Faces of PGCC

  • Jo Ann Todaro - Athletics Director

    JoAnn Todaro FacesHow long have you worked at PGCC?

    I've been here 33 years. Yeah, that's a long time!

     Describe what the campus was like when you started.

    It was a lot different. Accokeek, Chesapeake Hall, the Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) building, and the Academy of Health Sciences building weren’t here. The library used to be on the second floor of Kent Hall and Bladen was just a little building, not what it is today. There was a lot more green space, of course. Oh, and we used to have a pub where the print shop is!

    How did you get started in your career. What led you here?

    I’ve always loved athletics. It’s what motivated me as a teenager. I always thought that I would go into some kind of service work. I did a lot of volunteer work with the Maryland Institute for the Blind because my parents were blind. I honestly expected to do that my whole life. I took a job here at the college and fell in love with working here. When an opportunity opened up in the Athletics department, I knew that was where I wanted to be. After six months in student accounting, I became the Athletic Coordinator.

    Who were your mentors early in your PGCC career?

    Ronald Mann was our previous Athletic Director for 43 years, so he was my mentor for the PGCC Athletic program. I was very fortunate to have Ms. Alonia Sharps, our former Chief of Staff and our President, Dr. Dukes as mentors. They both helped me navigate higher educations, and I aspired to be like them. They were so student-centered and inspired me to want to do what I love - helping our students achieve their dreams.  

    Why do you love your job and what you do?

    My students, well our students! I love that every day of my job is different. I like that I get to hear their stories and help them realize it's not the end of the world. We've all been through it and with hard work, a goal and a plan, you can get through it. A lot of times we hit a wall and just need some help getting over it. I want to help our students because a lot of people helped me get over my wall. 

    Tell us about the Athletics 50th Anniversary

    It's awesome! It's a great opportunity to celebrate our past and recognize all the people that started our program because if it weren't for them, we wouldn't be here today. It's been really fun to do all of the activities. We've done a gold uniform day for every sport and invited alumni. It's been great to see them, hear their stories and what they've accomplished. The biggest thing for me is starting the PGCC Hall of Fame to recognize the alumni and employees that came before us. 

    What is your favorite memory as Athletics Director?

    There are so many that I can't pick just one. However, one of them is going to the University of Maryland to see one of my student-athletes graduate, whose parents didn't support her original educational goals. Another favorite is when one of our track team was recognized as the national runners-up. That has to be in the top five. There are too many of the past 33 years to rank them, because when it happens, it's the best ever at the moment. 

    What should we know about PGCC Athletes?

    It is not just about playing ball games. Our students come here and their number one priority is education, and they choose to participate in athletics, which is a non-scholarship program. These student-athletes work incredibly hard by going to school full-time, putting in 20 to 30 hours a week in a sport representing PGCC, and they earn good grades. I want them to know and respect the value that our student-athletes give to PGCC because they could choose to go somewhere else but they choose us. It’s a national issue that people have this perception of student-athletes.

    What excites you most about the future of PGCC Athletics?

     I’m most excited about the renovations we’re doing on our baseball field. The designer just put out the request for proposal (RFP) to design our new track! The fact that we’ll have a track where we can host track meets for our athletics really motivates me.

    How do you feel your role affects the community?

    We offer good athletic programs, good educational programs, and move our students on to four-year schools, sometimes on full scholarships. We can save them so much money by coming here first. I hope the community looks at us as an opportunity for their kids. If potential students came over here with their parents and met our coaches, met me and took a tour of our campus, then they would understand the benefit of their child attending PGCC.

    In my personal opinion, we’re the only choice!

    Learn more about PGCC Athletics here. Go Owls!


  • Diedre Y Gibson - Design Manager, Facilities Planning and Management

    Diedre GibsonWhat was your first impression of the campus?

    When I arrived on campus a year ago and saw all the positive changes happening, I could see the promise here and knew I was in the right place to put my architectural skills to work.

     What is your role in building design?

