Students Meet with State Legislators to Discuss Impact of Community Colleges
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Released on March 06, 2019
CHESTER and MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – Inspired by the educators who impacted her life, Jordan Nurney wants to pursue a career in teaching. Her path to a degree in education took an unexpected turn, and as a result, she began taking classes at John Tyler Community College, where she says new and surprising doors opened for her. After spending seven years in the U.S. Army, Llana Sidbury knew she wanted to move into a career that allows her to help others. Her search for a college that would help her transition to that next chapter of her life brought her to Tyler, where she discovered a supportive network of people and a program that fits her goals.
These are just some of the stories students shared with state legislators during meetings on January 29, 2019 and February 11, 2019. During the trips, the students, accompanied by John Tyler Community College President Edward “Ted” Raspiller, met with Sen. Amanda Chase, Sen. Rosalyn Dance, Sen. Glen Sturtevant, Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, Del. Lashrecse Aird, Del. Betsy Carr, Del. Riley Ingram, and Del. Roxann Robinson. The students also spoke with a legislative assistant to Del. Dawn Adams.
In addition to sharing their personal stories, the students talked about the importance of affordability, small class sizes, transfer agreements, and financial aid.
The student participants included (zip codes appear in parenthesis):
Alicia Alvarez (23237)
General Studies, Science Specialization
Alicia Alvarez understands frustration, and she understands possibility. She witnessed frustration firsthand as her youngest sister, who had a speech impediment, struggled to be clearly understood. She learned about possibility when her sister found her voice thanks to the compassion and skill of a speech pathologist. Alicia, who also watched two other siblings overcome speech impediments, quickly realized the world of speech pathology is full of nuanced methods, and she was intrigued. Her fascination with the field stayed with her for years, and when she went to college, the possibility of a career in speech pathology emerged in an unexpected way. Alicia was in her first semester at a four-year university, unsure of what major and career to pursue. During a class, she took a career survey and was stunned to see what sat at the top of the list for her best-fit careers: speech pathology. Alicia says she knew instantly that this was the right career choice for her. The university she was attending did not offer the major, so she decided to transfer to John Tyler Community College and enrolled in the General Studies, Science Specialization degree. Alicia knew about the college from her mother, who had graduated from Tyler years earlier. Alicia liked Tyler’s affordability, transfer degrees and guaranteed admission agreements that put students on the road to a bachelor’s degree. She also loved the feel of the campus and the diversity of the people who make up the college community. Her love for the college inspired her to immerse herself in student life and to run for the Student Government Association presidency, which she won. Alicia says her Tyler experience is building a great foundation for her future, which she hopes includes transferring to Longwood University for its language and speech pathology program.
Luis Colon (23113)
Visual Arts, Graphic Design Specialization
Marketing, business and computers intrigue Luis Colon, but when it comes to his true passion, art takes center stage in his heart. He especially loves photography and its ability, in a split second, to capture a life-long memory. Owning his own photography business has long been one of his dreams, but he wondered if he had the business knowledge necessary to run a company. So, he began taking classes at a local college. After his first semester, he felt like the institution wasn’t right for him, so he began exploring other options. A friend recommended John Tyler Community College, and Luis decided to check it out. He says he felt at home after being warmly greeted by Tyler’s staff, and with their help, he enrolled and got ready for classes. He began taking courses that would help him earn a Business Administration degree and then realized he needed to return to the field that truly inspires him, art. So, he once again looked at his options, and graphic design jumped out at him. Luis says as a graphic designer, he can enjoy a career that allows him to use his imagination, be creative, and utilize his photography skills. Now in Tyler’s Visual Arts, Graphic Design Specialization degree program, Luis feels he made the right choices in his career path, his major, and his college. After graduating from Tyler, he hopes to gain some work experience before starting his own graphic design and photography business.
Matthew Holmes (23831)
Matthew Holmes describes himself as a builder – in all senses of the word. He likes to physically construct structures, and he also enjoys creating solutions and framing ideas into plans of action. Matthew’s love for building emerged when he was a child. With each project, he considered the reason why he wanted to make the item; looked for ways to repurpose materials he already had; and if more supplies were needed, figured out ways to obtain them. In going through these processes, Matthew discovered he had a knack for creative problem-solving. He considered ways to he could use those skills in a future career, and he soon decided he wanted to build something else: his own business. As he wrapped up his high school coursework, Matthew, who was homeschooled, analyzed his college options. After receiving recommendations from friends and conducting his own research, he landed on John Tyler Community College. Matthew said Tyler’s nearby location, scholarship opportunities, support services, and program options are allowing him to take the classes he needs for his first two years of a bachelor’s degree, all at an affordable price. Once he completes his General Studies degree at Tyler, Matthew plans to continue his education at Liberty University, where he wants to study business and construction.
