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News Release

Students Meet with Legislators to Discuss Impact of John Tyler Community College

Primary Media Contact:
Holly Walker
Public Relations Manager

Secondary Media Contact:
Heather Busch
Creative Services Manager

Released on February 08, 2013

Students Meet with Legislators to Discuss Impact of JTCC JTCC President Marshall W. Smith and JTCC's student delegation meet with Del. Riley Ingram.

CHESTER and MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – Joe Herbert made a discovery while attending classes at John Tyler Community College. He learned that he was not limited academically – something he believed after dropping out of high school. For Donna Simmons, a single mother of three who works full time, John Tyler gave her the scheduling flexibility and lower tuition she needed to earn a degree that will allow her to seamlessly transfer into a baccalaureate program. Luke Griles, a homeschooled student, got a jump-start on his college education, thanks to Tyler. These are just some of the stories shared by John Tyler Community College students who met with state legislators on January 22, 2013 and January 30, 2013.  During those two days, the students, accompanied by Dr. Marshall W. Smith, president of John Tyler Community College and College staff, met with Sen. Frank Ruff, Sen. John Watkins, Del. Betsy Carr, Del. Kirk Cox, Del. Rosalyn Dance, Del. Riley Ingram, Del. Rick Morris, Del. Joseph Morrissey, Del. Roslyn Tyler, Del. Lee Ware, and Del. Thomas Wright.

In addition to sharing their personal stories and talking about their experiences at John Tyler Community College, the student delegation talked to legislators about the importance of affordable tuition, course and program variety, and financial aid. The students also talked about JTCC’s need to expand its classroom space. They asked the legislators to support Governor Bob McDonnell’s proposed budget for higher education, which includes funds for a new building on the College’s Midlothian Campus. The proposed 70,000 square foot building would house academic classrooms, faculty offices, a student services center, and an auditorium. The project also would include a much-needed parking garage.

To learn more about students’ visit to the General Assembly, please watch our video on YouTube at  Photographs taken during the two trips may be found on the College’s Flickr page at

The student participants included (zip codes appear in parenthesis):

Tyler Buteau (23831)
Tyler Buteau wants people to be heard. So, she’s pursuing a career as a sign language translator. The road to that career has sent her in some unexpected directions. Until July 2012, Buteau was living in Alabama. While she was in high school, her father, who works for the government, was transferred to Virginia. Buteau did not move immediately. Instead, she stayed behind with relatives until she finished high school. Right after graduation, she packed her bags and moved north, and less than two months later, she was enrolled at John Tyler Community College. Buteau says the decision to go to John Tyler was a good one for her. Tyler is located close to her home and her job, and it offers a flexible class schedule. Its smaller class sizes and friendly faculty, staff and students also helped her as a newcomer to Central Virginia. “It has made my transition from Alabama to Virginia so much easier. I’ve met so many new friends through at Tyler,” says Buteau. “John Tyler is not just a place to go to get your education; it’s a place to create a whole new life, to make connections.” Once she completes her General Studies degree, Buteau plans to transfer into a program to prepare her to become a sign language interpreter. She would then like to use her skills to work with children in foster care and the criminal justice system, so that she can make sure children who can’t speak are heard.

Alex Clark (23831)
Alex Clark wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. He knew that after high school, he wanted to go to college, but he also knew that he wasn’t quite ready to leave home. So, he chose to go to John Tyler Community College. Clark says he was comfortable selecting Tyler because he had a good experience with the College through his high school dual enrollment classes and because his mother had attended Tyler. He also appreciated the College’s wide variety of courses, which would allow him to explore his various interests, and its lower tuition costs. When he started considering his degree options, Clark says he thought about earning an IT degree. However, after taking a class in the subject, he realized that it was not a good fit for him. His classes at Tyler also led him to another discovery – that he has a true love for history. Through his classes and his involvement in the History Club, of which he is currently co-president, Clark built on that interest and decided to make it part of his career goal. He plans to graduate this spring with a General Studies degree and then transfer to Longwood University to earn a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in graphic design. He then wants to go to Virginia State University to earn a master’s in history before pursuing a Ph.D. in history from Central Michigan University. Ultimately, he wants to put his love and knowledge of history to work with the National Park Service. Clark says he would like to work at the Petersburg National Battlefield or Cold Harbor Battlefield parks. 

Silvia Garcia Murcia (23237)
Silvia Garcia Murcia’s life has taken some unexpected turns, but one thing has held constant – her desire to be a physician. Garcia Murcia was born in Honduras, and as she was growing up, her family always talked about the importance of getting an education. Garcia Murcia took that advice to heart, and she thought about trying to go to Cuba to study medicine. But, then, her life took a new direction. About three-and-a-half years ago, her father brought her to the United States. He ended up being deported, but Garcia Murcia wanted to stay. She was placed in the foster-care system, which moved her to Virginia where she began attending Meadowbrook High School in Chesterfield and continued to work on teaching herself English. After graduating, she enrolled at John Tyler Community College. The College was highly recommended by her high school teachers, and Garcia Murcia liked that it had a strong Nursing Program. When she started at Tyler, Garcia Murcia immediately got involved with the College’s Great Expectations program" target="_blank">(, which has provided her with a variety of resources and support – things for which she’s 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.” She wants others to know that their lives can change too. She regularly reaches out to friends in the Hispanic community and encourages them to come to Tyler to get an education, something she is very focused on doing. Currently, Garcia Murcia is working on her pre-nursing courses so that she can apply to Tyler’s Nursing Program. But, that’s just the start. Garcia Murcia is determined to become a physician, so after she earns her nursing degree and gets some work experience, she plans to start medical school. Her top choice? Johns Hopkins.