    I am part of Facilities, Planning and Management, and I have an input into design decisions in the buildings on campus. Our team works with outside consultants on larger projects - we make sure we are always in the conversation so all designs meet the vision of the college.

     Tell us about the new Student Office space

    The student space was drab and outdated, but now it's a light, modern open space with lots of color. I fully designed the space after having conversations with students and figuring out what they need. I made sure their ideas were heard, which led to research, drawings and the finished design. It's an innovative space with clean lines, sharp edges and spots of color. The students love using it.

    What is your input into the Capital Projects?

    I offer design support for the capital projects and advise the design teams. The buildings are going to be great spaces for students and the local community. Each building has its own unique facets and I can't wait to see the final vision. The changes that are happening on campus make positive visual memories for a well laid out campus and of course, a strong sense of pride.

  • Alexus Moore - Student and Social Media Ambassador 

     Major: Business AdministrationAlexusMoore

    I've lived in Prince George's county all my life. My Dad studied here years ago, so I was very familiar with the college before I enrolled. I chose to come here so I could set up a concrete plan for my goals before I transfer to a 4 year college. I'm due to graduate in Spring 2018, and I want to continue my studies in Business Administration and Marketing. I've enjoyed my English classes the most and met some great professors who have taught me to take the initiative and be self-motivated. I've also learned to improve my study skills, particularly by getting into the right mindset and attending the Math learning lab regularly. I've made lots of friends and was pleasantly surprised by the diversity, there are people here from all over the world.

    Which organizations have you been active in?

    I have been busy working in different organizations such as; Women of Wisdom (W.O.W), where I am a lead ambassador. I am also the Vice-President of the National society of Collegiate Scholars, the secretary of the Bethel campus Christian fellowship group and the social media ambassador for the Success Squad. I've also had some experience assisting the college's social media specialist in the office of Communications and Marketing.

    What advice would you give to other students?

    PGCC is a great place to learn. You have smaller classes, lots of extra-curricular activities, and people willing to help you succeed - take advantage of that. 

    Where do you see yourself in the future?

    Hopefully working in an exciting career in social media and marketing. 


  • Dr. Tyjaun Lee - Former PGCC Vice President to President

    Dr Tyjuan LeeMeet former Vice President of Student Affairs (VP of SA), Dr. Tyjaun Lee. After serving as VP of SA for 8 years, she is now moving on to her next role as President of Penn Valley Campus of Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Missouri. Dr. Lee shares her PGCC journey, while also echoing words of advice and encouragement on how she stayed true to who she was, while striving for her goals.

    How has PGCC transformed your life? And what accomplishments are you most proud of?

    The people I had the opportunity to work with at the college, truly transformed my life. They allowed me to be my authentic self and share some of my crazy ideas. But mainly, they allowed me to be me, and vice versa.

    I’m extremely proud of the two nationally known programs I started in 2009. One is the Women of Wisdom (W.O.W) program and the other program is Diverse Male Student Initiatives (DMSI).

    You joke about being nicknamed “tattoo Tyjaun,” how do you stay authentic to who you are, while realizing you don’t fit the “mold”?

    For me, it’s allowing my work and accomplishments to outshine my tattoos and blonde hair. People may say, “oh she looks different,” but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that I’ve led efforts that generated millions of dollars to fund student programs, implemented nationally known programs, and supported staff to earn master’s degrees and doctorates. All of these accomplishments outshine the number of tattoos I have. I let my work speak for who i am. My look has nothing to do with my leadership style and doesn’t impact the work I’ve done.

    Most importantly, I simply can’t do the work I know I can do, if I can’t be authentically me. I believe it’s important for people to live and act in their truth and to really be who they are. This will enable them to not only work at their greatest potential, but to also enjoy coming to work each day. This in turn impacts the success of our students.

    What are some of your favorite moments at the college?

    It’s hard to pick one moment, but Commencement is one of those happy and rewarding moments for me. I get to sit on stage and see students walk across the stage who I know had challenging times in their lives. But in that moment, I can see how they have grown into productive and successful, young adults. Just to be able to sit and watch them walk across stage is a rewarding and unforgettable time.

