Tyler Junior College and the great people who work there meant the world to me as a student, and now as a professional more than a decade later. I received a full scholarship to play tennis for TJC, and it was a life changing experience for me. I had the opportunity to play with teammates from all over the world and have maintained those friendships ever since. They came from interesting and exotic places like Macedonia, France, England, South Africa, and Germany, and getting to know them made me want to live abroad.
TJC has a history of having the top tennis programs in the nation for both men and women. They have won 30 National Championships, 14 by the men’s teams and 16 by the women’s teams. The top division 1 coaches from around the world recruit their best players from the TJC tennis teams, and many of those same coaches played at TJC themselves.
TJC had the best coach in the country for 24 years in the person of John Peterson. He and his staff always had high expectations for their student athletes and even higher expectations for themselves. I had the opportunity to win a National Championship in 2000 and it is an experience I will never forget.
After TJC, I went to Texas Tech University where I received my BA in Public Relations with a minor in French, but Lubbock could not keep me away from Tyler. I looked forward to coming home each summer to teach tennis camps with Coach Peterson.
For someone hoping to major in public relations, being afraid to speak in public is a big obstacle to overcome. My TJC professor, Clarence Strickland, was instrumental in developing my public speaking skills. I still remember vividly that first speech in front of my class and how my teacher and classmates helped me gain confidence. Even Coach Peterson helped. He had me practice my speeches in front of the men’s and women’s teams and I was very worried about them laughing at me. I don’t know how good my speeches were, but my Coach and my team were very supportive and it was great practice. Without TJC, I couldn’t have majored in public relations, and now when I have to deliver a speech or make a presentation, I am confident.
I had other great teachers at TJC, such as Stan Watson who taught history. He could bring history alive and would lecture for an hour without once looking at his book or notes. Meanwhile, my classmates and I frantically took notes and marveled at his talent. The smaller classrooms and student teacher ratios allowed for a much better learning environment. In fact, some of the best teaching I ever had was in my TJC classes where teachers knew me and cared about me as an individual. It was at TJC that I learned how to study and began to grow into the person I am today.
After graduating from Texas Tech, I fulfilled the promise I made to myself and traveled throughout Europe. Then I decided I wanted to go to chiropractic school but I hadn’t taken the science courses I would need. Once again, I enrolled at TJC to take chemistry I and II. My TJC professor was wonderful and made sure I had the foundation I needed to be accepted into a good chiropractic school and become a chiropractor. From there I did get accepted into Parker University in Dallas, TX and this is where I continued my studies. I quickly settled into a very serious program and realized how much I loved learning. I graduated from Parker University in 2008 with my degree in Doctor of Chiropractic and a BS in Health and Wellness.
TJC has been and continues to be a big part of my life. My husband Josh attended TJC, too, and had similar positive experiences. My parents, Dr. Mark and Anne Hembree are huge fans of TJC and Coach Peterson. In fact, my dad chaired the Hollytree Collegiate tennis tournament for 22 years with the proceeds going to help fund TJC’s tennis programs. Mom and Dad personally funded court #1 at TJC and it makes me very proud. I’ve never forgotten what that TJC scholarship did for me, and I try to give back. I served as chair for the Hollytree Collegiate last year and we raised the most ever, giving $23,000 to the TJC Foundation. I want to thank TJC and Coach Peterson for being so instrumental in my life and blessing me with many happy memories. I wish every young person in Tyler could get the kind of start my husband and I did at TJC- and the great news is that they can. TJC is going stronger than ever!
- TJC Hero and Friend Dr. Sarah Hembree Hill is a chiropractor at the Hembree Chiropractic clinic, where she loves treating children. She also volunteers her chiropractic services at the Bethesda Clinic, but she still finds time to give back to TJC. Sarah recently joined TJC’s new Physical Therapy Assistant Advisory Committee, which will help with planning for one of the new programs to be offered at TJC’s new nursing and Health science building. She also was on hand this past Friday evening at a surprise event honoring Coach Peterson.