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News Release

John Tyler Community College Students Meet with State Legislators

Primary Media Contact:
Holly Walker
Public Relations Manager

Secondary Media Contact:
Heather Busch
Creative Services Manager

Released on January 26, 2012

General Assembly
(from left to right): Mike Evans, Rachel Tobey, W. Massey Bartolini, Melanie Kirwin, Del. Lee Ware, Ramiro Abello, Shawn Fenner, Steve Lee, Gina Cruz

General Assembly
(from left to right): Gina Cruz, Rachel Tobey, Melanie Kirwin (in back), Ramiro Abello, Del. Roxann Robinson, W. Massey Bartolini, Shawn Fenner, Mike Evans, Steve Lee

News Release Highlights

  • Eight John Tyler Community College students meet with state legislators
  • Students discussed their personal experiences and support for John Tyler and other community colleges
  • Talk about the College’s continued enrollment growth and need for additional classroom space

CHESTER and MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – Ramiro Abella turned to John Tyler Community College (JTCC) to learn skills that will help him start his own business. With the help of the College’s Nursing Program, Shawn Fenner is switching careers and pursuing a long-held dream. Rachel Tobey wants a career in public relations, and she says thanks to JTCC’s low tuition and transfer agreements, she can save money while taking her freshman and sophomore courses and then transfer to a four-year college or university to complete the last two years of a bachelor’s degree. These are just some of the stories John Tyler students shared when they met with state legislators on January 19, 2012. The students, accompanied by Dr. Marshall W. Smith, president of John Tyler Community College and College staff, met with Del. Betsy Carr; Del. Riley Ingram; Del. Rick Morris; Del. Joseph Morrissey; Del. Roxann Robinson; and Del. Lee Ware.

In addition to sharing their personal stories, the delegation talked to legislators about what John Tyler means to the College’s student body and to the community. They pointed out that JTCC continues to be one of the fastest growing colleges in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). In the four years since the 2006-07 academic year, the College’s enrollment grew by almost 40 percent. Because of that growth, JTCC needs additional classroom space at both the Chester and Midlothian campuses and needs support to upgrade laboratory facilities at the Chester Campus. 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. They 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 January 19 visit to the General Assembly, please watch our video on YouTube at

The January 19 student participants included (zip codes appear in parenthesis):

Ramiro Abella
Ramiro Abella wants to leave something behind for his children and grandchildren – a residential air conditioning business. He hopes his time at John Tyler Community College will help him do just that. Ramiro, a U.S. military retiree, says he chose John Tyler because the classes included hands-on learning. He also found the Chester Campus to be conveniently located, and as a man who drives a taxi for soldiers, cares for his family, and goes to school, Ramiro says convenience is important. That’s one of the reasons he decided to leave the educational institution where he had been studying to come to Tyler. Ramiro says JTCC’s flexible class schedule and course offerings work with his life, not against it. Ramiro says John Tyler will help him reach his goals and that it can help others in the community reach theirs – not matter what they are.

W. Massey Bartolini
Massey Bartolini says when you have not been in a classroom since the first grade the idea of taking a college class is intimidating. That is one of the reasons he decided to take classes as a concurrent student at John Tyler Community College. Massey says JTCC bridges the gap between home school and the traditional classroom. So, in addition to supplementing his home-school curriculum, Massey says his courses at John Tyler are giving him the opportunity to discover what he is like when he is in a traditional classroom setting. What has the experience taught him? Massey says he has learned a lot. He now knows he can handle the workload, and he has had the chance to explore his personal interests. Massey, who wants to become a meteorologist, says JTCC’s outstanding faculty, its location, its low cost, its small class sizes, and the overall experience it offers makes John Tyler a great place to attend. He says thanks to Tyler, he now knows he can handle college and that he can succeed.

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.

Mike Evans
Mike Evans wants to travel, and he sees himself doing just that as a pilot. Mike is working on a general studies transfer degree at John Tyler, so that he can transfer to a four-year college or university to complete an agriculture business bachelor’s degree. He said he selected John Tyler because it allows him to stay close to his family, has instructors who are willing to work with their students, offers a nice environment and campus, has smaller class sizes, and provides a good education at an affordable price. Mike, who served in the Marines for four years and completed two combat tours in Iraq, says he is focused on his education now but is looking forward to his future, which will include taking motorcycle trips every summer.

Shawn Fenner
Helping people is Shawn Fenner’s passion. So, after working for more than ten years as a writer and editor for a local newspaper, he decided to switch careers to become a nurse. Shawn says he researched his options and chose the Nursing Program at John Tyler Community College because it is well-respected in the community. In addition, he says Tyler offers him affordable tuition, excellent instructors, top-notch lab facilities, and hands-on learning in hospital environments. Shawn says thanks to JTCC, thousands of patients will benefit from his experience and work. Once he earns his associate degree at John Tyler, Shawn plans to continue his education at Virginia Commonwealth University. He says he would like to earn a bachelor’s degree and beyond.

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.

Steve Lee
Steve Lee already holds multiple degrees. He has a bachelor’s in cell and molecular biology and a master’s in education. When he decided it was time to move in a new direction, he turned to John Tyler Community College. Steve says he enrolled in Tyler’s Engineering Program after researching and talking to other institutions in the Richmond area. He says he found JTCC’s staff to be friendly, responsive and helpful. He says everyone from the dean of students and the registrar to the veterans affairs staff and administrative staff provided him with personalized assistance and did not treat him like a number. He likes the small class size and the supportive teaching faculty. He also says he likes attending a local college and appreciates the opportunities institutions like John Tyler offer to the community. Steve says he has a defined set of goals for himself, and Tyler is helping him achieve them. Once he graduates later this year, he plans to transfer to the University of Virginia to continue his education. He wants to earn his master’s degree in engineering and eventually a doctorate and would like to teach at a university or college.

Rachel Tobey
Rachel Tobey describes herself as driven. She knows she wants to earn a degree in communications and wants to work in public relations. She decided to start her journey toward that goal at John Tyler Community College because she liked the College’s smaller class sizes, it was affordable, and it allowed her to remain at home. Once she started at Tyler, she says she quickly discovered how helpful the faculty is. She said the instructors always are willing to provide one-on-one assistance if it is needed, and that is important for student success. Rachel says JTCC plays an important role in the community by providing people of all ages an accessible and affordable education. She also says that Tyler’s many class and program offerings make it a great resource for those who wish to explore their interests to determine what they ultimately want to study. She believes John Tyler is vital to the community because it provides a high-quality education and gives students the tools they need to succeed no matter what their goals. After graduating in Fall 2012, Rachel hopes to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to earn her degree in mass communications.

This is just the first trip to the State Capitol for the College’s student delegation. On February 1, 2012, students will meet with some of the other legislators who represent the College’s service region.

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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