    Another happy moment was watching the DMSI documentary and seeing how the program has grown and impacted the lives of our young men at the college. As well as seeing how the program itself has transformed itself into an extraordinary program. Most importantly, the documentary allowed us to look into the lives of these young men and see how the DMSI program transformed their lives throughout the program. To have the opportunity to see where the program started in 2009, and to see the vision of where it’s headed, has been remarkable.

    What has been one of your most challenging moments at the college?

    A challenging moment for me, is when I see a student who has the potential to do or be great, but they give up on themselves because they’re going through challenging times. It’s heartbreaking some of them can’t see their greatness and push through their current situation to achieve their goals.

    How did you personally push through rejection in the presidency interview process, and continue to see your own greatness?

    It takes a lot of internal fortitude to push through and reach your goals. While interviewing for my presidency, I had some setbacks and it was an up and down journey. I prayed a lot and had to dig deep within myself. I focused on doing my best and placing the rest in God’s hands. I was a finalist for presidency a 3 times, 2 of which, resulted in other candidates receiving the position. Despite being rejected twice, I decided to trust in God and his process. I knew I needed to go wherever he led me, and he led me over 1,000 miles away in Kansas City, Missouri. I’ve come to realize that Missouri is where he needs me to be.

    Aside from prayer, I also have great cheerleaders in my life. Throughout the process they pushed me and kept me uplifted. When you have people around you who want you to be great and urge you to persevere, it helps you to get through it. When you have negative people who are naysayers, that can subconsciously sabotage your goals and the plans you set for yourself.

    What is your advice to new students?

    Every new student needs to know that they have someone they can go talk to at the college. Find someone you can connect with. It can be a faculty member, an administrator, librarian, etc. Just find someone you can talk to and reach out to for advice.

    What is your advice to employees and young professionals who aspire to be a President or CEO?

    Go to work everyday like it’s your last. Everyday I intentionally wake up and choose to be positive about my day. I know my spirit has to be uplifting in order to encourage and inspire my team to be great. Whatever takes place in my personal life, I keep it at home. I also make sure to have a positive work-life balance so i can be the best I can be in order to speak clearly and positively into others. I make sure to reset and recharge my energy, because I realize my health and well being impacts those around me.

  • Synclaire Roberts - Student & W.O.W. Lead Ambassador

    Synclaire RobertsMajor: PR & Communications

    Meet Synclaire Roberts, Associate Editor of Reflections Literary & Arts Magazine, W.O.W Lead Ambassador, and exemplary student with a 3.5 GPA. She shares her journey on how she refused to let setbacks hold her down.

    What do you consider to be the best part of attending PGCC?

    The college has introduced me to some of the best advisors and mentors. These individuals have challenged me, believed in me, and motivated me to the highest degree. I needed somebody to believe in me, so that I could believe in myself. The relationships I’ve built with the people who have challenged me the most, is truly remarkable.

    What setbacks have you encountered and how did you overcome them?

    When I graduated from high school, I didn’t get accepted into the schools I hoped to get into, one of them being Temple University. Left with minimal options, I decided to take a break from school and start working full-time. Over time, I got a little discouraged watching my friends graduate from college, some of them were even on the path to start their master’s degree programs.

    I eventually realized, I was focusing more on the destination and not the actual journey. I decided to make the best of my situation and seize the opportunities that were within reach. And that’s what led me to PGCC. I registered and immediately began working on elevating both my grades and campus involvement. After a few years at PGCC, and several applications to Temple...I got my acceptance letter to attend Temple in Fall 2017!!

    What words of encouragement do you have for students who have experienced academic setbacks or who have fallen short of goals they hoped to accomplish?

    1.) Carpe Diem.

    Years ago I learned to appreciate where I am right now and what I have right now. Even if you’re not really where you want to be in life, make the best of it. PGCC wasn’t my first choice, but once I got here I earned a work study position with W.O.W, which helped to turn things around for me. From there I decided to be more involved. It’s not only about the grades, it’s about the experience and the lessons you learn throughout your successes and failures.

