Tidewater Tech Blog

Most Successful Career Fair in Tidewater Tech History!

Written by Mike Hudson, Student Services CoordinatorStudents at a Career Fair

On June 16th, 2019, Tidewater Tech hosted one of their bi-annual Career Fairs. This Career Fair marked one of the most successful recruiting events in the college’s history. With over 19 total employers present, Tidewater Tech students were determined to leave a lasting impression as well as learn from the networking experiences. Students talked with companies such as Miller’s Energy, Checkered Flag, Kingsmill Resort and many more. By the end of the day, at least five individuals who were enrolled in Tidewater Tech’s Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) were offered jobs!

Of the 19 total employers, 16 of them were new to Tidewater Tech. This expansion of employers was made possible due to the hard work of the Career Services Coordinator, Evan Kee. Evan reached out to multiple employers for months leading up to the event. Both the hiring companies and students in attendance were eager to build a networking connection. Some employers made offers on the spot, others conducted interviews and many encouraged Tidewater Tech students to fill out the necessary applications to apply for their open positions. Tidewater Tech even hosted CALIBRE Systems, traveling all the way from Alexandria, Virginia. CALIBRE was excited to have the chance to meet with trained auto mechanics.

Employers were thrilled with the turn out they received and were excited for the opportunity to meet so many skilled trades people. Many expressed interest in returning and plan to stay involved with Tidewater Tech’s future recruiting efforts.

Tidewater Tech Graduate Spotlight: Ralph Blackman

Written by Evan Kee, Career Services Coordinator

Ralph Blackman was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. He comes from a family of shipyard workers, and always knew he was destined to be a welder. He has always wanted to do something with his hands that would present a challenge. After seeing commercials for Tidewater Tech, and watching the movie Iron Man, he decided it was time to take a leap, and pursue an education. This decision, he states, was, “One of the best decisions he’s ever made, and a gift from the Man above.”

Ralph said that the welding program challenged him at times, but he never lost faith. He made sure to build relationships with as many students, instructors, and staff members as he could, and credits the entire school community for motivating him, and giving him the confidence needed to complete the program. His advice for students who are thinking about quitting is, “if you feel it’s meant for you, keep faith and keep pushing forward. Believe in yourself and don’t give up.”

Since graduating from the program, Ralph has gained employment working as a Fire Watch for Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.’s Fleet Support Group. He hopes to become a successful welder, make good money, and eventually come back to Tidewater Tech as an instructor. He feels led to teach, and motivate others, in the same way that his instructors and support staff did for him. He thanks Tidewater Tech for making him what he is today, and he looks forward to seeing the school and staff in the future!

About Tidewater Tech

Tidewater Tech is a career training school that specializes in trade vocations including Auto Technician, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), Building Maintenance and Repair and Welding.  The school offers professional facilities, knowledgeable instructors, day or evening classes, and job placement assistance.  Learn more at www.tidewatertechtrades.edu.

Calvary Revival Church and Tidewater Tech create a $1 Million Overcomers Scholarship for Hampton Roads Community

In conjunction with Aviation Institute of Maintenance, Centura College, and Tidewater Tech, Calvary Revival Church announces a $1 million scholarship fund for students, to be awarded over the next ten years.

Earlier this year, Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) purchased Calvary Revival Church’s former Calvary Christian School campus on East Little Creek Road, where AIM will relocate its Southeast Virginia campus in 2020. Calvary Christian School was an accredited K-12th grade, faith-based, private school founded by Bishop B. Courtney McBath, dedicated to inspiring future educators, doctors, lawyers, and politicians that would eventually leave their homes in Norfolk and surrounding communities to go out and change the world. The two entities have now teamed up to create a scholarship fund for students in the local community.

The $1 Million Overcomers Scholarship Fund will be administered by Calvary Revival Church (CRC) over ten years to help the Norfolk community and the Hampton Roads community at-large pursue career-focused college education and workforce development.  Recipients of the scholarship will pursue training at the AIM, Centura College, and Tidewater Tech campuses and will be supported with job placement services after graduation.

