Tidewater Community College alum Phillip Le’s morning commute to Newport News Shipbuilding includes stunning sunrises over the HRBT.
“Seeing the sun come up over the water never fails to make me shed a tear of happiness,” he said. “I wake up every day knowing I worked hard to be doing something greater than I ever imagined.”
Phillip earned an Associate of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology in December 2022 and is now completing a paid cooperative education program at the shipyard. He is also working on a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering technology at Old Dominion University.
Phillip learned about the shipbuilder’s cooperative education program from TCC Professor Kenny Grimes.
“Because TCC has small classes, you get to know your professors and they get to know you,” he added. “They know your strengths and weaknesses and can recommend positions suited for you.”
At just 21, Phillip is working as a nuclear engineer servicing America’s nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. “This is bigger than any job I thought I’d be doing. I’m honored to contribute to keeping our nation secure,” he said. “It’s also really enjoyable seeing what I learned at TCC getting applied to real projects, in this case America’s finest vessels.”
Phillip started at TCC just before the pandemic and he notes that virtual learning took a toll on his mental health. “I really missed the interactions with classmates and working in the labs,” he said. “But I’m so glad I stuck it out.”
While at TCC, Phillip was involved with the Engineering Club and the STEM Club. He also volunteered for two engineering projects, one for NASA called “Rock On” and the other for an American Society for Engineering Education Model Design Competition.
“I’m prepared for my higher-level classes at ODU and that’s because of the extra hands-on projects and fully supplied labs available at TCC,” he said.
Phillip also learned about trial and error at the college. “Engineering is all about trying and trying again,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to fail, just get up and start again.”
Phillip wants to thank all his engineering and math professors who helped guide the way. “I want to thank all of my teachers and especially Mr. Grimes who taught me how to think and communicate like an engineer and connected me with my first job,” Phillip said.
“Working and going to school is tough some days,” Phillip added. “But I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.”