    2.) If you can, try to put yourself out there.

    I’ve learned to just put myself out there and not be afraid of the outcome. Doing so has helped me to form relationships with advisors and mentors. Also make an attempt to start conversations with people. It’s as simple as saying hello to your professors and getting to know your advisors and other students on campus.

    What is your advice to new students?

    It doesn’t get easier, you just learn how to get better at conquering the adversity. Realize you'll mess up from time to time, but understand it's a part of your journey and growth. Look at the bigger picture and plan for the future, but all you have is right now and you're only promised right now. Everything you've worked on to get to the point you are at now, can all be gone. Take time to appreciate the work you've put in.

    What are you hopes and aspirations for the future?

    My dream is to have my own non-profit mentoring program for young girls, similar to the Women of Wisdom (W.O.W) program at the college. The program aims to empower the female student body at the college, through education, personal and professional development.

  • Dai’Ja Miller - Student

    Dai’Ja MillerMajor: Business Administration

    Why did you choose PGCC?

    I chose PGCC because the college is close by and affordable. I was also in a program in high school, which allowed me to take college courses and high school classes at the same time. When I decided to attend PGCC as a full-time student, the transition was very familiar and comfortable.

    What do you love about PGCC?

    I love that PGCC puts forth a lot of time and effort to make sure students are on the right path. They want their students to feel comfortable and have many reliable resources.

    Why did you choose your major?

    My major is Business Administration. I chose this major because growing up I was drawn to office and managerial work. I love working behind the scenes, but also recognized for my hard work. Overall, I like to get things done and working in a professional business field catches my interest.

  • Mussie Legesse - Student

    Mussie LegesseMajor: Biology

    How did you hear about PGCC?

    When my older brother decided to come to PGCC, that was the first time I heard about the college. Later on, I crossed paths with PGCC again when I heard about the Dual Enrollment program they offered.

    Why did you choose PGCC?

    I think community colleges get a bad rep, so a lot of people are hesitant when approaching them. However, for me it was different. My older brother had a blast here at PGCC, and I had a great experience taking classes in dual enrollment. Plus, benefits like cheaper tuition, and having professors who have experience teaching at four-year institutions, made my choice a no-brainer.

    What do you love most about PGCC?

    What I love most about PGCC is the welcoming atmosphere they create. Every staff member, from the advisors, to the lunch ladies, have helped to make me feel welcome, like they were eager to help me. They never made me feel like I was an inconvenience.

    Why did you choose your Major?

    I have always loved the sciences, but my favorite is Biology. Simply because biology is the study of life, it is the pursuit of understanding life, and understanding nature. Knowing why giraffes have long necks or knowing how I am able to move my fingers to type is fascinating to me. Also through this knowledge I will be able to help people, save lives, and make a difference because my goal is to become a doctor and do just that.

  • Grecia Rojas - Student

    Grecia RojasMajor: Business Administration

    Why did you choose PGCC?

    I chose PGCC because of the various resources available at the right cost. I like that the college is close to my house and that there are so many courses to choose from. When I was transitioning from high school, the recruiters were so inviting and helped me with planning. College is expensive. Here at PGCC, I got an institutional scholarship, and I am forever thankful for their support in funding my education. PGCC is awesome!

    How has your major prepared you for your career?

    When I first got to PGCC, I didn't really know much on my major, Business Administration. After taking Accounting, Intro to Business, and Economics, I feel more confident in the business aspect of the world. My math and writing has also improved significantly.

    What clubs and organizations are you involved in?

    I'm in the Hillman's Entrepreneurial Program here at PGCC. I am also a student ambassador for the Office of Recruitment. In the past, I have been involved with W.O.W. and NAMI.

  • Jeremiah Oghafua - Student

    Jeremiah OghafuaMajor: Biology

    How did you find out about PGCC?

    I learned about PGCC from several of my teachers during my senior year in high school.

    How did you choose your major?

    I chose biology as my major primarily from my interest in the subject. I had this desire of knowing how all living things are connected in their interactions, how they are made up, and what all living things need to exist.

