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Tech Talk

Tidewater Tech Student Spotlight: From Foster Care to Graduate

by Damika Howard-Wayne

It’s no big secret that the life of a foster child can be filled with both physical and emotional struggle. About two-thirds never go to college and very few graduate. In a society where many young men and women live with their parents well into their 20s, foster children learn quickly that they are their own responsibility.

Damika Howard-Wayne and Breeanna Miller

Breeanna Miller, a recent graduate from Tidewater Tech’s Building Maintenance and Repair (BMR) program, came to terms with that fact that very quickly once enrolling here at Tidewater Tech. Her success story reflects parental stumbles, teenage resilience and the collective efforts of families, friends, foster parents and Tidewater Tech staff, all who helped her battle her demons, nurture her talents, and endure whatever hardships she had to face.

Spending parts of her adolescence squatting in broken homes, a part of America’s social services system, Breanna never imagined herself attending post-secondary schooling.  Not only did she complete the BMR program, but she graduated with honors, and held office as one of the campus’s student ambassadors.

During her time as student ambassador, Miller displayed an incredible sense of caring through a number of campus activities. In October 2017, Ms. Miller donated over 250 pairs of socks and gloves for children, women, and men to the Tidewater Tech campus.  Ms. Miller also took time out of her busy schedule to assist with feeding the community, volunteering at numerous community events hosted by Tidewater Tech. With the help of Ms. Miller, the BMR department won the campus’s winter food drive, donating over 100lbs of nonperishable items. Ms. Miller even began tutoring fellow students and assisted in a rideshare program for students who wanted to be in school but did not the means to make it to classes.

When asked why she decided to commit to take part in all of these extra-curricular activities, Breeanna stated, “It’s an extra boost. You have to get up and work harder and better, to make sure your life turns out good.” She has learned to discipline herself. “I’ve got great communication skills,” she said. “All of those extra activities certainly helped me learn how to multi-task.”

School served as a primary source of stability in her life. “I’ve always been focused, having my stuff together,” Miller said. However, feeling a sense of abandonment when she knew she was going to graduate and no one was going to be there, she started reaching out to her family and traveling to be with them. That caused her to begin to miss a number of days. This drove the campus to take action.  Breeanna received a call from Damika Howard-Wayne, Student Affairs at Tidewater Tech, who told her that the campus was there for her and ready to see her walk across the stage at graduation.

“I told Breeanna what I learned throughout my own personal life experiences,” Howard-Wayne said. “Don’t let your confidence lag. You make your life as strong and powerful and wonderful as you can.”

Breeanna took those words to heart, and when the day came for Tidewater Tech’s commencement ceremony, Ms. Miller received her diploma with pride.

“Society was wrong,” Breeanna stated, “I went to school, worked hard, and graduated with honors!”

Miller has now joined the AmeriCorps and continues her mission in helping others succeed, with no excuses.


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