“This scholarship is representative of our church’s heart for Norfolk and people throughout the 757 that are looking for opportunities to improve their quality of life,” said Courtney McBath, Senior Founding Pastor at Calvary Revival Church—an  eclectic, family-oriented ministry dedicated to creating Overcomers out of the broken and empowering its community. In July 2020, CRC plans to celebrate 30 years of ministry and service. It offers services on Saturdays at 6:00 PM and Sundays at 8:30 and 11:00 AM at 5833 Poplar Hall Drive in Norfolk, where you can almost always count on being greeted with a “Hey Fam!” and hugs that feel like HOME. Calvary Revival Church, in conjunction with the Foodbank of Eastern Virginia, also serves thousands of Norfolk residents every Friday from their Healthy Foods Pantry located at the church’s 5833 Poplar Hall Drive campus. Our goal since our inception in 1990 has been to expose our community to opportunities for advancement and to remind them of their God-given value and purpose, says McBath, and alumnus of M.I.T.

Over the next decade, hundreds of Norfolk citizens will benefit from the Overcomers Scholarship Fund, and they will go to work at hospitals, airlines, shipyards, and businesses throughout the region.  Dr. Joel English, Vice President of Operations for the colleges, stated that “this is the first time in our institutional history that we have donated to such a significant scholarship program.”   “The Overcomer Scholarship will reduce or eliminate college debt for the recipients,” said English, “and it will supply skilled tradespeople for open positions throughout Hampton Roads.”


About Calvary Revival Church

For more information about Calvary Revival Church, please find them at @CRCNorfolk on all social media platforms or join us online at www.crcglobal.org to learn about ways that you can give back to Hampton Roads through service and scholarship!

About Aviation Institute of Maintenance

Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) is a network of aviation maintenance schools with campuses coast-to-coast across the United States and headquarters located in Virginia Beach, Va. AIM students are trained to meet the increasing global demands of commercial, cargo, corporate and private aviation employers.  AIM graduates are eligible to take the FAA exams necessary to obtain their mechanic’s certificate with ratings in both Airframe and Powerplant.  AIM’s campuses are located in the following major metro areas: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Mo., Fremont, Calif., Orlando, Fla., and Norfolk, Va. Learn more at: www.AviationMaintenance.edu.

About Centura College

Centura College has been part of an organization dedicated to helping men and women develop careers since 1969.  By training working adults in healthcare, technology, business, and skilled trades, they connect communities with some of the fastest growing career fields in today’s marketplace.  The school offers professional facilities, knowledgeable instructors, day or evening classes, job placement assistance and is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).  To learn more, visit www.CenturaCollege.edu or like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/centura.edu.

About Tidewater Tech

Tidewater Tech is a career training school that specializes in trade vocations including Auto Technician, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), Building Maintenance and Repair and Welding.  The school offers professional facilities, knowledgeable instructors, day or evening classes, and job placement assistance.  Learn more at www.tidewatertechtrades.edu.

Tidewater Tech Graduate Spotlight: Christopher Jones

Written by Megan DeHart, Career Services Coordinator

Christopher Jones was born in North Carolina and remained there throughout high school. Following high school graduation, he joined the U.S. Army as a logistician. During his 11 years of service, Christopher traveled between Germany, Korea, Iraq, and Kuwait. In 2015, he retired from the Army and moved to Fort Lee, Virginia, where Christopher would live with his son through May of 2018. It was then that Christopher moved once more, this time to the Newport News area of Hampton Roads. Following this move, Christopher sought out Tidewater Tech to finally act on his long sought-out interest of pursuing a career in welding.

In June of 2018, Christopher started the Combination Welding diploma program at Tidewater Tech. When asked what drew him to the trades industry, Christopher stated, “ In regards to Christopher’s input on the knowledge and skills obtained throughout his program, he stated that he felt prepared for future interviews, how to tweak his resume as he seeks to further his experience, and secure employment in the welding field.

“I am beyond thankful for the assistance and tips that I received from the Student Affairs department at Tidewater Tech, especially when it came to updating my resume,” stated Christopher. “Also, I’d like to send a big shout out to Justin & Mr. Sellers for helping me on overnights!”

