A California native, Leach found a home in Hampton Roads when he was recruited by the Hampton Roads Whalers, a junior hockey club. He made the decision to leave the sport he loved when he saw limited opportunities.
“I saw my career stagnating and didn’t see myself playing professionally,” he said. “And as I matured, I saw the value of education.”
Leach reinvented himself with a little help from Tidewater Community College.
“I don’t have any regrets about leaving hockey,” Leach said. “I think about those times fondly, but I’m so happy with where I am now. Coming to TCC was the best decision of my life.”
A second-year student at TCC’s Chesapeake Campus, Leach was selected as one of 10 students to receive Phi Theta Kappa’s 2016 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education, the society’s first renewable scholarship and mentorship program supporting associate and bachelor degree completion.
Leach will receive a $5,000 scholarship, a Pearson mentor and a medallion.
“TCC has been a lot more impactful than I ever thought it would be,” he said. “I really didn’t think I’d get such a well-rounded education. My professors have all been willing to sacrifice time to talk and connect and invest in my success.”
Leach holds a 4.0 GPA and is working toward his Associate of Science in Business Administration. He is enjoying specialized business classes, including economics, international business, physics and even a programming class.
His favorite professor is Kenneth Jones who teaches calculus. “I have tremendous respect for him. He’s Harvard trained and really knows how to convey the concepts so they make sense. He’s always saying that math is not a spectator sport, and he had us come to the board to teach the class for a while, saying if we could teach the material, we really know it.”
Outside the classroom, Leach serves as president of the Student Government Association and vice president of leadership for Phi Theta Kappa, both on the Chesapeake Campus. He is also a mentor for Gear Up To Lead, an engagement and leadership development program on campus. He is one of two TCC students selected as a CIVIC Scholar, joining a cohort of students from Old Dominion University.
CIVIC Scholars work to foster a spirit of civic engagement, professionalism and service leadership to create a network of issue-conscious leaders.
Leach volunteers in the accounting department for Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. He is a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and participates in community service projects with TCC CARES, a service club.
For students coming up behind him, Leach cautions, “Do your homework and be sure that the courses you select match up to the degree track you’re pursuing.”
Leach plans to transfer to the University of Virginia to study at the McIntire School of Commerce. He foresees a career in investment banking or asset management.
“I know my biggest challenge will be that it’s a highly competitive environment, and I won’t succeed every time. But my course load has prepared me. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”