Class Snapshots Archive
Class of 2017 Snapshots
E. Geovany Chavarría
Associate of Science, Business Administration
“Immediately upon entering Tyler, I was valued. I was given many extracurricular opportunities. And, the fact that I’ve met so many intelligent individuals helped me overcome negative feelings I had about my abilities.”
Geovany Chavarría is passionate about business and has been since he was a child. When he was little, he’d gather up his play money and pretend he owned his own restaurant or market. As he grew up, his desire to learn the intricacies of business planning and operation expanded. He wasn’t, however, sure he’d be able to pursue his dream because he didn’t think college was possible for him. That changed when some of his high school teachers suggested he go to a community college. Geovany researched John Tyler Community College and liked what he saw. The business-minded part of his personality appreciated the cost savings afforded by a community college education. And, as a first-generation college student, he also liked the idea of living at home. Geovany remembers being nervous his first day of classes but says that feeling quickly faded as he met new people and immersed himself in college life. “Immediately upon entering Tyler, I was valued. I was given many extracurricular opportunities.” He became a student ambassador, president of the Latin American Cultural Club, member of the Phi Beta Lambda student organization, and member of Student Council. He joined Tyler’s 50th Anniversary Scholarship Work Group, participated in student trips to the General Assembly, and attended the VCCS Student Leadership Conference. In addition, Geovany became the first John Tyler student to be named to the prestigious Valley Protein Fellows Program, which helps promising second-year students pursue their academic goals by providing them with scholarships, as well as professional development, travel and cultural opportunities. Through the Fellows Program, Geovany took part in leadership and public speaking workshops; attended the VCCS 50th Anniversary Gala; met other VCCS students from around the Commonwealth; and much more. When talking about his graduation from John Tyler, Geovany says he feels joyful. “I am the first one in my family to graduate. My mother only finished primary school. None of my uncles finished high school, most of them just have primary school. My grandparents didn’t even finish primary school. My great grandparents didn’t complete secondary school either. So graduating from John Tyler is a big deal for my family and me. I was the first one in my family to finish secondary school, and now, I will be the first one to have a college degree.” After celebrating his graduation, Geovany, will be making his final decision as to which four-year university he will be attending.
Associate of Science, General Studies, Music
“I love JTCC’s music program. I really learned a lot.”
Emma Ford grew up surrounded by music. Melodies filled the air in her home as her father played piano, and she found herself drawn to the sounds. In elementary school, Emma began taking piano lessons, and by 6th grade, she got her first guitar. Eventually, she stopped taking formal lessons for both instruments and began teaching herself how to play. Along the way, she found her voice, singing whenever she had the opportunity. She was part of a choir, which helped her exercise her voice, learned to read music, and began studying music theory. So, as she prepared to graduate from high school and look toward her future, she had no doubt that music would be involved. She decided to enroll at John Tyler because she didn’t like the idea of going into debt. She also wanted to stay at home and be able to work while taking classes. Soon after starting Tyler’s music program, she made an unexpected discovery – the college’s formation of a new a cappella group, The Freeways. Emma went to the first meeting of the student group and never looked back, performing at VCCS conferences and JTCC events and eventually becoming the group’s president. She’s also had the opportunity to perform on her own at college events such as Fool for Art. As she talks about graduation, she expresses her happiness at having completed her classes. “A lot of tension and stress is now off my back. I’m relieved to have finished my degree, but I’m also nervous, as well as excited about what’s next.” Emma says she plans to work over the summer, so she can build up her savings, and at the same time, continue networking with those involved in the local music scene. Her dream is to be paid to sing, so she is looking for a band to join and hopes to find internship opportunities so she can continue refining her skills.
Career Studies Certificate, Welding
“John Tyler is giving me the opportunity to build a better life for myself and for my family.”
