Apathy has never had room in Nikki Duncan-Talley’s life, she’s too mindful of all she would miss out on, especially given the ample resources for students at Tidewater Community College.

“TCC isn’t a layover; it’s a stepping stone to where you want to go,” said the Paralegal Studies major, whose college engagement has led her to be something of a poster child for the National Conference on Student Leadership, held Nov. 19-22 in Washington, D.C. Peruse the conference’s brochure and there’s Duncan-Talley pictured with her certification from the Certified Student Leader program, which strengthens student leadership through a series of interactive activities.

Duncan-Talley will attend the conference that includes numerous workshops on topics ranging from “How to communicate with crappy people” to “Your speech is putting people to sleep.” She will be a presenter at the organization’s spring conference in Denver.

At TCC, she’s all extrovert, speaking to everyone she passes on the Virginia Beach Campus, most by first name. Noting she’s never met a stranger, Duncan-Talley is passionate about the need for students to become fully involved in order to get the most out of their college experience.

Duncan-Talley’s involvement stemmed from enrolling in TCC’s Emerging Leaders Program, a dynamic, eight-session series designed for students to hone their leadership skills inside and out of the classroom.

“What you do here translates into what you’re going to do for the rest of your life,” said Duncan-Talley, vice president of leadership for Psi Upsilon, the Virginia Beach Campus’ chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. “Ninety percent of what you learn in college is not in the classroom. If you come to TCC and go to class and go home, you’ll miss the relationships that get you where you want to be.”

The Princess Anne High school graduate has a bachelor’s in history from Catawba College and worked a plethora of jobs ranging from McDonald’s clerk to congressional intern to residence hall director to retail accessibility representative for the Virginia Lottery. She doesn’t regret any of her experiences, though wishes she had a better perspective when she was younger.

“If I could have known all that was available at TCC, I wouldn’t have paid $20,000 for the first two years of college,” she said.

With an eye toward law school, she enrolled at TCC to make sure it was the right direction. She will graduate with Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies in May 2016. Next fall, she plans to start law school at Regent University and hopes for a career as a public interest attorney.

Until then, she has plenty on her agenda left to accomplish at TCC. In addition to all of her leadership roles, she’s excited about an upcoming leadership study with Psi Upsilon that will focus on how to increase involvement on campus. In addition, she will be part of the chapter’s new mentoring program with Seton House that will stress how important school activates and community service are to middle school students.

“We need to show kids as early as middle school how important being involved is,” she said. “College isn’t just about getting that piece of paper. If you’re here, everything is here for you to participate in; you just have to do it.”