Jordan Nurney (23235)
Liberal Arts, Secondary Teacher Education in History Specialization
For as long as she can remember, Jordan Nurney has loved history and social studies and has dreamed of becoming a teacher. But, she questioned whether she could be a good instructor. After receiving advice and encouragement from one of her teachers, Jordan decided to explore the field, taking a Teachers for Tomorrow class in her last years of high school. That experience confirmed she was on the right career pathway. However, her road to a teaching degree took an unexpected detour, when her plans for college changed. That change in direction brought Jordan to John Tyler Community College. The college was not Jordan’s first choice, but she says, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. She jumped into her classes and says she never looked back. The small class sizes gave her the opportunity to get to know her instructors and to study their teaching styles. She made connections, forged new friendships, and became active in student life. Jordan says her time at Tyler has unlocked many doors of opportunity, and she is grateful for the experience. Once she completes her associate degree in Liberal Arts, Secondary Teacher Education in History Specialization, she plans to transfer to James Madison University where she hopes to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in teaching. After that, Jordan would like to return to her alma mater, James River High School, to teach history, and she hopes to one day teach in Europe.
Corey Rennie (23112)
General Studies, Mass Communications Specialization
Corey Rennie is an explorer. His interests are so vast that he finds it hard to pick just one direction in which to go. After being homeschooled and earning his GED, Corey joined the Virginia Air National Guard. Through the guard, he was able to get training, earn a paycheck, serve his country, and explore some interests. At the same time, he started considering future careers. Believing college would not be a good fit, Corey decided to go directly to work. He tried out different fields, but nothing felt quite right, leaving him unsatisfied in his work life. He decided he needed to make a change that would expand his career opportunities, so he began looking at colleges, and he landed on John Tyler Community College. Corey thought Tyler would be a good place to begin. He liked the college’s program options, and he felt Tyler would be welcoming to a student who was starting college a little later in life. Corey admits that when he walked into the door, he had no idea which major to pursue. So, he began exploring, and that led to a discovery: an interest in mass communications. Now, Corey is working on an associate degree in General Studies, Mass Communications Specialization, and he’s excited about all the possible directions his future career can take him. After graduating from Tyler, Corey plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to study public relations.
Llana Sidbury (23803)
The desire to help people in need drives Llana Sidbury. She wants to comfort, guide, and protect those who might otherwise not be heard. Llana says she realized she wanted to turn that passion into a career in social services after spending seven years in the U.S. Army. During that time, she worked in human resources, and every day, she assisted people in a variety of ways. So, when she transitioned out of the military, she returned home to North Carolina and enrolled in a university. At the end of the first semester, Llana realized the institution was not right for her. She began considering her options and remembered hearing about John Tyler Community College when she was stationed in Virginia. So, she decided to check out the college. Llana said the advisors welcomed her, and she immediately felt comfortable. So, she quickly enrolled and signed up for the Human Services program. Along the way, she became a mother, and she says Tyler’s faculty and staff helped her make a plan that allowed her to balance the demands of school and family. Llana says she also likes Tyler’s class sizes and loves the community she’s found at the college. Although she’s enjoying her time at Tyler, Llana is busy planning ahead. Once she graduates with her associate degree, she wants to transfer to the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she will study social work with a focus on gerontology. Llana says her ultimate goal is to become a voice for the elderly, to make sure they are treated with dignity and respect and are cared for properly at senior facilities.
Aimy Simbi (23224)
Aimy Simbi moved around a lot while growing up. Her mother worked for the United Nations and that job took Aimy’s family to different parts of the world. Along the way, Aimy learned about different cultures, learned new languages and gained a global perspective. She also learned a lot about herself and her interests. Aimy says for as long as she could remember, she loved the performing arts, and she loved books. As an avid reader, she explored a number of subjects and soon found herself drawn to one in particular: the law. She knew that was the career for her, but she worried about the cost. So, she put together a plan for her education. First: earn a degree in accounting or business. Second: work in that field for a year, and save money for her next step. Third: go to law school to study corporate law. Ready to execute her plan, Aimy packed her bags, prepared to go to college in Georgia. But, one conversation between her mother and a Tyler alum put those plans on pause. Aimy says the Tyler alum happened to mention transferring to the University of Virginia from Tyler. When Aimy learned about the conversation, she was intrigued. She began researching Tyler and scheduled a tour of the campus. Aimy says what she found out about Tyler and what she experienced while on campus prompted her to change her college plans. She immediately filled out an application, registered for classes, and got immersed in college life. Aimy is now majoring in Business Administration, and when she graduates from Tyler, she hopes to transfer to the University of Virginia or the College of William and Mary. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she plans to go to work and then head to law school.
John Tyler Community College offers more than 60 majors that provide pathways to careers in high-demand fields; transfer opportunities to four-year colleges and universities; and industry credentials and licensures. The college, with campuses in Chester and Midlothian, online classes, and off-campus classrooms, served more than 14,300 students during the 2017-18 academic year. It also assisted more than 7,000 learners through its workforce development division, Community College Workforce Alliance, a partnership between Tyler and Reynolds community colleges.
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Holly Walker, Public Relations Manager