Tidewater Community College made it possible. Admittedly, she never used the Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology she earned from the college in 2001. But she continued taking classes at TCC for the two years after that, ultimately deciding human services was her calling.
Hernandez Gill transferred to Old Dominion University, graduating with a bachelor’s in 2006 before completing her master’s in community counseling at Norfolk State University.
“Of all my schools, TCC is the one I’m most passionate about,” she said. “My perspective on TCC is it’s such an important part of our community because it gives hope and opportunity to so many people. When I was 19, I could not see everything that was ahead of me in life. I could only see that I had two kids and needed a degree to take care of them. TCC made that goal attainable.”
Today Hernandez Gill holds two jobs, working full time as a licensed consultant for a government contract that provides support services to the military and part time as a clinical supervisor in the mental health field. She is in the process of opening a small business and plans to work toward a doctorate.
Her experience at TCC rubbed off on her children. Daughter Shawnice graduated in May with an Associate of Science in Social Sciences. She will attend Old Dominion this fall, also following the human services tract with the ultimate plan of becoming a psychologist. Her brother, Elijah, a senior at Booker T. Washington High School, plans to enroll at TCC in the fall of 2015.
“For me, TCC was a good transition,” Shawnice said. “If I had started at a four-year, I would have been lost. When you’re in high school, you’re considered a child. When you’re in college, you’re considered an adult. At TCC, they don’t treat you like children, but they give you a clue of what university life is like.”
Hernandez Gill credits a supportive family for helping her though her years of school; she is also a Licensed Professional Counselor and a certified substance abused counselor. She and husband Al are also parents to Aliyah, 11, and Journey, 11 months.
“College is not an option in this house; it’s an expectation,” she said. “They all know they’re going to school. If they go to TCC, they can start their life right there. They can go into air conditioning, trucking; they can be a doctor or a lawyer. Everything good can start from TCC.”