Student Success Story: Sarah Ritchey | Thomas Nelson Community College

Student Success Story: Sarah Ritchey

April 27, 2022
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Sarah Ritchey is a lifelong Peninsula resident who graduated from York High School in 2007. She applied to colleges back then, but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. Money was an issue, also, so she entered the work force instead.

“I meant to only take a year or two and go back to school, but again, life happens,” she said. “I got married and started a family, continued working, got divorced and suddenly realized that a decade had gone by and aside from my family, I had very little to show for it.”

She wanted a change and a challenge. She thought she was wasting away at her job. In August 2018, she enrolled at Thomas Nelson, graduating in May 2021 with an associate degree in engineering. She now is a full-time student at Old Dominion University.

She recently shared her thoughts on her journey and her time at Thomas Nelson.

How did you hear about Thomas Nelson and why did you decide to  enroll? Since I grew up in the area, I’ve always known that TNCC was there. I chose to go to TNCC because it is local, affordable, and offered the degree I was interested in earning with the flexibility I needed.

Where would you be without Thomas Nelson? I would still be working in the food industry and trudging through life instead of being proactive and building a future for me and my family, and maybe the world, if I can land the right job. I found a lot of support at TNCC, especially from my favorite professor, Dr. (Ji Hyon) Mun. I’m a more confident person and engineer because of that support.

What is your chosen field, and how did you decide on it? My chosen field is mechanical engineering. When I first applied at TNCC, I wanted to transfer to U.Va. and major in chemical engineering. But life happened, and that path wasn’t going to work for my family, so I switched gears and chose mechanical engineering because it has a high demand in the job market. Designing parts or working on projects that could potentially go to space or be the next big thing in industries like renewable energy sounded incredibly interesting. I want a career that offers freedoms: financial and location freedom, freedom from the monotony of doing the same thing every day, and most importantly for me, the freedom to create a work/life balance that allows me to spend more time with my family than I currently do.

What are your plans for the future? I want to finish my (bachelor’s in mechanical engineering) and start a career. My ideal career would be in renewable energy design, research and development, or project management.

She admits letting opportunities pass her by in the past, but she’s determined not to do that anymore. She took a proactive approach and was able to find scholarships, including one that covers the cost of two semesters at ODU and offers research and networking opportunities.

“I’ve always been told that life is what you make it, so you have to take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way,” she said.