Within five days of his graduation, Christopher interviewed for a welding position and received an offer letter!

Christopher wanted to leave some words of inspiration for future Tidewater Tech students, stating that if he could tell someone who hits an obstacle and feels as though it could prohibit the continuance of their program, he’d simply say “stay focused and push through it.  It will all be worthwhile in the end!”

Tidewater Tech Grad Spotlight: Joseph Parker

Joseph Parker poses for a photo at the campus.

Joseph Parker poses for a photo at the campus.

Tidewater Tech grad Joseph Parker lived in Raleigh, North Carolina when he realized it was time to get serious about his future and make a change in his life, for the better. He had been thinking about welding but did not know where to start. Then, one day he received a call from Centura College about furthering his education in the medical field, but he was more interested in pursuing welding.

He was soon connected with Tidewater Tech and found that was where his future needed to go. He moved to the Hampton Roads area to attend Tidewater Tech’s combination welding program.

Joseph found inspiration in welding from his uncle, who was a welder. He saw the financial security that came from succeeding in the trade. As a father, he knew he needed to better himself in order to provide a more secure future for his children.

Overcoming Challenges

School did not come without its challenges though. “When I enrolled in school I was working full-time, was riding public transportation, and living in Newport News. I had to get up at 5 am to get to school by 8 am,” described Parker.  “Then, I got off [from school] at 2 pm just to get back on the bus to get to my job at 5 pm and work until midnight or 1 am usually. That was my routine Monday through Thursday.”

Midway through his program, more struggles came from his living situation. He found it hard to stay motivated with a tiring travel, school, and work schedule. With the added stress of not knowing where to live, Joseph almost gave up hope and quit the program to move back home to North Carolina.

However, his family in North Carolina encouraged him to stay positive, finish his program, and graduate. Eventually Parker was able to obtain stable housing. “Honestly, my biggest support system was (the) student services (at the campus), my girlfriend, and my immediate family,” Parker stated when asked what helped him get through the welding program.

Joseph Parker at graduation.

Joseph Parker (right) at graduation.

Joseph knew he needed to set a good example for his children and lead by example. “My son looks up to me more anything and I don’t want him to see me quitting. That’s not the model I want to set for him.”

Graduation finally arrived and you could see the unmistakable joy on Joseph’s face. He knew he has persevered through positivity. Armed with American Welding Society certifications, he had completed his program with pride.

Parker always came to campus with a smile on his face despite being tired or discouraged. He always made it a point to stop by and say hello to everyone he ran into each day. He quickly found that staying active and involved on campus helped promote the positivity he needed to maintain his momentum throughout the program. As a Tidewater Tech student ambassador, he was heavily involved in campus activities promoting school spirit and encouraged other students to stay positive no matter what.


Plans After Graduation

Life doesn’t end at graduation though. Joseph has plans for his future. He has since interviewed with several companies and most recently interviewed at Bay Metal where he hopes to fully begin his career. He plans to move up within the company to a Senior Welder position and eventually be able to purchase a home for him and his family to live life with a little more security.

Now an official Tidewater Tech grad, Mr. Parker left us with some encouraging words to pass on to future students. “You can make it. If I made it, you can make it. I know everyone comes from different backgrounds and life isn’t a walk in the park. If you feel like you’re going to give up, look past it, push through it. It’s just a storm.”

Tidewater Tech Graduate Spotlight – Tony Jones

Tidewater Tech grad Tony Jones holds up blueprints for house he plans to build.

Tidewater Tech grad Tony Jones holds up blueprints for the house he plans to build.

Tony Jones was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia. Having prior construction experience in addition to attending courses at Tidewater Building Association, with a specialty in Auto CAD (Computer Aided Drafting), he desired to further his education and academic experience in the trades and construction field. With that, Jones enrolled here at Tidewater Tech. Growing up, Tony always desired to someday build houses and had a knack for hands-on learning and skills, leading him to the trades field.

Time at Tidewater Tech

Tony first enrolled at Tidewater Tech in the (BMR) Building Maintenance and Repair program in January of 2017, graduating later that year, in August, with a cumulative enrollment GPA of 4.00. Promptly following graduation of the BMR program, Tony then enrolled into the Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) program to further his education in September 2017, graduating on June 10th of 2018 with an overall GPA of 3.43.