Tiffany Longest believes that when you start something, you need to be committed to seeing it through, to be ready to work hard, and to stay focused on the goal – success. After 22 years as a hair stylist, Tiffany, a single mother, decided she needed to change. She wanted to find a career that provided a steady paycheck and benefits. “I’ve never had a week of paid vacation, and I wanted stability for me and my family.” So, Tiffany began researching careers, focusing on technical programs. “I knew I wanted to be hands on, and that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk at a computer.” So, she visited John Tyler Community College’s Chester Campus, which is close to her home and provided financial aid opportunities. After touring the labs in Godwin Hall, talking to college staff, doing some additional research, and talking to her family, she realized her interest was in welding. She was intrigued with the many directions a career in welding could take, plus, when she was a young child, her father had taken welding classes at John Tyler. Tiffany says she was a bit nervous at first, but after her first four weeks, she knew she made the right decision. Throughout the program, she worked hard to maintain a 4.0 grade point average, while being a mother, and continuing to work. Tiffany says the journey was stressful at times, and she had to learn new time management skills, but she’s thankful for the support she received from her family and friends and for the education she received at Tyler. “I am graduating with a career studies certificate in welding, plus an industry certification. I plan to take one more class at Tyler this summer, which will give me the opportunity to learn more skillsets.” As she reflects on her time at John Tyler, Tiffany says she is grateful. “John Tyler is giving me the opportunity to build a better life for myself and for my family. It’s giving me the opportunity to get a job with benefits. It’s giving me a new lease on my life.” Tiffany is now submitting applications to area companies and hopes to begin her new career in the coming months.
Associate of Applied Science, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics Technician
“Tyler’s staff and faculty pushed me to do my best and never give up. They’ve stayed by my side since I started here.”
Marshall Maloney is inquisitive – especially when it comes to machinery. He not only wants to know the purpose of a piece of equipment, he wants to know how it is designed and built; how it works; how it can be repaired; and how it can be improved. Most of all, he wants to be hands-on, to experience what it is like to actually work with and on the equipment found in manufacturing settings. So, when the retired U.S. Marine discovered John Tyler Community College could put him on a path to a career that aligned with his interests, Marshall enrolled in the college’s Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics Specialization Program. He said that decision was a good one. Not only did it allow him to build new and refine existing skills through hands-on learning, Marshall says it gave him the opportunity to network and build connections thanks to his instructors who have worked or still are working in the field. “Tyler’s staff and faculty pushed me to do my best and never give up.” In addition to his coursework, Marshall became heavily involved in student life at Tyler as president of the Student Veterans Organization, executive secretary to Student Council, and an officer for the Tau Rho chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. When asked how it feels to be graduating, Marshall says, “I never thought this was going to be a possibility. To also graduate as an officer in Phi Theta Kappa is also something I never thought would be achievable. I am completely thrilled beyond words to graduate from college and to have a plan to continue his education at a four-year university.” After celebrating his graduation from John Tyler, Marshall says he’s going to take a couple of additional classes at the college before transferring to Old Dominion University’s mechanical engineering program.
Qu’Tashia Malika Muhammad
Associate of Applied Science, Human Services, Pre-Social Work
“Just three years ago, I was in high school trying to fit in. Now, I am about to walk across the stage with honors. I can feel the change within myself that John Tyler has produced.”
Malika Muhammad wants to offer support to those facing challenges in their lives. Her passion for helping others began when she was in the eighth grade and her mother became ill. Malika suddenly found herself dealing with heartache and new responsibilities, but she discovered she was not alone. She received support from a counselor, and she said that assistance proved to be crucial. That’s when she realized she wanted to give back by helping teens who are facing challenges in their lives. So, she decided to explore a career in human services. She heard about John Tyler Community College while a student at Matoaca High School. Not yet ready to leave home and realizing Tyler offered a Human Services major, Malika decided to enroll. She says she is glad she did. At John Tyler, Malika says she’s found professors who truly connect with and care about their students. The encouragement they provided, the compassion they showed her when her mother passed away, and the confidence they had in her, made Malika want to work even harder in her classes. “To be graduating feels like I have beat all odds. It makes me proud to be completing a degree and knowing that I am one step closer to becoming the woman I am meant to be. Also, in a way, it feels surreal. Just three years ago, I was in high school trying to fit in. Now, I am about to walk across the stage with honors. I can feel the change within myself that John Tyler has produced.” After graduation, Malika plans to relocate to Mississippi so she can transfer to Jackson State University, where she’s received a full scholarship. She plans to major in social work and minor in psychology. Her goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker and to work with adolescents who suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Associate of Applied Science, Human Services
“Graduation is 47 years overdue, but it is still very sweet.”
