Even before the COVID-19 crisis, William Toncray was spending a lot of time at the hospital. As a Child Life department volunteer, Toncray provides engaging activities for patients at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.
“We play games and do crafts with children bedside or take them to the playroom,” he said. “There are moments when it’s really hard to see kids so sick, but it’s also very rewarding watching them light up when we paint, draw or even just play cards with them.”
The Hickory High graduate came to Tidewater Community College with no specific career goals. He graduates with an Associate of Science in General Studies on May 11 and plans to pursue a human services bachelor’s degree at Old Dominion University.
Toncray, 20, credits his volunteer work at TCC with helping him come up with a career plan that involves helping those in need through social work and advocacy.
It all started for Toncray when a student government leader invited him to get involved on campus. “Without that one interaction, my entire TCC experience could have been very different,” he said. “As student leaders, it is important to consider what effects our actions have on other people.”
Toncray holds a 3.6 GPA and was parliamentarian for student government. He helped launch a campus chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a national group working to break the stigma and provide support for those dealing with mental health challenges.
Struggling with clinical anxiety when he first came to TCC, Toncray found help through the new NAMI group. “Having peers you can lean on and talk with has been a huge help,” he said.
Toncray also developed plans for a food pantry on Chesapeake Campus. He even presented the project at a Virginia Community College Association student leadership conference. “It was during this time that I found that I’m passionate about helping people with their basic needs and found my calling,” he said.
Toncray calls his time at TCC transformative, noting two particularly inspiring professors in Bert Fox (psychology) and Marc Wingett (biology). “They made you want to go to class and participate,” he said.
“My goal was to get my general education requirements done for a lower cost, and I did that. But I got so much more,” Toncray said.
“TCC puts the community in college. Once I got involved, I made some great lifelong friends and found my future path.”