Student Success Story: Jay Pharoah

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Tidewater_Jay_PharoahJay Pharoah: “TCC was a great experience. I’m glad I did it.”

Long before “Saturday Night Live,” comedian Jay Pharoah was Jared Antonio Farrow, an unsure 17-year-old graduate of Indian River High School. Without a clear direction, he made the best decision he could at the time: Tidewater Community College.

“I was still trying to figure things out, so I thought, ‘What better way to do that than go to TCC and explore and see where everything leads?’” said Pharoah, 28, who returned to Norfolk for a performance in January 2016. “I really didn’t know. My senior year of high school, I was a procrastinator. I was a late bloomer.”

Jay Pharoah In Concert - Norfolk, VA

Comedian and TCC alum Jay Pharoah performed Jan. 30, 2016, in Norfolk.
PHOTO CREDIT: David A. Beloff/Getty Images

Like many TCC students, he balanced a full load of classes while holding down a job, in his case performing stand-up comedy and rap. In addition to realizing that 8 a.m. classes were not a good fit, he found confidence at TCC, particularly under the direction of theater Professor Ed Jacob.

“He taught me discipline in class; I remember that,” Pharoah said.

A decade later, Pharoah recalls these words from Jacob: “You are brilliant, and I would love to work with you.”

“That was the highest praise,” Pharoah said.

He graduated with an Associate of Arts in 2008 and an Associate of Science in 2010. Moreover, he had a stronger sense of who he was and where he was going.

“TCC was a great experience,” he said. “I’m glad I did it. It made me realize after I left that, ‘Man, you’re a performer. You’re supposed to be performing.’ ”

After one semester at Virginia Commonwealth University, Pharoah got his break. On Sept. 25, 2010, he debuted “live from New York” as a regular “Saturday Night Live” cast member.

Pharoah has been an advocate for college through social media and with Michelle Obama. He joined the First Lady for a “Go to College” rap campaign in fall 2015.

“TCC, you can go anywhere from there,” he said. “I’m definitely a living, breathing example of that.”

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