Technical College of the Lowcountry
"The cost was affordable, the classes are smaller, and the professors actually know your name. Technical college changed my life."
I come from a military family, so I moved around a lot. I went to three different high schools. I started at Quantico which is where I started my football career then I moved off base to Brook Point in Stafford, Virginia where I attended my sophomore year. I finished my high school career at Northside, Jacksonville. This is the story of how I overcame the mindset holding me back by finding a new place where I could pursue a brighter future.
I never really found high school fun, but I did love science and sports. Basically, I loved the fun side of school. After I graduated, my father said, “Okay, son. You can join the military or you can go to college. Honestly, I’d rather you go to school. Do it for me”. I could see in my dad’s eyes that going to school and breaking our family history of just going into the military meant a lot to him, so I enrolled at Coastal Carolina in North Carolina.
I went to Coastal Carolina for a few years, and landed myself on academic probation twice in that time. I decided to take a semester off and started working out a lot. At that point, I decided to try being a personal trainer. The day I took my PT test I also suffered a major hip injury that put me on bed rest for two months.
Without the ability to make an income, my mom suggested I consider going back to school. I decided that’s what I wanted to do, but this time I wanted to do it for myself. That drive and desire has to come from within. People can tell you to do this or that, but if you don’t really want to do it, your heart will never be in it.
This time I took everything more seriously. I brought my GPA up to a 3.2. I also realized my environment had been kind of contorting my mindset. I was smoking, drinking and partying rather than focusing on my courses, homework and studies.
Around this same time, my parents decided to move back to South Carolina. I thought it was best to change my environment, so I went with them. Thanks to my father’s 20 years of service in the Marine Corps, I was eligible for free tuition. (If you’re a veteran in the state of South Carolina, your kids can go to any public college for free.) I had no money at the time, so I thought, “Cool. It’s no money out my pocket!”
I started at the Technical College of Lowcountry pursuing a future as a biomedical equipment technician. Enter my professor, Mr. Robert Beach, an amazing guy and a man of wisdom. Mr. Beach has been engineering for 30 years. Our first class was an electronic processing class. I couldn’t understand anything, but I do remember him saying, “I promise you, if you stick around it’ll all click one day.” A couple of semesters later, everything started to make sense. I started thinking like an engineer and it changed my whole mindset. Even when I made mistakes, I just kept going. You can’t learn anything if you’re not doing it every single day. These days I’ll fall asleep on YouTube watching videos about electronics from guys in the field.
My father never went to college, but he gave me the necessary tools in life to explore what I am capable of. I surrounded myself with people who are smarter than I am, people who had achieved their goals, people who cared about the community.
What made you decide to go to technical college?
I was supposed to go play football for Buffalo State in New York, but suffered a back injury. My parents would say, “You could try a technical college. It’s the same classes you’re going to take your first two years at a four-year college.” The cost was affordable, as well. In addition, the classes are smaller and the professors actually know your name. I highly recommend talking to people who have gone to technical college. They’ll tell you how great it is. It changed my life. I know it has changed other people’s lives, as well.
What advice do you have for high schoolers thinking about their next steps?
Procrastination is the enemy. Honor yourself by educating yourself. Reach for your highest potential — that’s what college is all about. By all means, have fun, but don’t forget you’re there for a higher purpose. You’re there to become a better you.
What have you had to defy or overcome along the way?
The main internal factors were self-doubt and procrastination. Can I really do this? I’ll just do it later. It’s not really that important. I don’t even know what I want to do.
I just had to stop that and start believing in myself.
Externally, my challenge was the friends in my life who weren’t doing anything and just wanted to drink and party. I was following their lead until I moved. In South Carolina, I had nobody. I was on my own with only myself to depend on. I was my only influence. I got away from that negative environment and put myself in a healthy environment where I could think and achieve my goals. That decision is why I’m here today.
What is the biggest thing you learned about yourself along the way?
The biggest thing I learned about myself is that my parents were right. If I put my mind to a goal, I can achieve it. I just had to stay consistent and let go of the distractions. Eventually, I learned I had it within myself to get it done.
Anything else you’d like to share?
For anybody going to college, especially people of color, believe in it. There are resources out there for you. There are lots of different organizations. I’m in a Student Support Services program and went to a conference. It felt great to see a lot of people that look like me caring about the kids and the future. There are a lot of people out there — young and old — going back to college. You just have to believe in yourself. Work to achieve your goals, and strive to help your fellow brothers and sisters out along the way.