Ashley HallAshley Hall, today a public health nutritionist for Norfolk’s Department of Health, was one of 19 high school students in the inaugural First College class on Tidewater Community College’s Portsmouth Campus. Developed in partnership with Portsmouth Public Schools, First College allows qualified high school seniors in the city to earn as many as 18 semester hours of college-level credit at a discounted rate prior to graduation from high school. Students attend TCC for all of their spring semester courses.
  
TCC will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of First College with a ceremony on the Portsmouth Campus on May 8 with Mayor Kenneth Wright in attendance. The last decade has seen the program balloon, with 191 students from Churchland, Norcom and Wilson high schools participating this spring.
 
Norcom graduate Hall has nothing but good memories from her time when she completed two history classes, psychology and biology lecture and lab at the old Portsmouth Campus off College Drive. She went on to attend James Madison University and major in dietetics, finishing in 2011.
 
“A lot of my friends struggled to keep up with college work, but I was ready,” she said. “First College prepared me well for JMU.”
 
Hall praised the camaraderie in the program and the nurturing faculty and staff at TCC, including Rosa Wells-Garris, coordinator of the First College program. Wells-Garris knew each of the students by name and invited them regularly to indulge from the basket of candy that remains a mainstay in her office.

“She would meet with us all the time to see how we were doing,” Hall said.
 
Hall said the students enjoyed the freedom of college and took advantage of any spare time between classes to form study groups. She enjoyed the program so much that she recommended it to her sister, Kendra, who completed the program in 2012 before following Ashley to JMU.
 
“I tell anyone, ‘If you have the opportunity to participate in First College, do it,’” Hall said. “It’s night and day going from high school to college. This is a great opportunity to be in college before you get there.”