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Students Discuss Impact of John Tyler Community College with State Legislators

Primary Media Contact:

Holly Walker
Public Relations Manager

Secondary Media Contact:

Heather Busch
Creative Services Manager

Released on March 07, 2018

Students with JTCC President Edward "Ted" Raspiller and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax on March 1.

Students with JTCC President Edward "Ted" Raspiller and Sen. Frank Ruff on March 1.

Students with JTCC President Edward "Ted" Raspiller and Del. Lashrecse Aird on February 14.

Students with JTCC President Edward "Ted" Raspiller" and Del. Roxann Robinson on January 30.

CHESTER and MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – Elena Brancato wants to be a role model for her son, so she decided to pursue a new career with the help of John Tyler Community College. Brancato says she chose Tyler because she liked its supportive environment. Monica Garrett dreams of becoming a scientist and launching a career at NASA. Garrett says she decided to start at Tyler because she knew she would receive an excellent education while saving money. Julia Bailey knew her career interests required a bachelor’s degree. She says Tyler was the best choice for her because its program offerings helped her focus her goals while providing her with guaranteed transfer options to dozens of four-year colleges and universities.

These are just some of the stories John Tyler Community College students shared with state legislators during meetings on January 30, 2018; February 14, 2018; and March 1, 2018. During the trips, the students, accompanied by John Tyler Community College President Edward “Ted” Raspiller, met with Sen. Amanda Chase; Sen. Rosalyn Dance; Sen. Frank Ruff; Sen. Glen Sturtevant; Del. Dawn Adams; Del. Lashrecse Aird; Del. Betsy Carr; Del. Kirk Cox; Del. Riley Ingram; Del. Roxann Robinson; and Del. Lee Ware. The students also had the opportunity to meet with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and to talk to him about the impact John Tyler Community College is having on their lives. The students also spoke to legislative assistants for Del. Emily Brewer and Del. Roslyn Tyler.

In addition to sharing their personal stories and talking about their experiences at Tyler, the student delegation talked to legislators and the Lieutenant Governor about the importance of affordable tuition, financial aid, transferability of courses, and textbook costs.  

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

Reece Adkins (23237)

Technology intrigues Reece Adkins. Smartphones, computer processors and the latest gadgets fascinate him. He wants to understand how they work, and more importantly to Reece wants to know how to program them. His curious and analytical nature stretches back as far as he can remember, but for a brief period of time, Reece toyed with the idea of pursuing a different career path. In high school, he did not care for math, so he decided to explore other options. He enrolled in John Tyler Community College’s General Studies program and began his search. A year into the program, Reece received a loving nudge from his sister, who challenged him to pursue his longtime interest – programming. Reece decided to go for it, focusing his major on the Computer Science Specialization. Soon after, he made a surprising discovery: a love of math! Reece says instead of dreading the idea of taking math, he now contemplates which type of math he wants to learn next. He attributes this change to his time at Tyler. Reece says thanks to the college, he’s grown and become a different student. Now, he looks ahead to what’s next. In May, he graduates from Tyler and by the fall, he’ll be at a four-year college or university, working on the second half of a bachelor’s degree en route to a career as a software developer.

Heather Ashbeck (23112)

A desire to make sure victims become empowered survivors drives Heather Ashbeck. Her goal: become a licensed social worker and a counselor for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. “I was a victim of domestic violence,” she says. “I want to be able to help others who have experienced or who are experiencing the same thing.” After spending 18 years in the U.S. Air Force, Heather, a mother of three, said the idea of returning to school made her nervous. She decided to take classes at John Tyler Community College because she liked the college’s small class sizes, its variety of majors, and its transfer options. She initially began in the Business Administration program, but thanks to a course in sociology, she discovered her true calling – Tyler’s degree in Human Services, Pre-Social Work Specialization. Soon after switching majors, Heather immersed herself in student life, becoming active in a number of clubs, an intern in the college’s Military and Veterans Education Office, and a worker in the Student Activities Office. Heather is excitedly counting down to May when she will graduate with her associate degree. After that, she plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to continue her education in social work. 