Marilyn Powell knew she wanted to do something different with her life after retiring from her career as a sales operations manager. She began examining her options and found herself circling back to one idea in particular – working with senior citizens and helping them live full lives. For Marilyn that means encouraging mental, physical and emotional well-being, as well as inspiring people to remain engaged, to explore their interests and to be active. Marilyn decided to pursue her goal of launching a new career by enrolling in John Tyler Community College’s Human Services Program. She says she chose Tyler because of its location, size and reputation. And although going back to school was a bit daunting at first, Marilyn says she didn’t mind being an older student at John Tyler. “I was treated very well at JTCC by staff and fellow students. I always felt that I was in the right place.” Marilyn clearly left an impression on those she met at John Tyler. At the college’s Student Awards Ceremony in April, she was presented with the Theresa Windham Award, which is given annually to a student who inspires other through service, kindness and selflessness. As for what’s next – Marilyn is exploring part-time job opportunities. While in Tyler’s Human Services Program, she got a summer internship through Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation that gave her the opportunity to work with seniors. She enjoyed the experience so much that she hopes to end up working with the county or with another organization that offers similar senior programs. In the meantime, Marilyn says she’s going to celebrate her achievements. “Graduation is 47 years overdue, but it is still very sweet. I am so excited.”
Associate of Science, Information Systems
“JTCC has imparted me with the knowledge, skills and abilities that I would never have gained anywhere else at such an affordable price.”
For Takura Zingoni, information is power. He understands how vital it is for data to be accurate, analyzed and understood, and he embraces the need to keep pace with changing technology. These converging interests put Takura on a path to an education in information systems. After moving to Chesterfield County, Takura began exploring his college options, and found out about John Tyler Community College from his sister and brother-in-law, both of whom had attended the college. Tyler’s proximity to his home was a plus, but it was the college’s lower tuition, facilities and campus environment that drove Takura's decision. Plus, he liked the guaranteed admissions agreements Tyler has with four-year colleges and universities. After starting at Tyler, Takura says he was inspired to get more involved at the college. He became a student ambassador, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and a member of the Men of Distinction Club. As he thinks about graduation, Takura says he feels “a sense of accomplishment and achievement” and “well prepared for the next challenge that lies ahead.” “JTCC has imparted me with the knowledge, skills and abilities that I would never have gained anywhere else at such an affordable price.” Takura next step is Virginia Commonwealth University, where he’s been accepted into the School of Business where he will continue to study information systems. After that, he hopes to pursue his master’s and Ph.D. At the same time, Takura is considering his career options. He says, initially, he’d like to work at a leading information technology company. Eventually, he wants to launch his own global IT solutions company that will focus on health systems applications and software.
Class of 2016 Snapshots
Hubert “Dolph” 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
“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.
General Studies, Teacher Education Specialization
“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
“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
“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.”
“… 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.
Class of 2015 Snapshots
Members of the Class of 2015 talk about their goals and how John Tyler Community College impacted their lives.
Associate of Applied Science in Human Services
“I am excited to be finished, but I am sad to be leaving the people who have helped me discover who I am supposed to be. John Tyler has given me the tools I need in order to succeed!”
Jason Brown is grateful for second chances, and he’s determined to open doors for people who may feel they have no options. That’s what he says John Tyler Community College did for him. Jason describes himself as a recovering substance abuse user. His life experiences taught him valuable lessons, and he believes he has much to share with those dealing with similar challenges. That’s why he decided to pursue a Human Services degree at John Tyler. He says, before Tyler, doors kept getting shut, and now, his opportunities are many. As he counts down the days to graduation, Jason is already looking ahead to the next step in his journey. He’s wants to continue his education at Virginia State University, earn a bachelor’s degree, and work in substance abuse counseling.
