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Snapshots of the Class of 2016

Hubert “Dolph” Davis

Hubert Davis

“Community colleges are a great step-off point whether you are career-bound or want to continue your education. If you have the desire, the tools are right here.”


Hubert “Dolph” Davis believes in service. For 26 years, he served in the U.S. Marines as a naval aviator. During that time, he honed his skills a leader and an aviator; flew in combat in Iraq; worked with the Seals chasing drug runners and human traffickers; flew embassy personnel in Afghanistan; worked for the State Department; spent time in 27 countries; taught aviators from all around the world; and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Dolph says community college helped prepare him for his military career, and it is now helping him plan out the next phase of his life. Because he wanted to fly in the Marines, Dolph said he needed a College degree. So, he enrolled at a community college and took classes that transferred to East Tennessee State where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business. As he thought about life after the military, Dolph, who owns a farm in Cartersville, says he decided to pursue a life-long interest – welding. After researching programs, he contacted John Tyler Community College and signed up for classes. As he’s moved through Tyler’s Welding program and transitioned some of the many skills he developed in the military to this new trade, Dolph has become more passionate about the purpose of community colleges. “I know first-hand what community colleges can do,” says Dolph. “They are affordable and flexible, and you get a lot of face time with the faculty and staff. Community colleges are a great step-off point whether you are career-bound or want to continue your education. If you have the desire, the tools are right here.” Now that he’s graduating with his Welding certificate, Dolph is looking ahead. “I plan to use the welding skills I’ve learned on my farm, and I may even put together my own service truck,” he says. And, there’s another, perhaps unexpected consequence of his time at Tyler. Dolph says his experience at the College has made him interested in teaching again. He is currently exploring the possibility of teaching safety classes tied to the Welding program.

Benjamin “Ben” Kernstine

Benjamin Kernstine

“I think community college is a really smart move. It’s close to home. There are great professors you can get to know and who are there to answer your questions. You can also build strong relationships with other students in your classes.”


Recommendations, planning and determination prompted Benjamin “Ben” Kernstine to approach his education from a different perspective. Ben attended a private school through the fifth grade and was home-schooled through middle school. When his plans for his high school education took an unexpected turn, he decided to explore alternatives, and he landed on John Tyler Community College. Ben had heard about the College from a family friend, so in his sophomore year, after receiving permission from Tyler, he signed up for three classes. By his second semester at Tyler, he was enrolled in an introduction to engineering class and had started mapping out a plan for earning an associate degree in that subject. “My interest in engineering began when I participated in a summer camp,” says Benjamin. “I’ve always been pretty good with science and math, and I want to be an innovator.” Ben says his time at Tyler is helping him accomplish several goals, including earning credits that that he can use to complete high school and earning an associate degree that will transfer to a four-year university. “I think community college is a really smart move,” says Ben. “It’s close to home. There are great professors you can get to know and who are there to answer your questions. You can also build strong relationships with other students in your classes.” Ben describes graduation as an exciting time – especially since he’ll be completing a college degree and high school simultaneously. His next stop is Virginia Tech, where he wants to double major in aerospace engineering and ocean engineering.

Stevie Murray
General Studies, Teacher Education Specialization

Stevie Murray

“John Tyler has given me the motivation and drive to continue with my desired education path.”


Stevie Murray wears many hats. She’s a mother; the wife of an active military member; a Girl Scout and a Boy Scout leader; a veteran; a college student; a student ambassador; and a member and officer of several student organizations. She likes staying busy but realizes the need to find balance. That’s one of the reasons Stevie loves John Tyler Community College. After coming out of the military, Stevie wanted to become a teacher, but she had been out of school for a while and was nervous about being a student again. So, she decided to give Tyler a try. She quickly discovered her choice had been a good one. Stevie says the College’s flexible class schedule allows her to pursue her degree while caring for her family, working and volunteering. She also appreciates the commitment faculty and staff show to students, saying they frequently go above and beyond because they want students to be successful. She points to the support she received when her husband was deployed for six months last year and again, now that he’s been assigned to Orlando, Florida. In addition to her classes, Stevie has immersed herself in student life at the College, getting involved in groups like the Student Veterans Organization, Student Council and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She is also one of the College’s first student ambassadors. Stevie says all of this has given her the confidence she needs to achieve her education and career goals. “Walking across the stage at the Commencement Ceremony is going to be an exhilarating and bittersweet moment for me,” says Stevie. “I have made John Tyler my home, and now, it is time to move onto my next school. But, I will always remember John Tyler the most, since I feel that I got a four-year-school experience at a two-year school.” After graduating from Tyler, Stevie hopes to pursue a bachelor’s degree and eventually a master’s degree in teaching. Her ultimate goal is to work with elementary school children.