    Are you active in any PGCC clubs?

    I'm currently involved in the Biology Club, the Honors Society and the Future Health Professionals Club.

  • Marcel Adams - Student & Employee

    Marcel AdamsMajor: General Studies & Office Associate II in Retention Services

    What advice do you have for new students on how they can be more involved and where they should start?

    1. Network, network, network. Get to know a staff member here who can serve as an advisor or mentor. 

    2. Be active. Get involved or participate at college fairs and events. 

    3. Stay connected. Follow us on social media, get involved, and connect on OWL alert, you’ll learn about events happening on campus and student club events. 

    4. Begin planning your transfer early. As soon as you begin registering for classes, speak to your advisor about what credits transfer over. That will help you to determine what classes you should take and will ultimately help to lead you down the correct path in your educational journey.

    Tell me about your work with SGA, SOAR, and OWL Success Track, how has working with these programs contributed to your success.

    Working with SGA, I’ve been able to give back to the student body because I was serving as their voice. It also helped me to network with college senior administrators, while also giving back to the community. As for OWL Success track, it was the gateway for me getting started with SGA, and then eventually working for the college as an Office Associate II.

    What exactly is SOAR, OWL Success track, and Success Squad?

    OWL Success Track is a program for first year students and transferring students, which includes SOAR, New Student Convocation, and college tours. The purpose of Owl Success Track is to serve as a gateway for a seamless transition into the college. Ultimately assisting you with how to connect with certain clubs, organizations, support programs, and staff.SOAR is a part of OWL Success Track. SOAR is New Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration. Students with 11 credits or less, must complete a SOAR session. Success Squad, is the social media hub of multiple departments, including Advising, Counseling Services, Career Services, OWL Success Track, Vocational Support Services, and Disability Support Services. We also partner with financial aid to relay important information.

    What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far at PGCC?

    My best accomplishment has been creating Success Squad and spearheading the Social Media Ambassador program for Success Squad. In this program students will act as social media liaisons for Success Squad’s social media platforms. The goal of the Social Media Ambassador program is to create a communicative medium where students have a voice that speaks and resonates with the student body -- in other words, “for the students, by the students.”

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  • Alston Adam - Graduate

    Alston AdamMajor:Electrical Engineering

    If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

    To embrace struggle with a growth mindset.

    Explain what that means to you?

    A year after high school I was incarcerated. I didn’t have the proper influences in my life. I grew up in an area where if you didn’t show athletic talents, then you weren’t expected to do anything more with your life. While in prison I believed I was more than what my current situation said I was. I focused on getting out and turning my life around. With good fortune and grace, I got out in 6 years versus the 25 years I was sentenced. From that experience, I’ve learned the importance of embracing struggle with a growth mindset. Embrace struggle because that is your greatest tool for growth in life. Nothing in life is easy and you have to work for everything. People often only see the beginning or the end of something, but they don’t see the journey in between. Appreciate the journey, and realize hard work needs to happen before you reap gratification.

    How has earning your degree impacted your life?

    Earning my A.S. degree in Electrical Engineering at PGCC, has given me confidence and reassurance that I’m capable of getting it done--regardless of my past circumstances. My experience at the college laid the foundation and blueprint for everything I plan to pursue in the future. In the fall, I will continue my studies in Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am humble to have the opportunity to pay it forward and share my story. Hopefully my journey will help someone else who may be in the same situation.

  • Sade Evans - Student

    Sade EvansMajor: Biology

    What is something significant you've overcome and how did you overcome it?

    I didn't think I was a good leader or had many leadership qualities. But then I said I'm not going to tell myself that anymore. In my first semester, I joined the Honors club at PGCC and became the Vice President of the club and now I'm President. Learn to make the most of whatever situation you're in and look within yourself to build up your strengths and weaknesses. You have to build on yourself and take it to the next level.

    What's the next step after PGCC?

    Once I earn my associate's degree from PGCC, I plan to transfer to the University of Maryland College park and major in Marine Biology and Physiology.