Silvia Garcia Murcia
Associate of Science in General Studies, Science
“When I think about graduating from John Tyler, I feel happy and excited because this is one more step accomplished, and I also feel sad because I have to leave all the people that helped me be where I'm now.”
Silvia Garcia Murcia’s life has taken some unexpected turns, but one thing has held constant – her desire to work in health care. Silvia was born in Honduras and moved to the United States, where she ended up in the foster-care system. She taught herself English, and after graduating from high school, enrolled at John Tyler Community College. When she started at Tyler, Garcia Murcia immediately got involved with the College’s Great Expectations program, which provided her with a variety of resources and support – things for which she’s grateful. Silvia wants others to know that their lives can change too. She regularly reaches out to friends in the Hispanic community and encourages them to get an education. After graduating from Tyler, Silvia will transfer to the University of Richmond, where she received a full scholarship. She plans to study biology there, and after completing her bachelor’s degree, she wants to enter a physician’s assistant program.
Jé Mira Johnson
Associate of Science in Business Administration
“When I think about graduation, it makes me feel so great! I feel like I am another step closer to achieving my dreams, and I didn't need to take out any loans to do it!”
Jé Mira Johnson likes a good challenge. That’s why she’s pursuing a career in business. As one of eight children, sticking to a budget is important. So, with an eye toward finances, she opted to make John Tyler Community College the first stop in her college career. Tyler’s flexible course schedule; approachable faculty, staff and administrators; resources; and student activities surprised Jé Mira. She says Tyler helped her get an internship with the Chesterfield Chamber, where she gained valuable hands-on, real-world skills. Jé Mira says thanks to her experiences at Tyler, she feels prepared for the next steps in her education and for her future career. After graduation, she hopes to continue her education at George Mason University.
Associate of Science in General Studies
"When I think about walking across the stage at commencement, I think about how JTCC has prepared me to walk confidently into the next chapter of my life. Tyler has been such a profound part of my life and I am so grateful for the experiences I had here."
Hanna Lamphere wants to help children realize their potential the way others have helped her discover hers. She wants to do that by becoming a teacher, then a school counselor, and eventually a school principal. Hanna’s path to realizing her dream took an unexpected turn when she decided to leave the four-year college that she had enrolled in right out of high school. She said she felt in over her head and was left frustrated by the experience. After taking a few years off from school, Hannah realized it was time to refocus her efforts. She wanted a college education, so, she signed up for classes at John Tyler. Hanna says Tyler’s faculty and staff inspire her to push herself. And thanks to that encouragement, Hanna says she’s become more confident in her abilities, and she’s gained the courage to dream big. After earning her degree at Tyler, she plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to complete a bachelor’s degree. She eventually wants to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate degree.
Alexandria “Alex” Ritchie
Associate of Science in Engineering
"My time at John Tyler has changed my life. It's opened my eyes to all I can be if I work hard, persevere through the trials, and believe in my dreams."
Alexandria “Alex” Ritchie knows what she wants to do. Graduate from John Tyler Community College with a degree in engineering. Transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to continue studying biomedical engineering. Apply to medical school, and become a physician. This is not just a well-thought-out career pathway for Alex – it’s a personal journey. When she was 13, her parents sat her down and told her about a sibling she had never known – one who had suffered from a chromosome deficiency. The story ignited a spark in Alex, and driven by the desire to help others, she put together a strategy for her education. At first, a two-year degree from John Tyler was not in her plan, but a change in finances prompted her to enroll in the College’s Engineering Program. Alex never looked back. Instead, she immersed herself in her studies and in student life at Tyler. Now, she’s preparing to move into the next phase of her education plan. She will be continuing her studies at VCU, where she’s already been accepted into the biomedical engineering program.
Associate of Applied Science in Human Services, Pre-Social Work
“My time at John Tyler has meant so much to me. I had the chance to grow not only educationally. I found me during my time at JTCC. I learned who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do in life. I met amazing people along the way who helped me grow and when life tried to get in the way they pulled me back in. I got so many opportunities I never thought possible.”