Vanozzieo "Van" Phillips
Liberal Arts, Music Specialization

Stevie Murray

“Tyler has been a good experience. It offered me a lot of options, it helped me stay on track, and it gave me the tools I need.”


Music brings Vanozzieo “Van” Phillips joy. So, it may not surprise those who know him that he is majoring in music. But, the path Van decided to forge was not created in one uninterrupted session. Instead, it took some stops, starts and rewrites for him to find the harmony he wanted. Van grew up in a military family, so when his father was reassigned, his family moved. After going to high school in Germany, Van came back to the States and started attending the University of South Alabama. His family, meanwhile, settled in Virginia, where his father was stationed at Fort Lee. Van soon discovered he didn’t want to be so far away from his parents, so he began researching his options. That’s when he found out about John Tyler Community College. Van liked what he saw and decided to transfer. “I was a music major in Alabama, but when I moved to John Tyler, I decided I wanted to look at other options,” Van says. “I decided not to declare a major and to explore other fields. I thought nursing seemed interesting, so I tried it out. I quickly learned it wasn’t right for me. So, I thought about what I really wanted to do, and I returned to my first love – music.” Van’s forte is singing, and he loves to explore all genres from classical to pop music and everything in between. He has a special affinity for musical theatre, and he likes spending time practicing his craft with Tyler’s new A Capella group, The Freeways. “Tyler has been a good experience,” he says. “It offered me a lot of options, it helped me stay on track, and it gave me the tools I need.” Van says graduating from Tyler is exciting, and he’s now ready for his next step. He will continue his education at Longwood University, where he plans to double major in vocal performance and music education and minor in Spanish. After he completes his degree work at Longwood, Van wants to put his skills to work by performing, opening his own music studio and teaching.

Hannah “Cora” Snow

Hannah Cora Snow

“Getting involved at John Tyler changed my experience. I discovered that Tyler is whatever you make of it.”


Hannah “Cora” Snow describes herself a math person, and she says that’s what led her to pursue a career in engineering. “Engineering seemed like a practical application of a subject I love,” says Cora. “Plus, it seemed like a good challenge.” With a goal of transferring to Virginia Tech to complete a bachelor’s degree, Cora decided to begin her engineering education at John Tyler Community College. She was already familiar with John Tyler – very familiar. Her mother teaches chemistry at Tyler, and throughout high school, she had heard recommendations for the College. So, Cora thought Tyler would offer her a solid, practical path to her goal – a place where she would come, take classes, earn some credits, and then move on to the next stop of her journey. “The original plan was to stay at Tyler for one year, and then transfer,” says Cora. “But, I ended up loving it so much, I decided to stay and complete my associate degree.” When asked what prompted this change in plans, Cora’s answer is simple. “I got involved.” She started tutoring in the Academic Resource Center, volunteered at College events, became a member of the Beta Omicron Omicron Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and was selected to be one of Tyler’s first student ambassadors. “Getting involved at John Tyler changed my experience,” Cora says. “I discovered that Tyler is whatever you make of it.” After celebrating her graduation from John Tyler, Cora plans to continue with her original goal of completing a bachelor’s degree at Virginia Tech. “I’m still considering what type of engineer I want to become,” she says. “I do, however, know that I want to make a difference, make an impact, in whatever area I choose.”

Lucas Zbinden
Information Systems

Lucas Zbinden

“… the atmosphere at Tyler is wonderful. It’s friendly and welcoming, and I really like the diverse ages of the students.”


Lucas Zbinden wants to use technology to help people on a molecular level. “I want to look how we can use nanotechnology in healthcare, specifically, how we can use it to help the human body,” he says. To do this, Lucas says he must gain knowledge in a number of areas from technology to molecular biology. That’s one reason why the homeschooled student decided to jump-start start his college education at John Tyler Community College. After completing his tenth grade of high school at a homeschool co-op, Lucas decided to attend Tyler during his last two years of high school work. “My mother was an adjunct professor at Tyler,” says Lucas. “She liked the way the College was set up, and encouraged me to check it out.” So, Lucas enrolled and put together a plan that would allow him to simultaneously complete his high school requirements and graduate with an associate degree in Information Systems. He says Tyler was a good choice for him. “My family has saved a lot of money on college,” he says. “Plus, the atmosphere at Tyler is wonderful. It’s friendly and welcoming, and I really like the diverse ages of the students. There are great resources here, and the faculty and staff have helped me learn how to manage my time so I can get all of my work done.” After celebrating his graduation from Tyler, Lucas says he’s turning his attention to completing his bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology at Liberty University. He then wants to earn a master’s degree and possibly a doctorate.

View Class Snapshots Archive for previous class snapshots.


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