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News Release

John Tyler Community College Student Delegation Meets with State Legislators

Primary Media Contact:
Holly Walker
Public Relations Manager

Secondary Media Contact:
Heather Busch
Creative Services Manager

Released on February 09, 2012

General Assembly
(from left to right): Megan Way, Chad Doebler, Rhashawnda Hicks, Gina Cruz, Jonika Taylor, Del. Rosalyn Dance, Melissa Smith, Melanie Kirwin, Dr. Marshall W. Smith

General Assembly
(from left to right): Megan Way, Melissa Smith, Jonika Taylor, Sen. John Watkins, Melanie Kirwin, Gina Cruz, Rhashawnda Hicks, Chad Doebler

News Release Highlights

  • Seven John Tyler Community College students traveled to the State Capitol to meet with legislators
  • Students discussed why JTCC was their educational choice and asked for legislators to support JTCC and other community colleges
  • Group discussed the College’s enrollment growth and the need for additional classroom space

CHESTER and MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – Gina Cruz believes that a college education is vital to a person’s future, and she believes John Tyler Community College (JTCC) makes it possible for students of all backgrounds to get the education they need. Melanie Kirwin says JTCC is helping her pursue her career goals by providing a quality education at lower tuition rates and by offering transfer agreements that will give her the opportunity, after graduation, to finish her bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university. Chad Doebler already holds a chemical engineering degree, but he wanted to switch careers to become a nurse. He says John Tyler Community College is helping him do that. These are just some of the stories John Tyler students shared when they met with state legislators on February 1, 2012. The students, accompanied by Dr. Marshall W. Smith, president of John Tyler Community College and College staff, met with Sen. Stephen Martin, Sen. Donald McEachin, Sen. Frank Ruff, Sen. John Watkins, Del. Kirk Cox and Del. Rosalyn Dance.

In addition to sharing their personal stories and talking about their experiences at John Tyler Community College, the delegation talked to legislators about JTCC’s growth and how that has impacted classroom space. In the four years since the 2006-07 academic year, JTCC’s enrollment grew by almost 40 percent. Because of that growth, JTCC is in need of additional classroom space at both the Chester and Midlothian campuses. The students asked legislators to support planning funds necessary to begin work on a new academic building at the Midlothian Campus. The building is the number one priority in Governor Bob McDonnell’s budget for VCCS Capital projects. The students also discussed changes at Fort Lee and how the College is working with Fort Lee to expand services offered to members of the military and their families.

To learn more about the February 1 visit to the General Assembly, please watch our video on YouTube at http://youtu.be/cpA8tZQic_4.

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

Gina Cruz
Gina Cruz watched her mother struggle to provide for her family. Because of her mother’s story, Gina says, “I recognize the importance of education leading to a good job.” That is why Gina turned to John Tyler Community College. She said Tyler gave her the opportunity to start college, even though her grades were not strong enough to get into a four-year institution. Gina took advantage of that opportunity, studying hard and pulling her grades up high enough to be selected for induction into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. At Tyler, she also found inspiration for her future career. After taking a developmental psychology class, Gina decided she wanted to work toward her doctorate in psychology, so that she can work in a school and help children. Gina, who plans to graduate this May, hopes to continue her educational journey at William and Mary, University of Richmond or University of Virginia. When asked what she has enjoyed most about John Tyler, Gina says it is the helpful and caring faculty and the smaller class sizes. She says both have helped her succeed, and she says that success has inspired her mother to start taking classes at JTCC.

Chad Doebler
Chad Doebler is taking his life in a new direction by becoming a nurse. When Chad, who holds a degree in chemical engineering, decided it was time to switch careers, he turned to John Tyler Community College. Chad says, “Why go anywhere else?” He said a nursing supervisor told him John Tyler nursing students always are well trained and prepared, and he says Tyler graduates are well respected in the community. In addition, he likes that the College offers an affordable education; is representative of the community; and employs faculty who are enthusiastic, engaged and care if students understand what is being taught. He believes institutions like John Tyler are essential because they serve a large number of people who have different goals and who come from different backgrounds. As for his goals? Chad hopes to graduate in May 2013. After that? Chad says he has not decided yet because right now, his focus is on the education he currently is receiving.