When asked his review of Tidewater Tech in regards to skills and knowledge he obtained throughout both the Building Maintenance and Repair and the Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning programs, Jones stated that he believed he obtained necessary skills to feel confident in anything from interviewing, creating resumes and cover letters, to successfully having the knowledge to obtain employment in his field of interest.

“The instructors and staff whole-heartedly want you to succeed,” Jones commented when talking about his time at Tidewater Tech, after graduating from both programs.

Tony discussed overcoming obstacles throughout his academic journey. “There’s a lot to learn, you’re getting back into the classroom setting which takes time to adjust to, staying on track with homework, testing, memorizing all of the terms, it wasn’t easy. But I stayed consistent in both my classes and the program overall.”

In regards to support systems, Tony recognized his family and friends outside of school. “They were constantly encouraging me and checking in on me as far as how I was doing and where my grades stood.” Additionally Jones noted, “The whole administration, staff and instructors, all played major keys in both recognizing and supporting me”.

Tony provided encouraging advice to others who may feel overwhelmed or that they won’t make it through. “Be patient, believe in yourself, and know that you can accomplish your goals.”

What’s Next After Graduation?

Since graduating in June, Tony enrolled in Villanova University, with goals to obtain his certificate in Project Management in order to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and hours to get his PMP Certification.

Additionally, Tony is associated with Virginia Organizing, where he assists individuals who’ve been directly affected by anything from lack of health insurance, affordable housing, to the school to prison pipeline. Not only is Tony active in his local community, but he also is the Director of a youth mental health program, HYPE (Helping Young People Everywhere), where he utilizes his past experiences to educate and advise young people.

Jones has partnered with both Tidewater Tech and Centura College for multiple back-to-school supplies drives in working towards giving back to the local community.  When discussing Tony’s long term goals, he brought his blueprints of the first house he wishes to build and sell once he gets his developing company started. He discussed his prior education and how it has all played vital roles in all of the knowledge he’s obtained throughout his academic journey thus far.

Best wishes go out to you Tony.  Your family at Tidewater Tech knows you can do anything you put your mind to!

Tidewater Tech Graduate Spotlight: Kyle Horton

By Terrell Wiggins

Kyle Horton was born in Philadelphia, PA and moved to Virginia with his parents when he was four years old. His original plans after graduating high school were to go into the military, since he really wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, career-wise. His father asked him what his goal of joining the military was and Kyle, unsure of the answer, stated that it was really for the money.  Kyle’s father had been employed as a successful heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician for a number of years, and it was at that point he introduced his son to the HVAC field.  Not long after this conversation, Kyle decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and go into a trade himself.  He then enrolled into the HVAC program at Tidewater Tech.

In review of his time at Tidewater Tech, Kyle says that everything was (nearly) perfect. The teachers were always on time. He loved the lab because it was so much like the real world environment that he would work in. The administrative staff were praised for how professional and understanding they were. It was because of the caring faculty and staff, and the welcoming environment of the camps, that he boldly stated that he never felt the urge to quit when things got challenging.

Horton learned how to balance school and life. He stated that it helped that he didn’t have a lot going on prior to enrolling into school. Kyle would leave the campus at around two o’clock in the afternoon and would have to be at work by five o’clock. That was his routine every day up until graduation. However, he did mention that there were times when classes would get challenging and he would need the extra help to for a difficult task. He stated that the teachers were very helpful and they were always there for him when he needed them.

His greatest motivation was knowing that his hard work would lead to a rewarding career for him in the end. He knew that he had to do something, whether military or a trade. So he chose the latter, and he’s very glad that he listened to his father. When asked what the best advice he could give to someone who is feeling that they can’t finish or won’t make it through the program, Horton made a very profound statement. “Others can’t want more for you than you want for yourself,” claimed Horton.

Kyle knew what he wanted and was not going to allow someone else to want it more for him than he did. He graduated from his HVAC program at Tidewater Tech in August of 2018 and is currently working in the field as a HVAC technician at Gregory’s Heating and Cooling.

