On Saturday April 25, 2015, I completed a life goal of mine. I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Indiana Wesleyan University. I could say I did this all on my own, but I would be lying. I had support and inspiration from my family, friends, coworkers, and mentors along the way.
When I was young, my mother enrolled me in a mentoring program in Albion, Michigan. Harry J. Bonner, Sr., the Executive Director of Substance Abuse Prevention Services, took me under his wing and I give Mr. Bonner credit for exposing me to the possibility of college. Through his mentorship, I was able to attend Michigan State University for three days in the summer to take classes. Just spending time with Mr. Bonner increased my confidence in my abilities. And, he wasn’t just my mentor, he was a mentor to many kids growing up in Albion.
I also had a Big Brother from 1982 until now. Arthur Charles Harris “Charlesy” was a student at Albion College and he used to invite me up to
watch his football games. He’d play ball with me on the weekends and always made sure to talk about the importance of college. Because of my relationship with Charlesy, I knew college was in my future.
In 1988, I graduated high school and attended Spring Arbor University to major in communications. College was not an easy adjustment for me and after two years, I decided to take a break and join the United States Army.
I completed my service in the Army and my parents encouraged me to return to school to finish what I started. I was lacking the motivation and direction at the time and decided to enter the work force, holding a variety of jobs until 1994 when I began work at Starr Commonwealth Schools. It was there that my supervisor, Rod Ferguson, emphasized the importance of a degree. I remember saying, “Yeah, I’ll go back some day.” At the time, I just wanted to make money. In my position at Starr Commonwealth Schools, an employee must possess a bachelor’s degree or be working toward a degree. One day, Rod called me into his office and instead of demoting me, he enrolled me in classes at Jackson Community College. I took it slow – completing one class each semester until I earned my Associates Degree in General Studies. I’m grateful for my friend and supervisor who motivated me to take school seriously again.
In 2009, my wife and I relocated to Indianapolis. I began working as a Match Support Specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana where I have the privilege of working with Bigs, Littles, and families. I supported my wife, Alnisa, who worked hard to accomplish her goal of earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Indiana Wesleyan University and my desire to head back to school returned. I enrolled in Indiana Wesleyan in August 2013 and this time, I was determined to graduate with a degree. As a first generation college student, I knew how much it meant to my family for me to obtain a bachelor’s degree so I hoped to keep school a surprise until I had finished a year. In 2014, my grandmother fell ill and I knew it was the right time to let my family know that I had returned to school. In November of 2014, I lost my grandmother, but I knew she was smiling down on me and that motivated me to work hard and keep going, despite the demanding schedule of work and school. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy.
Looking back, I realized that I wanted to be a college graduate since I was a young boy. It was a surreal feeling walking across the stage on Saturday, April 25, 2015 knowing that my family and friends were there, not just at my graduation, but along every step of the way. My attitude toward school has always been positive, but there were bumps along the way and I’m grateful for everyone who motivated me and encouraged me to keep going. William James, an American philosopher, always says, “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcomes.”
Tracy grew up in Albion, Michigan and has 15 years of experience working in social services. Upon moving to Indianapolis in 2009, Tracy has worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana as a Match Support Specialist. He is now a proud graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. In his free time, Tracy enjoys spending time with his wife of 12 years, Alnisa, working out, watching football, listening to old school rap music, and hanging with their dog, Scrappy. Tracy and Alnisa have two children – LeSia, a junior at Western Michigan University and Braylen, a soldier in the United States Army.