Proud Alum Is Biggest Cheerleader as Daughter Becomes a Nighthawk, Too!

October 5, 2023

Tina Matthew is a NOVA graduate and the mother of a new NOVA student. Her daughter started at NOVA this fall; and as a loving mother, Tina wants her child to have a better life than she had. With that in mind, Tina shares a message of inspiration for her daughter — in college and in life. Even though Tina grew up in severe poverty, she cherishes her childhood memories. Here is Tina's story of overcoming the odds!


Tell us a little about yourself and your background:
I’m from the beautiful island of St. John, which is recognized as the most pristine of the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. John is known as “Love City” because of its breathtaking beaches, radiant sunrises and romantic sunsets.

Even though our living conditions in St. John were like scenes from a movie about families living in poverty, we made the best of it. We had no running water, so we carried five-gallon buckets of water from a nearby well to complete our daily chores, and we washed our clothes by hand. We spent most of our Saturdays fishing on the east end of the island so we could prepare our meals for the coming week. My love for seafood reminds me of those days.

A glimpse into my life is like looking at the intricacies of a mosaic. Each piece has a story that has transformed me into the person I am today. From my early childhood, I learned to be resilient — to dream, believe and pray big.

Success is a process. My unstoppable spirit and determination have contributed greatly to where I am today and what I have accomplished. But the road is not easy. I have experienced my share of disappointments and frustrations, but I manage to push through. I treat them as steppingstones, helping me build a pathway to my goals and dreams.

What brought you to NOVA?
Finding NOVA began with my working in a temporary position in 1999. I wanted to escape the retail job market and needed a nine-to-five job to cover mounting childcare expenses and allow me to spend more time with my growing family. I landed a temp position as an administrative assistant with a consulting company in Alexandria, Virginia. A month later, it turned into a full-time job.

As my interest in computers deepened, I found myself spending countless hours repairing computers and personal devices for colleagues, friends and family. Although college was the next logical step, it wasn't feasible for a single mother with young children, a full-time job and little money for childcare. College was not in my budget, and taking out student loans was not an option.

My hard work and dedication paid off when I received a grant from my employer that covered part of my college tuition. I looked at different options, but NOVA stood out. It was the best fit for me because it met all my requirements, such as flexible hours and affordable tuition.

What did you study at NOVA?
I studied Information Systems Technology: Network Administration. I was obsessed with learning as much as I could about the industry. After two years at the consulting company, I was offered an IT support specialist position. I was extremely excited, knowing I had a great team of professors by my side, and my experience grew as I worked toward completing my degree.

Then I was promoted to network administrator, a position I held for 17 years. I worked at multiple companies before taking my current position as senior administrative specialist with the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a private, nonprofit corporation.

Tell us about your experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you liked and friends you met.
My professors were approachable and communicated with every student. Professor Margaret Leary (Intro/Internet Services, Windows 2003 Server, Windows XP Professional and Network Security Basics) and Professor Pablo Ibar (Protocols & Communications and Network Troubleshooting) answered all my questions. They showed up early and stayed late, knowing I had a list of questions and issues to resolve.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?
My daughter Cece is a very special young lady who I adore. I love you and am so proud! NOVA is the doorway! Enter with confidence and elevate your platform. As a first-semester student at NOVA, you will face many unknown challenges, and the road will not be easy. However, your dedication and determination to succeed will lead you to your path.

Your professors are there to enhance your experience. Utilize the resources available to you, speak up and speak out. If you are unsure, ask questions; if you don’t understand, ask for additional help.

NOVA is the first sketch on your canvas. Ignore the chatter and speculation, hold on to your values and stand firm on your decisions. Be authentic, celebrate your journey and dream big! Give it your all, and don’t settle for less!

Run with purpose in every step and be as creative as your soul desires. You chose not to follow the popular crowd but to chart your own path, for you are among the elites.

Love your inner voice; be passionate about who you are and the goals you have set for yourself. This is your runway. Create your masterpiece, be bold and fabulous and let your creative imagination evolve. Push your boundaries — the only limitation you face is you!

I am your cheerleader, your mom and a proud NOVA alum! I applaud your decision, and I stand by your side. I am confident NOVA will support your academic endeavor. Go conquer your dreams, spread your wings and soar high!

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