Kyle attributes his love for HVAC directly to his father. He describes how his father was able to make a living and give his family such a great life because of his expertise in the HVAC field. He now is looking to duplicate that same lifestyle. Horton states that he would like to start his own HVAC business within the next five years.

The faculty and staff at Tidewater Tech wishes you the best of luck in your pursuits Kyle!

Tidewater Tech Graduate Spotlight – Wayne Sainio

Tidewater Tech Graduate Spotlight – Wayne Sainio

Wayne Sainio was born and raised in Maine. Out of high school, Wayne initially had an interest in being an architect and civil engineering. He joined the Coast Guard at the age of 28, serving for 31 years, and retired in August of 2013. “Well, forced retirement that is,” Wayne joked when talking about the time he served and when finally getting out of the service. Wayne has traveled all over, from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Great Lakes, Washington, DC, the gulf Coast states at least six times, Florida three times, and all over New England. Being Active Duty, Wayne received orders to report to his new station in Virginia, On June 3rd of 2008, and has remained in the area ever since.

Wayne enrolled into Tidewater Tech’s HVAC program for the July 17, 2017 start date. When asked what brought him to Tidewater Tech after being in Virginia for so long, he replied that he had long been researching HVAC programs in the area. He expressed that he had been looking into trades programs that not only had positive reviews, but ones that were promising when it came to assisting graduates with obtaining employment in their field of certification.  Wayne replied, “Tidewater Tech seemed to be the most promising program for what I was interested in. I heard this was one of the better places to learn HVAC and actually get a job. The big seller for me was that it was 4 days a week while others were 5 or more”.

While talking about Wayne’s perspective on his program he stated, “The programs are great here. You have to be someone who can physically be here and who truly wants to learn the trades’ field. I wish younger kids would take this more seriously. Attendance is huge with these hands-on programs, they don’t realize it because they haven’t yet worked in the real world yet”. Wayne further stressed the importance of attendance and utilizing your resources, where there are so many not just of aid on campus, but in our local community.

Additionally, Wayne discussed working in various positions over the years, citing his time as a maintenance pipe fitter over in Dam Neck, Virginia Beach, where he would assist technicians and vice versa, and how he “wondered what in the world they were talking about when they used certain terms, or why they would need to do that” when listening to the other guys at work talk and try to train him.

“When I started the HVAC program everything really fell into place,” Sainio stated. “Things people had said and tried to previously explain to me over the years throughout various field related jobs, and had no idea what they were talking about, all started to make sense and I was able to better put things together…. HVAC is something that I had always been interested in learning and I really enjoyed the classes and it being hands-on instruction”.

Additionally, in anything that someone takes on, whether it’s a personal, employment, or academic obligation or journey, it’s imperative to have a solid support system in place. Wayne discussed what a vital role his wife played in supporting him to go back to school and learn what he’d always been interested in, for his personal enrichment.

“She (my wife) always encourages me to do whatever makes me happy, whatever it is, and that if I was interested in going back to school, then I should do it, and do my best”.

Wayne discussed how a support system can really affect your goals whether its initially pursuing them or completing them, and disclosed that in a previous relationship when he wanted to back to school he was continuously questioned, put down, and told he shouldn’t, as where now he is encouraged, motivated, and rewarded for taking on this academic journey. On June 10, 2018, after 10 dedicated months of classes, Wayne Sainio graduated from the Tidewater Tech HVAC program with a cumulative grade point average of 4.0.  During his time in the HVAC program, Wayne only missed two days of class due to “concert tickets I’d planned way in advance and couldn’t pass up on”.

Sainio isn’t done furthering his education, as he is currently enrolled in the BMR (Building Maintenance and Repair) program with intentions to become a home inspector and acquire his national certification. “I plan to go back up to Maine and bother everyone there for the first six months after getting certified, and then come back to Virginia to bother everyone down here,” Wayne jokingly stated when talking about his goals after completing the BMR program. “Long term, my goal, or my ultimate wish, would be to work side by side with my son who is a contractor living back home in Maine.”

