, and now, he works at Johnston-Willis Hospital, often during the overnight shift in the Intensive Care Unit. Patients, families, and coworkers frequently praise Fenner’s dedication to his work, and in March 2014, he was recognized with a Frist Award, the highest award given at Johnston-Willis. In August 2014, Fenner completed his bachelor’s degree in nursing online through the University of Texas at Arlington.
Fenner credits much of his current success to his early experiences at Tyler. In fact, the newsman-turned-nurse felt so strongly about his experience at Tyler that he recently encouraged his son to enroll at the College and established a scholarship for future Tyler students through the John Tyler Community College Foundation.
Alexandria “Alex” Ritchie knows what she wants to do. She wants to earn an associate degree in engineering at John Tyler, to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to continue studying biomedical engineering, and to apply to medical school so she can become a pediatric physician. This is not just a well-thought-out career pathway for Ritchie – it’s a personal journey. When she was 13, her parents sat her down and told her about a sibling she had never known – one who had suffered from a chromosome deficiency. The story ignited a spark in Richie, and driven by the desire to help others, she put together a strategy for her education. At first, a two-year degree from John Tyler was not in her plan, but a change in finances prompted her to enroll in the College’s Engineering program. “It ended up being a good thing,” Ritchie said. “I like how invested the faculty and staff are in the students here, and there are internship and scholarship opportunities.”
One of those opportunities presented itself when she became one of only 40 community and junior college students from across the nation to be selected to travel to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as part of the National Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) project. While at the center, she had the opportunity to meet NASA engineers, to learn more about careers in science and engineering, and to participate in a competition to build a prototype Mars rover. “It wasn’t related to medicine,” Ritchie said. “But, it allowed me to see engineering in action and to meet people and find out how they used their engineering degrees. It also taught me how to think like an engineer – how to problem-solve and approach situations from different angles.”
When Sean Mayers thinks about the future, he looks to the stars and considers the possibilities. Mayers, an engineering student at John Tyler, has a keen interest in both aerospace and chemical engineering. That interest was heightened even more when in spring 2014, he became one of only 40 community and junior college students from across the nation to be selected to travel to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as part of the National Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) project. The experience allowed him to interact with NASA engineers, to learn more about careers in science and engineering, and to participate in a competition to build a prototype Mars rover. Mayers described the trip as eye-opening, because it introduced him to a variety of career options in a field where he has long dreamed of working.
Mayers is already a successful entrepreneur, owning his own janitorial business. He’s also a college graduate, holding a degree in political science. But, becoming an engineer is his passion. “I came to Tyler after my daughter was born, because I wanted to change my life,” he said. “I visited the campus, spoke to the faculty, got excited about the possibilities and started classes.” After he graduates from Tyler, Mayers wants to transfer to a four-year university to complete a bachelor’s degree. He then wants to put what he’s learned to work before beginning a master’s degree. Who would be his dream employer? “I would love to work at NASA,” he says with a smile. “The people there seem to love their jobs and seem to be having a lot of fun.”
That NASA dream job is now becoming reality. A few months after taking part in the NCAS project, Mayers earned a 16-week, full-time, on-site internship at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Through the internship, he’ll spend fall 2014 working with space launch systems. Mayers will return to Tyler to finish his degree in the Spring 2015 semester.
For a mother, what could be sweeter than watching her daughter graduate from college? Graduating with her.
Leslie Prigge, the wife of a Fort Lee solider, earned her GED just before her daughter, Emma, graduated from high school. With a shared love of art and the desire to pursue careers in photography, the two decided to go to college and began to explore their options. Leslie and Emma knew they had a new deployment ahead of them and limited time to earn their associate degrees. After a visit to the education center at Fort Lee, the pair discovered John Tyler Community College and its two-year degree in visual arts. They signed up for classes using G.I. Bill benefits and immersed themselves in the program.
In May 2014, Leslie and Emma graduated with degrees from Tyler's Visual Arts program. At the College’s commencement ceremony, mother and daughter crossed the stage — one right behind the other— and, cheered each other on.
That day carried special meaning for both, as this video highlights. Proud of herself and her daughter, Leslie explains, “This time, I’ll actually get to achieve a bigger goal of finishing college and walking across the stage. And, I’ll also get to do it with my daughter. That makes it so much better.”