Julia Bailey (23860)

As she considered her career goals, Julia Bailey knew she wanted to work with people. She also knew the fields that held her interest would require at least a bachelor’s degree. So, she explored her options and landed on John Tyler Community College. Julia said the college’s reputation; its guaranteed transfer agreements with four-year colleges and universities; its location; and its lower tuition factored into her decision. She entered Tyler’s Liberal Arts programs, became heavily involved in student life, and soon found her goals coming into focus. She decided she wanted to become an attorney and to focus on family law. So, as she continued to pursue her associate degree, she began taking classes for Tyler’s Paralegal Studies career studies certificate. Julia says that will give her the option of working in the field while she continues her education. Once she graduates from Tyler in May, Julia says she will continue honing her communications skills by earning a bachelor’s degree in English from University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary or Longwood University before heading to law school.

Elena Brancato (23838)

Elena Brancato wants to be a role model for her son. She also wants to challenge herself and realize new successes in the workforce. She worked for a while as an office manager at a marketing firm but said the benefits did not allow her to create a sustainable and comfortable life for her and her child. So, she started looking at options. With the support of a workforce organization, Elena honed her resume writing and other skills and researched career advice given to her. One suggestion: go to John Tyler Community College and become a nurse. With her interest piqued, Elena went to the college and was greeted with what she described as, “friendly faces and open arms.” She signed up and began taking classes. Elena said she was quickly impressed with Tyler’s faculty, who took time to teach students how to learn, not just how to memorize subject content. She also made another discovery: that she wanted to work in communications, not nursing. So, she switched majors and entered the General Studies, Mass Communications Specialization. Elena is excited about the direction she’s moving, because it will allow her to develop skills that can be utilized in a wide variety of workplace environments. When she graduates from Tyler in May, Elena plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to major in public relations and minor in media studies. As her educational journey continues, Elena says she will keep exploring the ways communications professionals support various industries and non-profits, so she can determine how she wants to put her newly learned skills to work.

Chelsey Bufton (23452)

When she was a child, Chelsey Bufton often thought about becoming a nurse. She saw nurses take care of members of her family, and she thought she would like to do that too. Over time, however, that dream faded a bit, and after graduating from high school, Chelsey got a job. She didn’t think college was in her future. That all changed with a medical scare. Her daughter was born premature, faced frightening health issues, and spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before finally being able to go home. Chelsey says the day she was able to leave the hospital with her little girl was the day her dream of becoming a nurse was reborn. She reflected on the care given and compassion shown by the nurses in the NICU and realized she wanted to help other mothers, fathers and babies. She looked at options for colleges and decided John Tyler Community College was a great fit. With the support of her family, she returned to the classroom, enrolling in the General Studies, Pre-BSN Specialization. After graduating from Tyler, Chelsey plans to transfer to Old Dominion University to complete her bachelor’s in nursing. After that, she wants to go to work in a neonatal unit.

Stephen Escamilla (23112)

Both of Stephen Escamilla’s parents are business majors, so you could say his interest in business comes naturally. When Stephen decided to pursue his own degree in business, he approached his goal methodically, analyzing options and weighing the benefits. He found John Tyler Community College to be the best choice for him as an investment in his education and future. Stephen liked Tyler’s transfer options and lower tuition. He also appreciated its small class sizes and the personalized attention offered by its faculty and staff. So Stephen, who was introduced to Tyler through dual enrollment classes while in high school, decided to enter the college’s Business Administration program and to immediately jump into campus life. He got involved with student clubs and became a student ambassador, which he says is helping him hone his leadership skills. Stephen says his time at Tyler has been amazing and is helping him pursue his dream of transferring to Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business. As he moves along that path, Stephen says he will continue to explore various aspects of the business world to determine what he would like his ultimate role to be in corporate America.

