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For Clinton Miles, perseverance leads to TJC diploma

Some things just take time. Clinton Miles can attest to that.

After a few stops and starts dating back more than 10 years, Miles is a graduate of Tyler Junior College and on his path to a rewarding career in addiction counseling.

“I started TJC originally in 2009,” said Miles, a Texarkana native. “I took a few classes and got some credits and did well in some classes but not in others, and then I kind of blew it off. I started back in 2011 and was serious in the beginning, but then I just kind of faded out.”

After spending a few years working as an administrative assistant and clinical coordinator in an addiction counseling center, Miles found his calling and returned to TJC for a third time.

Since part of his job involved observing clients and reporting on their behaviors, he became more aware of how their outlook would change as they worked through the program.

“Their attitudes are generally not very good when they first start the program,” he said, “but then about halfway through, they just have a ‘click,’ and that click is worth everything. It means they’re starting to get it.”

He explained, “It may just be something they say or one of their actions you notice, like maybe they take out the trash at the end of group session and they’ve never done that before. By the end of the program, you can definitely see that they are in the process of change and they’re different from when they entered the program. I think that’s why I chose this field, because I like seeing that change. And if I can be the person who helps with that change, that’s important.”

It took three tries, but Miles finally found his “click” and turned the corner at TJC.

“When I came back last year, even though I knew this was what I wanted to do, when it came time to take the first test, I was like, ‘I am not digging this,’” he said. “I thought about giving up again, but I think that was my click moment because it came down to either I do this now or I don’t do it at all.”

He continued, “So, I went in and took that test and ended up making an extremely good grade that I didn’t think I was going to do. It was definitely the motivation I needed to keep going.”

In addition to Paul Phillips, his supervisor at the clinic, Miles credits Tony Rand, TJC human services professor and department chair, as a mentor and encourager.

“Tony Rand’s style of teaching reinforced that this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “He was very real with the types of things we’re going to see in the field. Even with me working in the field, it’s different. I don’t see the counseling aspect of it to the extent that I will as a counselor.”

Miles also credits his classmates for helping him push through.

“We bonded,” he said. “We had this big friendship, we were one big group, we helped each other, and we were there for everything for two years. We followed the program together from start to finish.”

However, the coronavirus outbreak denied them of their proper send-off.

“It was abrupt,” he said. “There was zero closure at the end of that last practicum class where Tony said, ‘Thank y’all for being here; you were awesome.’ We just didn’t get that, so it was very weird.”

Miles plans to attend TJC’s delayed graduation ceremony in August in Wagstaff Gymnasium on the TJC main campus.

“It will mean a lot to me,” he said. “It will feel like true closure. It will mean my family being able to see me walk the stage and celebrate this chapter of my life that I have worked so hard to achieve, and all of their support and encouragement is represented as well. Plus, it will be great having all of my friends that I have been in the program with for so long right there with me and celebrating together.”

His diploma has already arrived in the mail; and, for now, Miles is savoring his success at finishing a journey he started years ago.

“Working a full-time job can be a good excuse for people not to go back to college,” he said. “People don’t think they can. It’s very difficult, but it’s also very possible. Anybody can do it. It’s just time management and really trying to figure that out.”

He continued, “Looking back, it wasn’t as dire as I made it out to be at the time. It can be done, and it’s easily done as long as you put forth the effort and time.”

TJC commencement details
TJC will honor its May graduates during multiple commencement ceremonies scheduled for Wednesday-Friday, Aug. 12-14, in Wagstaff Gymnasium.

Graduates have received emails regarding their assigned date, and they may bring up to six guests. Face coverings will be required for everyone in attendance.

Decisions have been made in conjunction with NET Health and CDC guidelines, to ensure physical distancing, room capacity limitations and adequate time between ceremonies for appropriate cleaning.

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