Amber Staton wants to make a difference in the lives of people who are facing life-altering challenges. Her passion for the field of human services stems from her own experiences. She has survived the suicide of a close family member; has been homeless; and is a mother who is juggling family needs with work and school. It’s not easy, but Amber is determined. She says she’s thankful for what she’s discovered at John Tyler. She’s found strong mentors in the teaching faculty, financial support through scholarships and work-study opportunities, and flexible class schedules that help her balance her many responsibilities. Amber says she’s ready for her next challenge: completing a bachelor’s degree. She will do that at Mary Baldwin College, where she’s been accepted into the social work program. Eventually, she hopes to own a clinic that provides counseling services.
Associate of Science in General Studies, Teacher Specialization
“Graduating from John Tyler gives me the confidence to continue my education at a four-year university.”
Asein Ta believes education is vital. He also believes in the importance of giving back. Because of that, he not only wants to become an elementary school teacher, he wants to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). Asein was born in a rural area of Myanmar (Burma), and after losing his parents, he moved to Thailand, where he lived in refugee camps for more than four years. When the opportunity arose to move to another country, Asein asked to be taken to the United States. In 2008, he came to Virginia and was placed in the foster care system. He first learned about John Tyler Community College while taking dual enrollment courses in high school. When he found out about Tyler’s Great Expectations program, which offers support and guidance to foster youth who want to get a college education, Asein says he knew the College would be a good fit for him. Asein says he feels like he’s part of a family at John Tyler. He loves the College’s diversity, and he believes Tyler is helping students make better lives for themselves. After his graduation from Tyler, Asein will transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to work on a bachelor’s and then master’s degree.
Class of 2014 Snapshots
Associate of Science in Business Administration
When he graduated from high school Chesterfield County in 2009, Renato Arenas couldn’t afford college, so he took a job as a mechanic. A year later, realizing he wanted a different career, he re-evaluated his life. He thought about how hard he worked in high school and the good grades he earned there and decided it was time to continue his education. Renato says John Tyler Community College was the perfect choice because tuition is affordable, the College is close to home, and it offers a great education. He had completed most of the requirements for the General Studies degree program when a trip to Peru to visit family prompted a change in his plans. During the trip, Renato got to observe his aunt as she worked in a business where she was part of a team. That encounter was eye-opening. “I realized I was really into critical thinking and problem solving and that I wanted that in my career” says Renato. So, when he returned home, he switched majors and moved into Tyler’s Business Administration transfer program. Renato says he’s grateful for his time at John Tyler because it’s given him an education that will help him succeed at a four-year institution and in the workforce. He says it’s also allowed him to meet new people and to participate in a variety of activities. He represented John Tyler as part of a student delegation to the General Assembly, and he will be the student speaker at commencement. When asked how it feels to be graduating, Renato expresses mixed emotions. “I’m excited to be completely done with it, but I know it’s just a stepping stone to the next thing,” he says. “I’m really grateful for John Tyler. I’m always going to keep it in my heart.” And, what’s Renato’s next step? He plans to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete his bachelor’s degree before going into international business. His long-range goal is to earn a master’s degree and to one day manage his own team.
Leslie and Emma Prigge
Associate of Applied Arts in Visual Arts, Photography and Film Specialization
Leslie Prigge and her daughter, Emma, share much in common. They both love art and want to pursue careers in photography. They are best friends who push and inspire each other. They know each other so well that they finish each other’s sentences. And, they’re each about to earn an Associate of Applied Arts in Visual Arts with a Photography and Film Specialization from John Tyler Community College. When the two decided to go to college, they began exploring options. For Leslie, time was of the essence because her husband is in the military, and she knew she had two years before his next assignment would take them to a new post. So, she and Emma visited the education center at Fort Lee looking for answers. There, they discovered John Tyler Community College and its two-year degree in visual arts, and they signed up for classes using G.I. Bill benefits. The two immediately immersed themselves in the program, which allowed them to explore many forms or art – not just photography. They learned the intricacies of their cameras and discovered the nuances that go into creating an awe-inspiring photograph – all skills they will need for their careers. Emma plans to become a nature photographer, educating people about the beauty of wildlife and plants through photographs. Leslie hopes to use what she’s learned to capture the quirky and fun personalities of pets. As they reflect on their time at Tyler and look ahead to the future, they talk about the excitement they feel about what’s next. When asked how they feel about their accomplishments, emotions rise to the surface as Emma proudly points out that graduating from Tyler means so much more to her mother. That’s because Leslie didn’t graduate from high school. In 2008, about a year before Emma graduated high school, Leslie earned her GED. Because of that, she and her daughter were able to go to Tyler together. “This time, I’ll actually get to achieve a bigger goal of finishing college and walking across the stage,” says Leslie. “And, I’ll also get to do it with my daughter. That makes it so much better.”