When asked what’s happened since graduating from the HVAC program, Wayne stated, It feels good to have the knowledge to trouble shoot AC’s and just help people out, and not working directly under someone. Even helping others at work.” Sainio continued with a story of an instance of this.

“There was a time, not too long ago, where a customer question came up about a drain line, another individual who had worked in the field a long time shot down my response when I suggested the underlying cause, he was certain it was something else. Well, a week later that customer called back and let me know that I was right and they should’ve listened to me. So, it feels good to have the power of knowledge to help other people. It’s gone further than just personal enrichment”.

When asked what he was doing for work, Wayne stated he is working with L3 Technologies at the Norfolk Naval Yard as the Lead Production Supervisor. He discussed the 45+ years of experience he’s had working in related fields; anything from shipbuilding to working on houses, and how the HVAC program really put the pieces together to educate him about the things he’s been doing for years, which is why he intends to further into the BMR program at Tidewater Tech.

“I could get another job now if I applied, having the knowledge from my program to help in my interview, but right now I’m too afraid they’d say yes,” Sainio laughed as he discussed taking a break and completing the next program before seeking a job change. Wayne closed in discussing his feelings of accomplishment from completing the HVAC program and disclosed his excitement in taking on the BMR program. He made it clear that you have to be motivated to pursue your goals, and simply being there is always going to be half your battle.

Tidewater Tech Welding Student Shows Perseverance on Path to Graduation and Beyond

Gwendolynn Malone, Student Services Coordinator

When Lemuel Davis starting talking to his life coach about his future, he never imaged how bumpy the road was going to be. Finishing high school, Davis felt a little lost with his life. Like most young adults, Davis was not sure what to do with his future. After talking to his life coach further, she offered some tough-love advice. She said, “Lemuel, its either boots or books. You need to pick one, and start building your life”.

Heading those words, Davis started looking into different schools and trying to find the thing that fit him best. After talking to his aunt, who was a superintendent at BAE Systems Ship Repair, Inc. for welding, he thought about going into welding himself. He called Tidewater Tech and got some more information about the school. After coming and completing a tour of the campus, meeting the instructors, and talking with the Student Services department, Davis was completely sold.

He started coming to school and soon found out that he was a natural at welding. Lemuel would come to school extremely excited and eager to learn; however, his instructors did not meet him with the same excitement. They noticed that he was very good at welding, but they also noticed that he was the youngest person in the class. They started speaking to him about what it is like actually being in the field of welding, and how it can be a little stressful. Conversations in the field can be very tough to get through. The instructors started treating him the same way he would be treated if he was out in the welding field.

This left Davis feeling a little discouraged, but when he started to understand why his instructors were doing this, he greatly appreciated it. The instructors were forcing him to have a stronger backbone.  That way he could be more confident in his chosen profession.

As the weeks went past, he discovered that he was the best welder in his class. Unfortunately, this allowed him to grow a bit overconfident. He started thinking that he did not need to come to class, and complete his work. Obviously, this led to a downward spiral. His grades started to drop, his attendance fell, and he started to lose hope. He got to a point where he wanted to stop and drop out of the welding program. He felt drained and guilty for allowing his arrogance to block him. After an instructor, Mr. Sellers, started speaking life back into him, Davis started to feel better about coming to school. Mr. Sellers told him, “You’re not good at welding if you’re not a good student”. Something about that conversation struck with Lemuel and made him want to better himself.

So back to work he went. He started coming back to school and fully utilizing his resources on campus. He started to form a very strong relationship with Campus Executive Director Paula Massey, and Career Service Coordinator Damika Howard-Wayne. Those two staff members helped keep Davis on the right path. Any day that he missed, Howard-Wayne and Massey were texting, calling, and emailing him. The emotional support that the Tidewater Tech faculty and staff demonstrated is what got Lemuel through the rest of his time at the school. After weeks had gone by, Davis was doing very well again in school and he started to find a good balance between his confidence and humility. It was all smooth sailing until graduation, or so he thought.