Now, Leslie and Emma are focused on their new goal: starting careers as photographers.
Seven Amelia County High School students marked a first for John Tyler Community College when they crossed the stage as part of the Class of 2014. They became the first cohort of high school students to graduate from the College with a career studies certificate in Basic Precision Machining Technology. Their graduations from college come about a month before they celebrate their high school graduations.
For the past two years during the fall and spring semesters, Anthony Bickley; William Clements, III; Andrew Collins; Wilson “Will” Morgan; Billy Phillips, III; Seth Roberts; and Ricky White spent two hours a day, four days a week at the Chester Campus, building the skill sets needed to be competitive in the in-demand field of advanced manufacturing. They have gone through the rigors of Tyler’s program, honing their abilities in manual and automated machining. All seven earned National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certifications, which are nationally recognized industry credentials. Each of the students earned at least one NIMS certification; some earned three.
Melinda Miller, interim associate dean of the Division of Engineering, Business and Public Services at Tyler, says learning these skills while in high school gives students a big advantage. “A lot of what’s happening in the economy in Virginia and in the country is bringing manufacturing back to the U.S., so we need those skills here. Getting these skills and earning industry credentials while in high school puts these students way ahead. It makes them marketable.”
Sharing their perspective on the program and graduation in this video, members of this cohort are now ready to take what they’ve learned at Tyler and make their futures happen.
To listen to Zachary Ochoa today, you’d never know that he arrived at John Tyler Community College purely as a matter of chance.
Ochoa grew up in a military family, and he’d always planned on enlisting after high school. But, a recruiter made an error on Ochoa’s paperwork, and Ochoa suddenly found himself facing a year with no plans. Quick decisions were made. Ochoa would attend John Tyler Community College.
Just four short years later, with degrees from Tyler and James Madison University behind him, Ochoa’s long-term goals include: being recognized on Tyler’s Giving Tree, creating a scholarship for Tyler students, and eventually being asked to be the College’s commencement speaker. Cleary, Tyler made a difference in Ochoa’s life, and he intends to repay the College that, “prepared him so well,” for JMU.
Ochoa maximized his college experience. At Tyler, he was the vice president for leadership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a tutor, and a founding member of the Writing Club. His writing, research and time-management skills improved, and he learned how to tap into college resources and lead organizations. He used a Guaranteed Transfer Agreement to transfer to Madison. There, he worked as a research assistant, took on a senior honors research project and worked as a student assistant with the Department of Political Science. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and was published.
As a research assistant at Madison, Ochoa researched rogue states and analyzed recently declassified documents on the Bosnia conflict. His senior honors thesis examined the rise of superpowers. “Understanding a rising superpower is about analyzing its potential,” said Ochoa. “I concentrated my research on what leads to a country becoming a superpower. This research allowed me to make a real contribution to my field and provided an opportunity to do original research, expanding the knowledge and understanding of the subject.”
Ochoa presented his research at the 2014 Colonial Academic Alliance Undergraduate Conference in Maryland, and his senior honors thesis won the International Affairs Major’s Best Thesis Award for 2014. Now that he has graduated from Madison, Ochoa plans to move to Fredericksburg and work at GEICO as a management trainee.
Dr. Kristine Smetana loves chemistry. She loves the squish of slime and digging her fingers into oozing, bubbling oobleck. She loves the pop of goggles on faces and the wonder and surprise she elicits when an exothermic reaction instantly creates a hot, foamy mess. She loves the periodic table of elements. She even loves the smell of hydrogen sulfide. And, Smetana, a professor of chemistry at John Tyler Community College, is the reason why so many Tyler students – and children throughout the greater Richmond area – now love chemistry too.
Smetana routinely gets high marks for her zany, engaging teaching style at the College. She also coordinates countless hands-on science activities at the College’s Fool for Art Festival each April, and she was recently recognized by the American Chemical Society with her ninth ChemLuminary Award for innovative and creative ways of sharing chemistry in her community. She was spotlighted on the American Chemical Society’s College to Career website for Chemical Education and was the ACS Outreach Volunteer of the year for the Virginia Section. Each year, Smetana coordinates activities for National Chemistry Week and Earth Day at the College and at venues around town, including the Science Museum of Virginia. If you see her, stand back, and let her do her thing. You’ll love it.