Anthony Bickley; William Clements, III; Andrew Collins; Wilson “Will” Morgan; Billy Phillips, III;
Seth Roberts; Ricky White
Career Studies Certificate in Basic Precision Machining Technology
Seven Amelia County High School students will mark a first for John Tyler Community College when they cross the stage as part of the Class of 2014. They are the first cohort of high school students to graduate from the College’s Basic Precision Machining Technology career studies certificate program. Their graduations from college will come about a month before they celebrate their high school graduations. For the past two years during the fall and spring semesters, Anthony Bickley; William Clements, III; Andrew Collins; Wilson “Will” Morgan; Billy Phillips, III; Seth Roberts; and Ricky White spent two hours a day, four days a week at the Chester Campus, building the skill sets needed to understand and be competitive in the in-demand field of advanced manufacturing. They’ve gone through the rigors of Tyler’s program, honing their abilities in manual and automated machining through hands-on learning and developing skills that meet industry standards and are marketable in the workforce. Through the program, all seven earned National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certifications, which are nationally recognized industry credentials. Each of the students earned at least one NIMS certification; some earned three. In addition, the students received opportunities to work in the field. Seth Roberts and Will Morgan earned internships at Rolls-Royce, while Ricky White secured a job at another company and will begin working there once he graduates high school in June. After graduation, other members of the cohort will take what they’ve learned in different directions. William Clements hopes to use his skills in the military. Andrew Collins wants to apply the critical thinking and other skills he’s learned to a degree in computer science engineering and a minor in business management – credentials he hopes to use to get a job at an advanced manufacturing company like Rolls-Royce.
Class of 2013 Snapshots
Members of the Class of 2013 talk about their experiences at John Tyler Community College and offer advice to those just starting college.
Associate of Science in Engineering
Christopher Deloglos is curious by nature. He likes to know how things work, so he loves science, and he says that’s probably what got him interested in engineering. Christopher, who was home schooled, began taking classes at John Tyler Community College while finishing his high school work. When he completed high school early, he decided to continue at Tyler. He was just 15 at the time, and he liked Tyler’s proximity to his home. Christopher says he soon felt connected to the College thanks to his professors and to other students who offered advice and pushed him to succeed. His academic achievements earned him a membership in the Beta Omicron Omicron Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society as well as a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) scholarship. Christopher says the variety of classes and people at Tyler have made his first college experiences great ones. Even as he excitedly prepares for graduation day at Tyler, he’s looking ahead to the next step – Virginia Commonwealth University, where he plans to double major in engineering and business administration. After that, he’d like to earn a master’s degree and possibly a doctorate. His dream job? To manage a Fortune 500 engineering company.
Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
Chad Doebler’s life is going in a new direction, and he couldn’t be more thrilled. Chad is becoming a nurse, and he is anxious to be out in the field, full-time, helping others. As a member of the Class of 2013, he soon will be. Chad admits that he wasn’t always this excited about his career. Before deciding to pursue a career in health care, he worked in engineering and in software. He found neither satisfying. So, he sat down with his wife, talked about options, and honed in on nursing. Chad said he chose to attend John Tyler Community College because its Nursing Program had an excellent reputation in the community and because of economics – Tyler was simply more affordable. He laughs when he talks about the challenges of being a father, husband and full-time nursing student while working part time at a hospital. “It takes organization,” says Chad. It also takes emotional toughness. “Nursing is tough. This program is not stress free and neither is the career.” If you understand that, Chad says, then you can succeed – especially when you have a supportive family and you have dedicated faculty who provide you with the instruction needed to get ready for the real world. As he talks about graduating from John Tyler, his grin gets even bigger. “It feels awesome,” he exclaims. “You know what’s most gratifying? One of my professors told me that I’m now a peer!” So, what’s next for Chad? He is going to start a new job in the progressive care unit at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, and in the fall, he plans to start working on his bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts, International Studies Specialization
Andrew Hart didn’t set out to achieve a first, but he’s proud that he has, and he hopes what he’s done will inspire others. Andrew is one of two students in the Class of 2013 who will become the first to graduate with an associate degree from John Tyler Community College before graduating from high school. Andrew says his journey was a merging of two plans. Because he is one of four children, his parents wanted him to attend a two-year college to save money. Andrew, however, wanted to go to college with his friends. So, he began looking for ways to earn college credits early. Through a combination of classes – dual enrollment, concurrent and AP, he was able to earn the credits needed to graduate with a Liberal Arts degree with a specialization in international studies. At times, juggling high school and college was difficult, but Andrew says he learned to overcome the challenges by managing his time well. What may surprise many is that Andrew also was able to schedule time to be a tutor at John Tyler, to volunteer at the school where his father works, to participate in honor societies, and to have fun with his friends. Andrew says the experience has been wonderful because it’s given him the opportunity to find out what college is like, and it’s helped him prepare for what next. “I am proud of what I’ve done. I’ve worked really hard,” says Andrew. “I hope others realize they can do something just like this, even if it is in an unconventional way.” Andrew also says graduation is a way for him to say thank you to all those who supported him along the way – his family, the professors and staff at John Tyler, and the staff from his high school. After graduating from Tyler in May, Andrew will celebrate his graduation from Clover Hill High School in June, and then enjoy a vacation. By fall, he will be back at school. He will attend Virginia Commonwealth University and would like to double major in political science/international relations and homeland security. He’s then thinking about working on a master’s degree. His ultimate goal is to work for the State Department.
Associate of Science in General Studies
Emily McGee knows that in order to succeed in fashion, you must challenge conventional thinking and get creative. That’s just the kind of attitude she adopted when she decided to try to graduate from college and high school simultaneously. Emily says soon after she started high school, she discovered that she wanted more. So, she sat down with her mother, and together, they designed a plan that would allow Emily to earn an associate degree while completing high school. Emily eventually ended up at John Tyler Community College, where she says she found great professors and a diverse atmosphere. She also discovered the College’s flexible class schedule, which she says helped make it possible for her to balance high school and college courses. Emily says at times the workload was stressful, and she admits she had less free time with her friends. But she says that is okay with her because her education is her main focus. Now that graduation is approaching, Emily says she’s able to take a deep breath. "I’m really excited," she laughs. "I haven’t had a free summer in three years." Emily also is proud to be one of two students who are marking a first for John Tyler. They will be the first to graduate with an associate degree from Tyler before graduating high school. In June, Emily will graduate from James River High School, and in the fall, she will start classes at Virginia Commonwealth University. There, she will pursue a degree in fashion merchandising. She says graduating now with her associate degree now will allow her to turn her attention to her passion – the fashion business. She hopes it will also mean that she’ll have more time to explore internships and study abroad opportunities that will give her a leg up in a competitive industry. When asked what she would like to do with her education, Emily says she could see herself owning a boutique and creating her own clothing designs. But, that dream could change. With a twinkle in her eye, Emily says, anything is possible. "I want to experience life and see where it takes me."