Rhashawnda Hicks
Rhashawnda Hicks likes to be creative, and she wants to turn that interest into a career in graphic design. To do that, she knew she needed an education, and she says John Tyler Community College seemed like the best place to start. Rhashawnda works full-time and has to pay her own tuition, so cost and scheduling flexibility are vitally important to her. She says Tyler has met those criteria and more, adding that she loves the College’s relaxed atmosphere and the well-prepared and easy-to-approach faculty. She says she has definitely gotten more than what she has paid for, and she hopes even more students will get to enjoy the benefits offered by JTCC. “Tyler has great classes now,” she says. “Just imagine if we had more space!” Once she graduates from John Tyler, Rhashawnda wants to transfer to a four-year college or university to earn a bachelor’s in graphic design.

Melanie Kirwin
When Melanie Kirwin looks out at the ocean, she does not just see a pretty scene. She sees a world teeming with life – life she finds fascinating. She wants to turn that fascination into a career by becoming a marine biologist. She decided to start her education at John Tyler because it had a good reputation, it was affordable, it offered flexible class schedules, it was closer to her home, and it had a diverse student body. Once at JTCC, she says she found that she was not just a number and that the faculty and staff care about her success. As a non-traditional student, she says John Tyler also offers a welcoming atmosphere that helps those who have been out of school for awhile or who have never attended college transition into the world of higher education. Once she earns her degree from JTCC, Melanie wants to transfer to a four-year to earn her bachelor’s degree. She says she hopes to one day earn her master’s degree. She ultimately would like to research sharks ands says she is interested in possibly working as a marine biologist for the Coast Guard.

Melissa Smith
Melissa Smith loves working with and helping children. She’s around them all the time. She is a mother and works full-time at Fort Lee’s childcare center, but she wants to do more. She would like to eventually become a teacher or work for the State, helping to license, inspect and enforce regulations for childcare. So, she decided to turn to John Tyler Community College for her education. Melissa said she chose the College because its Early Childhood program had a good reputation and because JTCC was affordable and conveniently located. She says coming back to school as a working adult has been difficult, but she has received great support from the helpful, knowledgeable and personable faculty and advisors. And, as someone who likes to give back to the community, Melissa says she appreciates the College’s willingness to get involved in community service projects.

Jonika Taylor
Jonika Taylor did not know what to expect when she started classes at John Tyler Community College. She says she was unsure of what her classes, faculty and classmates would be like. That uncertainty did not last long. Jonika says the friendly and polite faculty and staff at John Tyler made her feel comfortable, and she quickly settled in to college life. Jonika, who is pursuing a career in social work – one that will give her the opportunity to counsel those in need, says she has found her classes to be challenging and fun. She likes that faculty encourage students to interact and offer their opinions in class and that they know her name and say hello to her outside of the classroom. Jonika says she ultimately wants to earn a master’s degree in social work, but she decided to start at Tyler because she heard good things about the College. She says JTCC’s location and its scheduling flexibility are big pluses – especially for students who are juggling work, school and family. In Jonika’s opinion, students should be proud to come to John Tyler Community College. “It’s a good choice.”

Megan Way
Megan Way wants to be an entrepreneur – a creative one. Megan says she wants to start her own business as either a freelance photographer or a web site designer. To do that, she says she will use the visual communications degree she is currently working on a John Tyler Community College. Megan says John Tyler was her choice for college because she knew she would pay less for a great education and because her sister had a great experience at JTCC. Megan says once she was at Tyler, she found the atmosphere and faculty to be welcoming and the smaller class sizes to be beneficial to learning and to meeting new people. As a home-schooled student herself, she said she also was very pleased to meet other home-schooled students in her classes. Megan says her instructors have challenged her, and the institution, as a whole, has inspired her to get involved in clubs, volunteer projects and other activities.

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 14,522 students during the 2010-11 academic year, offers 17 associate degrees, eight certificates, and 36 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 its Midlothian Campus Science Building, 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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