Husband and wife Tyler and Sammi Walker both got hired while they were still students at Tidewater Community College. Graduating with zero debt allowed the Hickory High School sweethearts to become homeowners at Las Gaviotas.

 Sammi’s path: The 2015 Hickory graduate considered going away to college as her 4.2 GPA made her competitive at the best universities in the state. But researching the best physical therapy assistant programs led her to TCC, which boasts a 100 percent pass rate on the licensure exam.  “I’m Type A,” Sammi said. “I found the prerequisite classes before I graduated high school and started with them while I was at Hickory.”

Clinical rotations at three separate sites allowed her to discover her specialty, sports medicine. “I love how hands-on the program is,” Sammi said. “I got to hone my skills before I started my career. Almost everybody gets a job offer from their clinicals.”

 Tyler’s path: Tyler, 23, considered a military future but decided the computer science program at TCC fit his future better. He liked TCC’s small size, too. “It wasn’t so big,” said Tyler, who took classes at the Chesapeake and Virginia Beach campuses. “I was always afraid of getting lost, and TCC isn’t overwhelming.”

At TCC, he narrowed down his career path, “I learned I didn’t want to program. I’d like to work my way into network infrastructure.”

Their degrees: Sammi graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant, and Tyler earned his Associate of Science with a Specialization in Computer Science.

You’re hired! Tyler works at SLAIT Consulting, an information technology company, as a help desk analyst. Sammi is a sports medicine physical therapist assistant at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. She is chipping away at her bachelor’s in health services administration at Old Dominion University.

Added bonus: “I formed lifelong friends in the physical therapy program. We had the same classes together for two years,” Sammi said. “Now they all have jobs, too, I know 30 people working nearby if my patients ever need something I can’t provide.”

“The flexible schedule at TCC helped a lot,” Tyler said. “I was able to work and go to school at the same time, which saved money.”

The best part: “We have a house and a dog!” Sammi said. “We have no student loans. We’ve had our own home for a year thanks to the money we saved.”