TCC is proud of all of its alumni. But for Norfolk Campus staff alum Jamie Farris holds a special place in their hearts.
Jamie had a challenging childhood. He was bounced from school to school throughout his elementary and high school years due to mental health and emotional issues.
“Growing up, no one thought I could do well in an academic setting. It was something I needed to overcome to get on with my life,” Jamie said.
As an adult learner, Jamie came to TCC to confront his past and set a new course for his future. Staffer Mark Flanders saw Jamie’s desire for an education and his potential as a student. Flanders and the campus community rallied around Jamie and helped with his transition to college.
“We worked with Jamie on career readiness skills, time management and encouraged him on the journey,” Flanders says. “Watching him overcome some pretty difficult circumstances was an inspiration to all of us.”
Despite the support while at TCC, the road was still difficult. Jamie experienced homelessness and lived at the Union Mission and later in transitional housing.
“I was a full-time student in the worst of circumstances. I had no car, no money, no home. But I did have a bus pass from TCC and people who believed in me,” Jamie said.
Jamie received support through the college’s Open Door Project (ODP), a Department of Education federal TRIO program. ODP offers free academic, career and cultural counseling to low-income, first-time college students on the Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses.
“Once I opened up about my past, my struggles, I was able to overcome those obstacles with help from Open Door,” Jamie added. “The staff made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”
Jamie also made friends through ODP, an unexpected benefit. “We took so many educational field trips and really had fun,” he added.
A turning point for Jamie was during a meeting with Thomas Chatman, currently the Dean of Norfolk Campus. Jamie recalls that he painted a vivid picture of someone graduating in a cap and gown. “He told me that even with my difficulties, I could do it and I finally believed it,” he said.
Jamie earned an Associate of Science in General Studies in 2019 and his degree was one of the first things he proudly hung on the wall.
He now enjoys a stable life with his own apartment and a steady job with UPS.
“I tell everyone to not be afraid to open up about your mental health struggles,” Jamie said. “The people at TCC are there to help. This was where I built a new life.”