In the midst of completing his welding training program, Davis got a call from BAE systems, offering him a position as a welder. He was over the moon with excitement, pride and happiness. However, with every high, there can be a very deep low. Soon after receiving the job offer, his mother and Davis ran into serious financial situations. Those situations led to a lot of uncomfortable changes in his life. Just as he started dealing with that, he found his brother dead. His brother was dealing with a lot of depressing thoughts and in the end, committed suicide.

Needless to say, this rocked Davis’s world to the core. He was finally on his mountain top, only to be thrown right back down in the trenches. Davis’s whole world was being turned upside down and inside out. He did not see a way out of his situation, and being honest, school was the very last thing on his mind. That did not stop Lemuel though. He started this walk and he was going to finish it.

Davis definitely leaned more on his family here at Tidewater Tech to help him get through these rough times, but in the end, it came down to his own perseverance. He did not allow adversity to stand in his way of his future. He was completely committed to seeing this all the way through. He came to school every day and allowed his education to be a way of escape from his reality. Davis understood that coming to school was going to be the best way to get him out of the situation that he was in, and he did just that.

Davis graduated in December 2017, with a career and a renewed confidence. He soon discovered that he wanted to start a foundation of his own. He wishes to help other families get through the tragic loss of suicide. He is naming it NFL—Never Feel Lonely. Even through life’s ups and downs, Davis pushed through and did not allow anything to stop him from achieving his dreams. He truly is an inspiration to us all.

Tidewater Tech Student Spotlight: From Foster Care to Graduate

by Damika Howard-Wayne

It’s no big secret that the life of a foster child can be filled with both physical and emotional struggle. About two-thirds never go to college and very few graduate. In a society where many young men and women live with their parents well into their 20s, foster children learn quickly that they are their own responsibility.

Damika Howard-Wayne (left) and Breeanna Miller (right).

Breeanna Miller, a recent graduate from Tidewater Tech’s Building Maintenance and Repair (BMR) program, came to terms with that fact that very quickly once enrolling here at Tidewater Tech. Her success story reflects parental stumbles, teenage resilience and the collective efforts of families, friends, foster parents and Tidewater Tech staff, all who helped her battle her demons, nurture her talents, and endure whatever hardships she had to face.

Spending parts of her adolescence squatting in broken homes, a part of America’s social services system, Breanna never imagined herself attending post-secondary schooling.  Not only did she complete the BMR program, but she graduated with honors, and held office as one of the campus’s student ambassadors.

During her time as student ambassador, Miller displayed an incredible sense of caring through a number of campus activities. In October 2017, Ms. Miller donated over 250 pairs of socks and gloves for children, women, and men to the Tidewater Tech campus.  Ms. Miller also took time out of her busy schedule to assist with feeding the community, volunteering at numerous community events hosted by Tidewater Tech. With the help of Ms. Miller, the BMR department won the campus’s winter food drive, donating over 100lbs of nonperishable items. Ms. Miller even began tutoring fellow students and assisted in a rideshare program for students who wanted to be in school but did not the means to make it to classes.

When asked why she decided to commit to take part in all of these extra-curricular activities, Breeanna stated, “It’s an extra boost. You have to get up and work harder and better, to make sure your life turns out good.” She has learned to discipline herself. “I’ve got great communication skills,” she said. “All of those extra activities certainly helped me learn how to multi-task.”

School served as a primary source of stability in her life. “I’ve always been focused, having my stuff together,” Miller said. However, feeling a sense of abandonment when she knew she was going to graduate and no one was going to be there, she started reaching out to her family and traveling to be with them. That caused her to begin to miss a number of days. This drove the campus to take action.  Breeanna received a call from Damika Howard-Wayne, Student Affairs at Tidewater Tech, who told her that the campus was there for her and ready to see her walk across the stage at graduation.

“I told Breeanna what I learned throughout my own personal life experiences,” Howard-Wayne said. “Don’t let your confidence lag. You make your life as strong and powerful and wonderful as you can.”

Breeanna took those words to heart, and when the day came for Tidewater Tech’s commencement ceremony, Ms. Miller received her diploma with pride.

“Society was wrong,” Breeanna stated, “I went to school, worked hard, and graduated with honors!”

Miller has now joined the AmeriCorps and continues her mission in helping others succeed, with no excuses.