People in Silva Garcia’s life have been kinder and more generous to her than she ever could have expected.
Garcia was born in Honduras, and as she was growing up, her family stressed the importance of education. In 2009, Garcia and her father came to the United States. A short time later, Garcia’s father was deported, and she was left alone. Eventually, Garcia entered the foster-care system and moved to Virginia, where she began attending Meadowbrook High School in Chesterfield. She worked hard on her courses and her English. As graduation approached, her teachers strongly recommended John Tyler.
At Tyler, Garcia had the support of the Great Expectations program, support for which she’s extremely grateful. “I love this college. Everybody here is wonderful. They are always there for me. They’ve helped me with tuition, housing, transportation. They’ve helped me get tutoring support, which I need since English is my second language. My life changed totally when I came here.”
And, she is repaying that kindness the best way she knows how: by being a light for others. She regularly reaches out to other in the Hispanic community and encourages them to come to Tyler to get an education and improve their lives. She even started a Latin American Culture Club to connect Hispanic students at Tyler.
Garcia is working on her pre-nursing courses so that she can apply to Tyler’s Nursing Program. But, that’s just the start. After she earns her nursing degree and gets some work experience, she plans to start medical school. Her top choice? Johns Hopkins.
They opened doors to an education that had long been denied to many in the South. They offered a sense of community, and they inspired hope. For decades, they stood strong in the face of the struggle for educational equality, but now, these historic symbols are vanishing.
Here in Virginia, an estimated 30 percent of Rosenwald schools remain standing. Also quietly slipping away are the memories of those who worked or received their education at Rosenwald schools.
Ongoing efforts to save these school buildings and to preserve the stories surrounding them inspired members of John Tyler Community College’s faculty to get involved. They reached out into the community and began collaborating with preservationists, historians and other educators on a number of projects tied to these historic sites.
One of the biggest projects stems from a partnership with Preservation Virginia. In February 2014, John Tyler and Preservation Virginia co-hosted Saving Virginia’s Rosenwald Schools, an event that drew 75 people from across the Commonwealth to Tyler’s Chester Campus. Among the attendees were representatives from 16 Rosenwald schools, including alumni; preservationists; researchers; academics; students; and history buffs. All were eager to share stories, exchange ideas, and discuss successes and failures in their personal efforts to preserve the memories and legacy of these schools.
Gerrick Waters, a Tyler student who attended the event, shared, “I found the presentation interesting because there are several Rosenwald schools in the area where I grew up. My parents and grandparents all attended Rosenwald schools during their school age years.”
Other preservation projects involving John Tyler faculty and students are highlighted in this news release.
When it comes to planning your future, you never know when your experiences will inspire you to change the direction you are headed. That's exactly what Renato Arenas found out.
When he graduated from high school in Chesterfield County in 2009, Arenas couldn’t afford college, so he took a job as a mechanic. A year later, realizing he wanted a different career, he re-evaluated his life.
Arenas decided to continue his education. He picked John Tyler Community College saying it was the perfect choice because tuition is affordable, the College is close to home, and it offers a great education.
With a General Studies degree almost completed, Arenas was surprised to develop an interest in business during a trip to Peru to visit family. He saw his aunt working in a business where she was part of a team, and he realized he would like to be part of a similar team.
That encounter was eye-opening. “I realized I was really into critical thinking and problem solving and that I wanted that in my career” says Renato. So, when he returned home, he switched majors and moved into Tyler’s Business Administration transfer program.
In May 2014, Arenas graduated from John Tyler, and even spoke as the student speaker at the College’s commencement ceremony.
Reflecting on his journey in this video, Arenas expresses mixed emotions about graduating. “I’m excited to be completely done with it, but I know it’s just a stepping stone to the next thing,” he says. “I’m really grateful for John Tyler. I’m always going to keep it in my heart.”
What’s Renato’s next step? He plans to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete his bachelor’s degree before going into international business. His long-range goal is to earn a master’s degree and to one day manage his own team.
