Archives - Spotlight on Success
TCC paved the way for early childhood educator
Working as an electrician at a local shipyard, LaVern Theus had a steady income, regular hours and a pension. And she gave it all up, after 14 years, to answer a “higher calling” – “to build an ark and welcome children twoby two,” explains Theus.
Saying she stepped out in faith by giving up her secure job, Theus enrolled at TCC to prepare to open an educational child-care facility. With the support of her husband George, who took a second job, Theus began her studies. “I enjoyed what I was learning. Professor Marie Baker prepared me to teach children, not just keep them for the day,” Theus adds.
After graduating with a 4.0 grade-point average, Theus opened an in-home child-care business, and was the first family child care in the region accredited by the National Association for Family Day Care. She received a three-year license, a rarity in the business, for exemplifying high standards and offering services well above minimum standards. Theus now owns and operates Abby’s Ark, an early learning center.
Theus has gone on to get her master’s in early childhood education, after earning more than enough credits from TCC to qualify for Regent University’s independent learning program. She serves as a mentor for child-care providers and as a consultant through the Planning Council.
“It’s my mission – my calling – to take these kids and set the right foundation. I want them to be successful at whatever they choose to do,” says Theus.
Global goals in business
A globetrotter while growing up in an Army family, Byron T. Morgan sees “international” as today’s norm for business. Shortly after transferring to The College of William and Mary for marketing and finance, he applied that thinking – traveling to Southeast Asia to complete market research with the college’s Mason School of Business.
Morgan, who graduated from TCC with a business administration degree in December 2007, believes business success relates to building networks both locally and around the world. “My ultimate goal is to be a mover and shaker in the media and entertainment market. I’d like to be the next Rupert Murdock,” he adds with a laugh.
Once a teen connected with the wrong crowd, with his grades plummeting, Morgan says, “I wasn’t expected to go to college. My grades were not great and I got in a lot of trouble. Family difficulties and negative influences in my neighborhood made things even worse.”
Things began to turn around for Morgan when he enrolled at TCC. “I decided to follow the right path,” he says, “and the people at TCC helped make that possible.” Morgan excelled in his studies and got involved in college life. He served as senator and vice president for the Portsmouth Campus Student Government Association, as well as secretary and vice president for Virginia 21.
His outreach included mentoring youth through the Beating the Odds program, helping inspire, motivate and enlighten young black men. During his tenure at TCC, Morgan was recognized with several awards including the Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship award, the Mary Ferrell Flickinger scholarship, Distinguished Student Award and the Student Achievement Award.
TCC grad builds a successful life
Clay Dills had a rocky start with college life. He went from major to major, never finding anything to get excited about. He flunked out of both TCC and ODU – all before turning 21.
Enjoying the surf scene and working for Wave Riding Vehicles at the Oceanfront, Dills was unsure about what to do with the rest of his life. “I still remember the day my counselor at ODU gave me a form and told me to put a check in the box for my major. I was stunned. They were essentially asking me to choose a career path, and I just had no idea what to do,” Dills recalls.
“Things started to turn around for me when I realized that I wanted to use my skills to build things. Growing up with a father who is an architect, I sort of rebelled against the idea of following in his footsteps. It was only as I got older that I became excited about doing that work,” Dills recalls.
Clay Dills and family at home in Virginia Beach.
Dills turned to TCC to get back into college. “I really needed a second chance. I had to get top grades to be accepted in architect school, and while it sounds simple, TCC gave me that chance,” Dills says.
Transferring to Virginia Tech with a 4.0 grade point average, Dills excelled and graduated first in class. His studies included a year at The Cooper Union School in Manhattan, a prestigious institution accepting a mere 30 students a year for its architect program. “As an adult student, it was sometimes tough going,” Dills adds.
Dills now works with his father designing school additions, home renovations, multi-million dollar homes, marine terminals and more. “The practice is very challenging, and I enjoy the work. It’s great to see something you design come to life in a constructed project.” Dills and his firm also work with Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing to provide architecture services for those with limited incomes.
Back in the classroom, this time as an adjunct faculty for Hampton University, Dills shares his professional expertise with budding architecture students. “It’s all a blur to me now,” Dills adds, “but what I know is that TCC is a really good enabler and you can launch from there.”
From foodie to faculty
Working with food always appealed to Deanna Freridge. Her first job was as a counter worker and then manager of a fast food restaurant. From there, she became a server in a fine dining restaurant in New York. When the chef quit, she became the lunch cook and, within a year, was the lead chef of the restaurant.
“It was not until I got into the kitchen that I fell in love with what I was doing,” Freridge recalls. “When you create dishes that people enjoy, you get immediate feedback. My rule of thumb: if I would not pay for a dish and eat it myself, I would not expect anyone else to either.”
Married to a military member, Freridge relocated to Virginia. She had young children to consider and a husband that spent much of his work life at sea, so she opted for a day job as a breakfast cook, and later a banquet chef for a local hotel. “It was at this point that I knew I needed a degree if I was going to get ahead,” she says, “so I opted to enroll in TCC’s hospitality management program.”
“After two years, and a lot of juggling, I had my degree and a plan.” Freridge opened Toques Creative Catering, a high-end catering business. For 15 years, she planned, organized and prepared food for more than 200 events a year, employing six full-time and 60 part-time employees. She ran two commercial kitchens, including one kosher setting. Semi-retired now, Freridge says she enjoyed every event and the financial rewards that came from owning her business.
Chef Freridge arranges gingerbread houses for a display at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.
“I’ve had a great career and I love the industry. I’ve come full circle and now it’s my time to pass knowledge to the next generation of American chefs.” Freridge took her love of cooking to the classroom in 2006, joining TCC’s culinary program faculty.
