It was a full house for Tidewater Community College’s 74th Commencement exercise held in-person for the second time since the start of the pandemic.
Family and friends gathered to celebrate more than 1,500 graduates at Chartway Arena on the campus of Old Dominion University.
Graduates were all smiles as they entered the arena to the resounding cheers of their loved ones.
The evening graduation on May 9 was presided over by President Marcia Conston.
The speaker for the graduates, Allison Wilson, 17, who completed an Associate of Science in Social Sciences, is a dual enrollment student with her sights set on law school. She will continue at William and Mary to study English on a pre-law track.
“We decided to attend TCC to better ourselves and we’ve worked incredibly hard to be here today,” Wilson said in her remarks. “One of the biggest challenges was the pandemic and the move to online learning where we dealt with barking dogs, crying babies and horrible internet.”
Wilson continued by saying, “We will take the lessons learned and apply them to our future experiences. We will remember the respect shown to us and replicate it. When things get hard, we will remember our accomplishments and push forward. Congratulations graduates!”
This year, TCC had more dual-enrollment students earning degrees and certificates than ever before. Wilson is one of the 45 students earning associate degrees before graduating from high school this summer. An additional 98 high schoolers earned TCC certificates this year.
TCC Board Chair Cindy Free gave the Commencement address. A Hampton Roads native, Free is a TCC alumna who began her academic journey at TCC earning an associate degree in Physical Therapy Assistant in 1986.
Free is a member of the Atlantic Orthopedic Specialists Physical Therapy team. She has actively served on the College Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee, the Executive Committee, chaired the Advocacy Committee and TCC Educational Foundation, as well as served as Board chair since 2019.
“You have now earned degrees and certificates and the support of a school that will stick with you throughout your career,” Free said to the graduates. “Each of you has found your own way to thrive and gained the gift of confidence.”
She added, “I invite you to consider the opportunities that lie ahead and the raw materials of which you will fashion your life’s journey. Wherever life takes you, come back and see us and bring your stories and remind us that from here you really can go anywhere.”
The ceremony continued as families and friends cheered and snapped photos. Graduates crossed the stage and joined a TCC alumni network of 100,000 and counting.
If you missed graduation, you can watch the TCC livestream.