Luke Griles enjoys exploring new opportunities, and he says that’s what John Tyler Community College is allowing him do.
Griles, who was home-schooled, enrolled in John Tyler as a concurrent student in the fall of 2012, so he could jump-start his college education. He says the College was a good choice for him. It came highly recommended by his friends, was convenient to his home in Amelia County, and offered classes in a variety of formats.
When he first started his classes, Griles wasn’t sure what to expect. But, Tyler the faculty did a great job of helping him transition into college-level work. The experience inspired him to continue his education at JTCC.
Now, Griles is working on earning a Liberal Arts degree with a specialization in communications. At the same time, he’s very active in the College’s Disciples of Christ Club and the Student Council. Luke calls his time at John Tyler an “excellent experience,” one that is helping him prepare for the next leg of his education.
Griles plans to transfer to a four-year university after graduating from JTCC. He wants to study psychology, and, perhaps, earn a doctorate so that he can go into counseling and help others.
This is a success story that starts and ends with a bit of advice: Do what you enjoy.
After completing his associate of applied arts degree at John Tyler, Mark Van Der Hyde wanted to enter the creative field and start life in the “real” world. Not just work on college projects for another two years. So, weeks after graduation, he moved to the greater Boston area to be closer to his fiancé and begin life together.
Van Der Hyde had no job in place after relocating, but made finding one his full-time job. He was bolstered by a bit of advice from a Tyler alum, Jon Burnley, who came back to talk to Van Der Hyde’s class about being a graphic designer. The alumnus told the class a four-year degree was not the only path to a career in graphic design. He was proof of that. “Go on lots of interviews, put your best personality forward, and do what you enjoy,” he said.
Burnley was not the only person from Tyler to have an effect on Van Der Hyde. The graphic designer, Meredith Carrington, who’d supervised Van Der Hyde’s internship in his final semester at Tyler suggested that a newspaper would be a good starting point for entry-level positions, especially since most towns have one. Van Der Hyde focused on those openings and landed a part-time opening at a New Hampshire publishing company. He worked hard, took on extra side projects, and gained valuable experience in a fast-paced work environment.
It was a side project that eventually landed Van Der Hyde a job at an interactive design agency, first as a designer and eventually as a senior producer and project manager.
“While I may not be doing design as my day job these days, I’m still doing something that I really enjoy,” says Van Der Hyde, who after 8 years in Boston decided it was time to come full circle. He emailed his former professor and mentor at John Tyler, Colin Ferguson, and asked if they’d be interested in having him come to talk about life after Tyler. His message, “Work hard and focus on what you enjoy doing. You’ll land in the right spot.”
How Judy Johnson, associate professor of English, and Dr. Celia Fryer, professor of Spanish, came to be sitting side-by-side at easels in John Tyler Community College’s art lab is a combination of a thousand different factors, not the least of which is that they both always want to improve as teachers.
In the art lab, the two college professors are students, practicing different ways of looking at their areas of expertise and their own classrooms. Johnson carefully recreates the folds in the dress in her painting, a copy of a Eudora Welty Works Progress Administration (WPA) photograph. Welty’s short stories were the focus of Johnson’s thesis, and American literature of the early 20th century continues to be one of her favorite subjects. Working on art pieces from the era gives her a different way of researching the time and understanding the subject.
Perched on a nearby stool, Fryer analyzes whether or not she has accurately captured the colors and designs of the native dress in her piece, an oil painting of a women in Guatemala. The painting is a tribute to Fryer’s childhood in Guatemala, which very much influences her passion for teaching Spanish at the College.
As they paint, the two encourage each other. When they are stumped, they turn to Colin Ferguson, professor of art, for help. All the while, they are recharging their brains for their own classrooms. “Doing this brings a lot of empathy to my classroom,” says Johnson.
“I agree with Judy, and it’s also a nice break from grading papers,” jokes Fryer.
Blake Beulike believes in the importance of planning. So, when he realized after high school that he had not determined his career interest, he decided to join the Marine Corp.
Through the Corp, he spent time at Paris Island, Camp Lejeune, and 29 Palms. He was also deployed to Okinawa as part of the Unit Deployment Program.