Pam Girten (23236)
Pam Girten has devoted her life to the care of children. She’s been a nanny, caring for children from infants to teenagers. She’s taught young children and children with special needs, and she’s worked at a daycare center. In 2010, Girten took part in a mission trip to the inner city of Philadelphia, and she says that experience made her realize she wanted to do even more to help children. That’s when she decided to enroll at John Tyler Community College to pursue a degree in General Studies with a Teacher Education Specialization. Girten was nervous about going back to school but says she soon discovered that the faculty and staff really cared about her success. She says she also quickly learned that the College offers a variety of resources, from tutoring and advising to student activities, designed to enrich students’ lives. “John Tyler Community College gives you the opportunity to better yourself,” says Girten, and that is just what she is doing. Not only is she pursuing her degree, while working part time, Girten is also involved in the life of the College. She was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and is now treasurer of her chapter, and she is active in the Future Teachers Club, where she’s held the office of president and now holds the position of public relations officer.  Once she completes her degree in May, she hopes to spend the summer in a Spanish immersion program at the University of Virginia before transferring to William and Mary to complete a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education. Her goal is to get a job in an inner city elementary school where she can inspire children to reach for their dreams.

Luke Griles (23002)
Luke Griles enjoys exploring new opportunities, and he says that’s what John Tyler Community College is allowing him do. Griles, who is home-schooled, enrolled in Tyler as a concurrent student in the fall of 2012, so he could jump-start his college education. Griles says Tyler 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. Griles says when he first started his classes – a combination of online and on-campus courses – he wasn’t sure what to expect. But, he said the faculty did a great job of helping him transition into college-level work, and he has enjoyed experiencing their various teaching styles. He also said he quickly found himself involved in student activities, joining the Disciples of Christ Club and the Student Council. Griles calls his time at Tyler an “excellent experience,” and when he graduates from high school this spring, he plans to continue at John Tyler. He hopes to earn an associate degree in information technology before transferring to a four-year institution to study psychology and international relations. He would then like to go to seminary and become a minister.

Joe Herbert (23221)
Joe Herbert views his life as one adventure after another, and he says each adventure teaches him a lesson that helps him build on his next quest. His time in the military was one such venture – an experience that laid the groundwork for what he’s doing now. During his time in the Army, he served in the 3rd Ranger Battalion and did two tours in Afghanistan. Even after he decided to leave active service, Herbert still had a desire to stay tied to the military. He felt he could help others by sharing his knowledge and experience with them. So, he joined the National Guard and is currently training other soldiers. As part of his transition out of active duty, Herbert began thinking about going back to school. Herbert, a high school dropout who earned a GED, went into this venture believing that he would be limited academically. He tried out a couple of colleges, and neither suited him. Then he turned to John Tyler Community College. He says he decided to try Tyler because of its technical programs and because he had family members who had highly recommended it. “Immediately, I was impressed by my professors – their enthusiasm and their command of the classroom,” says Herbert. He was also impressed by their willingness to help him, encourage him, and provide advice. But, for Herbert, the experience offered at John Tyler goes beyond the classroom. He says he’s found the College’s connection to its community to be vitally important to his education. He points to various events and student club activities that support the community, including the work the Philosophy Club, which he is president of, has done for the Humane Society. “John Tyler Community College fosters an environment that enables students to give something back,” says Herbert, and he likes that. He says his experiences at Tyler and the care shown by the people at the College have made him realize that he is not limited and that there are many opportunities available to him. He hopes to graduate with a General Studies degree in December, and then he hopes to transfer to the University of Richmond, University of Virginia or William and Mary. In the meantime, he will be transitioning out of the National Guard, continuing his work with a start-up company, and looking forward to his next adventure.

Chris Kegley (23059)
Chris Kegley is pursuing a dream – one she has held for many years – becoming a nurse. Kegley started pursuing that dream when she originally went to college, but something stopped her, and she switched gears. Instead, she turned her attention to the field of communications, in which she earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. She put her education to work in the corporate world before becoming a mother and deciding to stay at home with her family. Once her kids were in school, she worked as a substitute teacher and then in a library, but she couldn’t get nursing out of her mind. The idea of going back to school seemed overwhelming until she got a job at a veterinary clinic that reignited her interest in the medical field. It was the spark she needed to pursue her dream. “I wanted a good nursing degree that commanded respect in the community,” says Kegley. She said Tyler’s Nursing Program had a good reputation on the nursing floor, and it included the practical experience she wanted. The program also offered her a hybrid option, a combination of online learning and face-to-face lab time and clinicals. Kegley says the hybrid program option has given her the flexibility she needs to balance her education with her family life, and that, along with the caliber of the teaching faculty, has made Tyler a great experience for her. When she graduates in December, Kegley wants to go into the workforce and then continue her education. She’d like to eventually earn a master’s degree with the hopes of one day teaching.