Monica Garrett (23842)

When asked about her dream employer, Monica Garrett answers without hesitation, “NASA.” She firmly focuses her attention on that goal as she pursues a General Studies, Science Specialization degree at John Tyler Community College. Before enrolling in Tyler, Monica spent a couple of years, right after high school, working as a LPN. While she respected the work, she discovered it was not the right fit for her and decided to consider new options. She chose Tyler so she could save money while exploring some of her other interests. She quickly found herself drawn to science and math, subjects that always interested her. She also discovered an exciting opportunity – the chance to apply for the Virginia Space Grant Consortium’s STEM Takes Flight NASA Research Experiences program. Monica was accepted into the 2017 summer program and spent several weeks as a guest student researcher at the NASA Langley Research Center. With her graduation from Tyler just months away, Monica is finishing her last classes and busily weighing her transfer options, which include Christopher Newport University and the College of William and Mary. Once she receives her bachelor’s degree, she plans to continue her education and eventually earn a doctorate. Along the way, she hopes to launch her dream career at NASA. 

Alexis Gomez (23229)

When it comes to his future career, Alexis Gomez embraces a global perspective. He wants to build strong foundations in business and computer science and to put those skills to work in the world of international business. Alexis credits members of his family, who ran their own business, with sparking his interest in this field. His decision to pursue his education at Tyler began in an unexpected way. Alexis attended an event at The Lynn Theatre on the Midlothian Campus and immediately liked he environment and the people he met. He enrolled in the college’s Business Administration program so he could create a clear transfer path to a four-year college or university. After graduating from Tyler, Alexis wants to attend George Mason University to continue his studies in business, to pursue entrance into the university’s accelerated master’s degree program in computer science, and to begin networking with businesses located in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Dana Legere (23113)

When she was in high school, Dana Legere was unsure what her future would hold. She had many interests but none that inspired her to pursue a career in a particular field. Her mother, an employee of John Tyler Community College, suggested Dana enroll at the college and explore. Dana agreed to research the college, and when she did, she said she saw opportunity – the opportunity to find herself. She enrolled in the General Studies, Psychology Specialization program, began taking classes, and immersed herself in college life. It was then that Dana experienced an “aha” moment. It happened when she took a medical terminology class, an elective for her degree. Dana loved the class. She realized she wanted to learn more and to help people who were ill. It was at that point that she discovered she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. So, she changed her degree to General Studies and began planning the next steps in her educational journey. Once she graduates with her degree from Tyler, Dana hopes to go to James Madison University to study health sciences and medicine.  After that, she wants to go to medical school and study to become a doctor or physician’s assistant. 

Jordan Nurney (23235)

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 teacher. 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 enter the five-year program leading to a master’s degree in teaching. After that, Jordan would like to return to her alma mater, James River High School, to teach history.

Brittney White (23236)

For 14 years, Brittney White worked in advocacy at a local hospital. While she enjoyed having a job that helped people, she realized she was ready for a new challenge and a new career focus. She wanted to give back and to work in a field filled with compassion, caring for those most in need. With an interest in social work, Brittney decided to enroll in John Tyler Community College, becoming the third person in her family to become a Tyler Trailblazer. Brittney says her family’s experience at Tyler plus the college’s reputation and its program and transfer agreement variety inspired her to choose Tyler and its Human Services, Pre-Social Work program. She admits she was a bit nervous when she first started classes. As an older student and career switcher, Brittney said she wasn’t sure what to expect. What she discovered was a diverse student body, a welcoming environment and a strong support system that helped her grow her confidence. The experience also prompted her to refine her career path. After she graduates from Tyler in May, Brittney plans to enter Virginia Commonwealth University’s pre-radiation science program. Once she completes her education, Brittney wants to work with cancer or hospice patients.

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, a Nursing Education Center, online classes, and off-campus classrooms, served more than 13,900 students during the 2016-17 academic year. It also assisted nearly 6,000 learners and more than 200 companies and organizations through its workforce development division, Community College Workforce Alliance. 

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Holly Walker, Public Relations Manager


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