When Beulike returned to Virginia, he enrolled in John Tyler Community College. Beulike says he chose John Tyler because of the value and comfortable class size. And, because he has to support himself, the College’s flexible class schedule allows him to juggle work and school.
It was while taking his classes that Beulike discovered his interest in economics, history and philosophy. Those interests and concerns about the financial crisis caused by the mortgage bubble brought his career plans into focus.
Beulike graduated from JTCC with his General Studies degree in Spring 2014.
Beulike hopes to eventually earn a master’s degree and to work in the public sector, helping others avoid financial crises.
Nik Grimsley knows that he wants to work in business. In fact, he’s already trying his hand at ownership by operating an online company. But, Grimsley is thinking bigger and says he sees himself eventually starting a major business.
Before he does that, though, he wanted to get a solid education that will teach him the skills he needs to be successful.
Grimsley didn’t want to go into debt to go to school, so he researched his options and found John Tyler Community College to be a smart financial choice. Grimsley says John Tyler gives him a top-notch education by providing him with faculty who have different backgrounds, who are connected to the real world, and who want their students to move into successful careers.
In May 2014, Grimsley graduated with his associate degree in Business Administration. He hopes to use a guaranteed transfer agreement to continue his education.
American graphic designer and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Saul Bass famously said, “Design is thinking made visual.”
In 2013, Bunnie Comer, a graphic design student at Tyler, documented the “visual thinking” she uses to create chalkboard drawings at Richmond’s popular Strawberry Street Café for a class project. In her time-lapse video, Comer erases a drawing she did of a famous painting by Manet and replaces it with a Havoc-wreaking VCU Ram.
“I really love watching the process and seeing the drawing come to life. The video let me view my work in a different way as well,” says Comer. “This project really opened doors for me, and it has shown me that a little extra work can get your name out there and get you noticed.”
The video, which – along with two of Comer’s other pieces – won the 2014 J. Wade Ferrell Award in Tyler’s 2014 Juried Student Art Show, already has more than 3,000 views, and it has inspired Comer to create more time-lapse videos of her chalkboard drawings at the cafe. The video may take Comer one more place she didn’t expect: back to Tyler for more classes.
“I may come to Tyler for a painting class or two,” says Comer. “I’ve never worked with the medium before, but people approach me for paintings all the time. I’d love to be able to do a mural on one of the buildings in Richmond.”
Stay tuned to Comer’s YouTube channel for what’s next.
Business analysts often talk of efficiency, cost-savings, strategy and optimal implementation schedules. Gagan Marwah seems made for the role.
Marwah started his college education earlier than most by taking John Tyler Community College dual enrollment classes in Oracle at the Chesterfield Technical Center. By the time he graduated from high school, Marwah had earned 16 college credits.
He’d done well in high school and considered four-year colleges and universities, but the numbers pointed to John Tyler’s Information Systems program. It offered the right mix of business and information technology classes, and tuition and fees run about one-third of what they are at public four-year colleges and universities in Virginia.
While enrolled at Tyler, Marwah landed a coveted spot as a summer intern at Dominion Resources, Inc., where he worked in the Customer Business Solutions Department analyzing and testing web platforms and mobile applications. He did so well at Dominion that they asked him to stay on as a part-time intern while he continues his college education.
In January 2014, Marwah began taking classes at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in information systems.
Fashion design is all about challenging conventional thinking, and aspiring fashion mogul Emily McGee is off to a good start on that front.
Early in her high school career, McGee found herself anxious to get started on more specialized coursework. So, she threw out the traditional concept of a high school education and crafted a plan to take dual enrollment courses that earned her both high school and college credits, as well as online, evening and summer classes at John Tyler Community College.
The pattern worked well. McGee knocked out her core college requirements and graduated with an associate degree from John Tyler just weeks before she graduated from Clover Hill High School. It’s an idea that is trending with many local high school students who are driven to succeed.
Now, McGee is studying fashion merchandising at Virginia Commonwealth University with plenty of time and money for the internships and study abroad programs she hopes will help launch her fashion career.
Even by super-tough overachievers' standards, Andrew Hart is doing well. When the eighteen-year-old walked across the stage at John Tyler Community College's 2013 Commencement exercises and earned an associate degree, he hadn't yet graduated from high school.