Kelly Seay (23139)
Kellie Seay wants people to know that they have the ability to change the direction of their lives. She’s proof. Seay dropped out of high school – just three credits short of earning her diploma. Fast forward to today. Now, Seay is a college student, who is managing motherhood, work, classes, and extracurricular college activities. Seay says her decision to revisit her education was sparked by several things. She says the birth of her daughter inspired her to go after her GED, and her desire to go to college emerged after she began feeling like she had no opportunity for job advancement. Seay says she was drawn to John Tyler Community College because of its reputation in the community as well as among her family and friends. She also found the College’s location to be convenient and liked the wide variety of course subjects and scheduling options. After starting her classes, Seay says she was quickly impressed by her instructors. “They have been amazing,” says Seay. “They are knowledgeable, nice, and willing to go the extra mile for their students.” Also amazing for Seay have been her experiences beyond the classroom. She works in the College’s Financial Aid office, represented the College at the Student Leadership Conference, is president of the Future Teachers Club, and is a member of Student Council. And, that’s just the beginning. After she graduates in the summer with a degree in General Studies with a Teacher Education Specialization, Seay plans to transfer to Old Dominion University where she’ll earn a master’s degree in education. She will then put her education and experiences to work as a teacher.

Donna Simmons (23231)
Donna Simmons wants to make a difference, and she plans to do so with the Human Services, Pre-Social Work Specialization degree she will earn at John Tyler Community College. Simmons, who expects to graduate this May, says her journey to this degree took many years and a few unexpected detours. Simmons graduated from high school in 1992 and immediately went to college, but she said she didn’t have the focus she needed, and she soon left higher education. Instead, she turned her attention toward raising a family and working. But, she kept thinking about one day going back to school. With some encouragement, she headed back to college with the intention of earning an accounting degree. However, a few classes in, she decided that she wanted to do something else – something that would allow her to work with and help people. So, she changed direction and enrolled in John Tyler Community College’s Pre-Nursing curriculum. Simmons was then accepted into the College’s Nursing Program, where she began the challenge of trying to juggle nursing classes with being a single mother of three and working full time. She used her personal and vacation time from work to attend class, but she still fell two points shy of making into the clinical part of the program. Simmons said she was disappointed, but she refused to give up. She did some research and worked with the College’s counselors and discovered the Human Services program. Although she still hopes to one day pursue a nursing degree, Simmons says the Human Services field feels right to her. The degree she earns at Tyler will allow her to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue her bachelor’s degree in social work. But, she’s not waiting to put her education to work. Simmons is busy volunteering her time with various organizations, is starting an internship at the YWCA, is president of the Human Services Club, participates in Student Council, and represented Tyler at a Student Leadership Conference. She says Tyler has made all of this possible through its caring faculty, who bring many perspectives to the classroom, and its helpful staff, who understand the challenges faced by the College’s diverse student population.

Thomas Wise (23834)
Thomas Wise has a plan. He plans to earn a Business Administration degree at John Tyler Community College, to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to study marketing, and to use the knowledge learned at both institutions to become a successful manager. This, however, is not the path Wise initially set for himself. When Wise first enrolled at John Tyler Community College, he had his eye on an Engineering degree. He found the program to be challenging and the material and instructors to be interesting. But, then came a surprise. He got a job as a retail merchandiser, and he discovered that he loved the work. Wise says he had been shy in high school, so he was amazed to learn that he enjoyed sales and customer service work. Wise, who is participates in the College’s Great Expectations program (, says his mentor encouraged him along the way, and with her help, he transitioned out of the Engineering program and into Business Administration. Now, he works during the day and takes classes at night, something he says is made possible by Tyler’s flexible scheduling options, convenient location and affordable tuition. Wise says John Tyler has been a good choice for him. Not only has it allowed him to explore his various interests, it has given him what he needs to succeed – smaller class sizes, instructors who are willing to spend time helping their students, tutoring services, and mentors. 

John Tyler Community College is a two-year, public institution of higher education and is the fifth largest of the 23 community colleges in Virginia. With campuses in Chester and Midlothian and off-campus classrooms throughout the area, John Tyler offers quality and economical opportunities for students who want to earn a degree or certificate, transfer to a four-year college or university, train for the workforce, or switch careers. The College, which served more than 14,895 students during the 2011-12 academic year, offers 18 associate degrees, eight certificates, and 35 career studies certificates. The institution also serves 15,000 non-credit students and more than 1,000 companies and government agencies annually through the Community College Workforce Alliance. The College also is committed to sustainability. In July 2010, it received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification for Hamel Hall on its Midlothian Campus, becoming the first in the Virginia Community College System to receive such recognition. John Tyler Community College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

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Holly Walker, Public Relations Manager


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