Associate of Science in General Studies
A lot can change in three years. That’s what Julianna Morgan discovered during her time at John Tyler Community College. Julianna says when she started taking classes at Tyler three years ago she was a very different person. At the time, she was a 27-year old single mother with a one-year old son. She says she lacked confidence and was not sure she could succeed. She doubted herself academically, in part because she had dropped out of high school. But, after getting her GED and becoming a mother, she felt she needed more for herself and for her little boy. So, she gathered her courage, drove to John Tyler Community College, enrolled, and began her college career. Julianna admits the first day of class was tough and full of anxiety, but, she says, that quickly changed thanks to the encouragement she received from the College’s faculty and staff. She began to overcome her fears and doubts, and soon, she discovered something she didn’t expect – a love for history. Once ignited, that passion blossomed. She jumped at the chance to be part of the College’s History Club and has held positions as its vice president and president. She also got involved in Student Council and volunteered and participated in a number of College activities. She says while at Tyler, she’s made new connections, enjoyed the College’s sense of diversity, and gained confidence in her abilities. She also excelled academically, and in 2013, earned a coveted spot on the Top Ten All-Virginia Academic Team, a recognition that showcases the best community college students in the Commonwealth as ranked by USA Today, The Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and the American Association of Community Colleges. Julianna describes graduating from John Tyler as a proud and emotional time. And, although she’s looking forward to celebrating this achievement, she’s also looking ahead to her next goal - a bachelor’s degree in history from Virginia Commonwealth University. After that, she hopes to continue her education in history by earning a master’s and eventually a doctorate degree.
Associate of Applied Science in Human Services, Pre-Social Work Specialization
For Donna Simmons, the road to a college education has taken some unexpected detours. Donna started going to college immediately after high school, but she says she just didn’t have the focus she needed. Instead, she turned her attention toward raising a family and working. But, throughout the years, she never stopped thinking about going back to school. With the encouragement of her husband, she decided to enroll at John Tyler Community College. Sadly, just as she was starting her college career, her husband passed away. The loss was painful, but Donna says she knew her husband wanted her to achieve her dreams so she continued on her path to a college degree. At first, she thought she’d pursue a degree in accounting, but after a few classes, Donna said she realized the career didn’t fit her personality. After realizing she had a passion for helping people, Donna changed direction and enrolled in John Tyler Community College’s Pre-Nursing curriculum. She was accepted into the College’s Nursing Program, where she began the challenge of trying to juggle nursing classes with being a single mother of three and working full time. She used her personal and vacation time from work to attend class, but she fell a few points shy of making it through one of her classes. Donna says she was disappointed by the set-back, but she was not willing to give up. She did some research and worked with the College’s counselors and discovered the Human Services program. She quickly got involved in all facets of the program by volunteering her time with various organizations, interning at the YWCA, taking on the role of president for the College’s Human Services Club, participating in Student Council, and representing Tyler at a Student Leadership Conference. She says John Tyler has made all of this possible through its caring faculty, who bring many perspectives to the classroom, and its helpful staff, who understand the challenges faced by the College’s diverse student population. She says her upcoming graduation is bittersweet. She’s ecstatic to have reached this milestone, but she is sad to leave John Tyler. Even so, Donna says she knows she needs to keep moving forward. Her next step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in human services, which she plans to do through an online program offered by Bluefield College.
Associate of Science in Business Administration
Thomas Wise refuses to be part of a negative statistic, and he’s worked hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. Thomas grew up in the foster care system, and he knows that far too often, children in that system don’t graduate from high school and even fewer finish college. But, Thomas was determined to beat the odds, and he is. In May, he will finish his associate degree, becoming the first student in the John Tyler Community College Great Expectations program to graduate. Great Expectations is a program that provides much-needed support to youth who are aging out of the foster care system. This support comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s helping a student navigate the financial aid or class scheduling process, and sometimes it’s helping a student find transportation or a place to live. The support also comes in the form of a mentor, who offers encouragement, advice, and when necessary, a little nudge to get back on track. Thomas says the support he received through Great Expectations has been critical to his success, especially when he realized he might want to change his degree focus. Originally, Thomas planned to go into engineering. He found the program to be challenging and the material and instructors to be interesting. But, then came a surprise. He got a job as a retail merchandiser, and he discovered he loved the work. Thomas says he had been shy in high school, so he was amazed to learn that he enjoyed