Cancer could not keep her from earning a degree
Joyce Ballance-Tapley has always believed in living life to the fullest. And even though she is battling stage-4 colon cancer, she’s still setting and meeting goals. The latest – earning her associate degree in early childhood education from TCC.
“I’m not going to let the cancer beat me or control me. I have one life, and I’m going to live it,” Tapley says.
Married and the mother of two boys, ages 5 and 14, Tapley says, “When I was first diagnosed, I asked God to give me the strength to make it through for my kids.” With the support of family, friends, neighbors and her church, Tapley has overcome some incredible odds.
Over the past two years, she has endured five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. “I was determined to get to class. I was late some days because of treatments, but I was following this dream.”
Upbeat and positive, you wouldn’t guess that Tapley is battling cancer by her outward appearance and attitude. She inspires those around her as evidenced by the signs and balloons festooning the front of her home on graduation day. “It was a thrilling evening to walk that stage, and then to come home to see that my neighbors recognized this accomplishment – it was overwhelming.”
Tapley is still looking ahead. A substitute teacher for Chesapeake public schools, she plans to take the summer off to be with her children. Then it’s back to TCC to complete three classes enabling her to earn a second associate degree, this one in general studies.
“It’s been a long, but very rewarding journey. Many people have asked me why I continued at TCC, and my answer is always the same – because I’m not giving up on life or letting go of my dreams.”
An example for her child and grandchild
After graduating from Bayside High in Virginia Beach, Raeanne Reece decided to go to work, thinking that she had plenty of time for college later. “I just wanted a job and planned to make lots of money,” she recalls. “Of course, that’s not what happened.”
She married and had a child, and life was in full swing. “I was working long hours and caring for my son. My marriage ended, leaving me solely responsible for my child.”
Working as a civilian federal employee for the U.S. Navy, Reece was encouraged by her supervisor to continue her education. “I started working on my supervisory management certificate with TCC professors who came right to the command,” Reece adds. “It was challenging, but my teachers understood the pressures of working and going to school, and they went out of their way to make sure I was successful.”
The first in her family to attend college, Reece graduated with an associate of applied science in business management in May. “I’ve come along way since I started as a GS 2. I’m hoping to encourage education with my son and my grandchild.”
“What I know for sure is that even if you just take a class or two, the camaraderie and things you take away from the learning process are helpful career-wise and in life.”
Cyberspace designer got his start at the ATC
From an early age, Devin Peck could be found with a video camera at the ready. By age 10, he was making movies using legos and toys as props. During his teen years he took his work to YouTube, using friends as actors and creating elaborate visuals just for fun.
One of five children, Peck lives in Virginia Beach and gives his older brother some credit for his video interest. “I remember tagging along with my brother and playing video games with him,” Peck says. “It’s just been part of me.”
Now 18, Peck plays in cyberspace creating worlds for NIA Universe for the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton. “When you enter the game, you get to choose your avatar – the person you become in the world. From there you select where you want to go and what you want to learn,” Peck adds. “The universe is created by many users so you can choose a range of topics from the human body to animals to the Hubble Telescope. My job is to create a tutorial world showing people how to navigate the universe. It’s pretty great because the graphics are realistic and it looks like you’re in a real place.”
Peck is a first-year TCC student studying social sciences and preparing for a career in special effects. He became interested in this type of work during high school, while taking classes at the Advanced Technology Center through Landstown High. Peck started with a game-design class, followed by a modeling and simulation class, where one of his projects earned a Best in Class distinction.
Peck also works for Reality Church handling multimedia and some website applications. “I want my life to reflect my beliefs,” he adds. He plans to transfer to Regent University to study film making.
“It’s been great to take an interest and turn it into a career path,” Peck adds. “I’m excited about the work ahead, and can’t wait to get started.”
Living a life in 'key'
College never figured into Michael and Linda Murphy’s early life plans. After high school, before they knew each other, both went to work – Mike as a furniture refinisher and Linda in various clerical settings.
Unsatisfied and wanting more, they each decided to give college a try, afterall.
A friend brought Mike to the Portsmouth Campus and he enrolled because he liked the feel of the place. “I spent the first 10 weeks on campus as a history major and then decided to take a music theory class,” Mike says. “I was hooked after that.”
Mike changed his major to music and began studying guitar in a formal setting. “TCC offered me a way into higher education,” Mike says. “It also prepared me to move ahead academically.”
He earned his associate of arts in music and later a bachelor’s in music education from Norfolk State University After college, his career went into high gear with Mike teaching guitar, music appreciation and other music offerings at TCC, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Union University and Chowan College.
Since then Mike has added a master’s in music performance from VCU and a doctorate from Shenandoah Conservatory. Teaching guitar at Briar Woods High in Northern Virginia, he’s also an adjunct music faculty member at Shenandoah University.
Linda met Mike while she was a student at TCC, through a guitar teacher. A few years later their paths crossed again, this time at a private music school where Linda was working. “Music is our passion and the reason we’re together,” Linda says with a laugh.
“I loved my time at TCC and remember it as the happiest of my life,” Linda recalls “Financially it was tough, as I worked three jobs to pay for college. But it was worthwhile because I was so excited about my courses and my future.”
Linda earned her associate in arts in music and a bachelor’s in music history from ODU. Her career has included performing with her husband as a guitar duo and in a baroque ensemble, and teaching guitar, piano and Kindermusic, a music adventure program for preschoolers. She also taught music classes at TCC and ODU, before moving to Northern Virginia. Today, Linda is completing a master's in music education from Shenandoah Conservatory. She cares for their two young children and works as schedules allow.
“Mike and I always say TCC was the best place to get our start,” Linda adds. “We got a tremendous education there.”