Roche, the student speaker at TCC’s commencement exercises on May 13, will graduate with an Associate of Science in Science. She plans to transfer to the College of William & Mary to earn her bachelor’s in biology.
It’s a career path she chose after working at a school for children with disabilities. For six months, she was part of a team that taught a little boy how to walk.
“He had never walked and he walked. He didn’t just walk, he ran,” she said. “This 10-year-old boy was told his whole life he was never going to do something and finally he had teachers who said he was going to do it.
“I want to be that person who says, ‘Yes, you can do it.’”
She will impart that message at Ted Constant Convocation Center to fellow graduates, who are among the nearly 1,700 earning certificates or associate degrees this spring.
The Navy brat dropped out of college 10 years ago after a lack of academic focus caused her grades to suffer.
“I was never a stellar student. I used to put more energy into extracurricular activities than into academia,” said Roche, formerly a tourism major. “I spent more than enough money on a degree I wasn’t passionate enough to complete.”
Instead, Roche joined the Navy, excelling as a fire controlman, working on the larger weapons systems on ships.
“That was the first time I would surprise myself by doing something more than I ever thought I could,” she said. “Who grows up thinking they are going to work on missile systems?”
When Roche’s Navy schooling took her to Virginia Beach, she began the volunteer work with disabled kids that sparked her interest in being a physical therapist. Starting fresh at TCC allowed her to, in essence, rebrand herself academically.
While extracurriculars remain an important part of her life – she’s a member of TCC’s chapter of Student Veterans of American and Phi Theta Kappa – Roche prioritized her academics this second time around in college.
“The free tutoring at TCC is amazing,” Roche said. “You go in, sign up, show them the problem and they say, ‘Hey, try this.’ At my old school it was sign up, see them in a week and pay.”
Roche, 28, is on the Virginia Beach Campus so much she jokes about being a full-time resident. “I spend so much time in the study rooms at the library,” she said. “I absolutely adore the Joint-Use Library.”
Roche, who holds a 3.5 GPA, plans to ultimately work toward a doctorate in physical therapy. She resides in Virginia Beach in a household with two Great Danes, including her puppy, Abigail Rigby.
“I had admissions applications into schools I never would have dreamed of applying to, for programs I couldn’t have imagined,” she said. “At TCC I was able to rebuild my academic resume, making me a competitive candidate to several schools. It is true, once you have gone to TCC, you can go anywhere.”