The achievement has practical roots. Hart is one of four children. His parents wanted him to attend a community college to save the family money, but Andrew wanted to go to college with his friends. So, the high school student plotted out a way to earn college credits in high school.
Through a combination of dual enrollment, concurrent and AP courses, Hart was able to fulfill the requirements for a Liberal Arts degree with a specialization in international studies. He earned his college degree just a few weeks before he celebrated his graduation from Clover Hill High School.
In the fall of 2013, Hart became a Virginia Commonwealth University student – with his friends – and plans to double major in political science/international relations and homeland security. He’s thinking about a master’s degree and eventually wants to work for the U.S. State Department.
“I am proud of what I’ve done. I’ve worked really hard,” says Andrew. “I hope others realize they can do something just like this, even if it is in an unconventional way.”
In so many ways, science fiction writers live above the rules. If gender roles are hindering a story line, remove them. To make a statement about the growing role of technology, jump into the future. If politics in this world cloud some readers’ judgment, set your story on another planet.
That freedom is what interests – and challenges – Instructor of English Ashanti Luke, author of the science fiction novel Dusk, about the genre. Science fiction removes us from the world we know, so we can better understand the world around us. But, Luke knows making those connections – even putting pen to paper – takes bravery, practice and persistence.
In his novel writing courses at John Tyler, Luke sees himself as a guide for students, pushing them past negativity and fear of the unknown into whole new worlds of their own creation.
Research, like baking, requires the right mix of ingredients. Quality matters. Timing is crucial. Expertise takes practice, but once you have it, experimentation is half the fun.
Meet Molli Channell, a reference and emerging technologies librarian in the John Tyler Community College Midlothian Library, who also happens to be an expert cake designer. Channell understands that patience, persistence and passion all matter when it comes to research – and baking.
Channell loves helping students find the right combination of articles, books and journals to support their cases in research papers, and if you ask, we bet she’ll give you cake decorating tips too.
It looked like a scene straight out of a movie. Fresh off of several months of working feverishly for 80 plus hours a week to design and then 3D-print an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a 6.5-foot-wingspan, the moment of truth had arrived for U.Va. engineering students and brothers Steven Easter and Jonathan Turman. There they stood – in shorts – with a group of twenty or so representatives from the government and the private sector, all dressed in suits, in a field just outside of Charlottesville. Everyone wanted to know: Would it fly?
Before the UAV even left the runway, the landing gear snapped in two.
The men in suits left, but, thanks to the lightweight, interchangeable pieces the brothers designed and printed to create the plane, the project was not grounded. The group reassembled in less than a week, this time, the plane – and the brothers’ public profile – took off. National media attention followed, along with a commission for a second UAV.
The accolades were no surprise to the faculty members who taught 100- and 200-level engineering courses to Easter and Turman, who were members of John Tyler Community College’s Engineering program’s first graduating class. Thanks to a guaranteed transfer agreement, the brothers were able to seamlessly transfer their credits from John Tyler to the University of Virginia’s (U.Va.) School of Engineering and Applied Science.
As their skills advanced, internships and other opportunities followed. The pair soared. When he graduated in May 2013, Easter was even named the top academic graduate of U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and it all started at Tyler.
It’s a startling statistic: 94 percent of foster youth will not graduate from college. But, odds like that can also be powerful motivation. They were for Thomas Wise.
Wise grew up in the foster-care system, and in May 2013, he earned his Associate of Science in Business Administration from John Tyler Community College, becoming the first student in the College’s Great Expectations program to graduate. (link to www.jtcc.edu/greatexpectations)
Great Expectations provides much-needed support to youth aging out of the foster-care system and transitioning to college. Sometimes it’s help navigating the financial aid or class scheduling process. Other times, it’s finding transportation or a place to live. For Wise, it was guidance at that critical moment when he realized he wanted to switch from studying engineering to studying business.
Each Great Expectations student is paired with a mentor, and Wise’s mentor helped him make the transition to business and then guided him to the next step: transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University to work on a bachelor’s degree. Now, the young man who already has one big milestone behind him is moving on to the next challenge. How’s that for beating the odds?