STC didn’t let me quit’

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Still recovering from tragedy, Aaron Powell earns his degree, graduates this December

More than one year after losing family members in a tragic accident, Aaron Powell is set to walk across the stage and earn his bachelor’s degree from South Texas College this December.

Texas Border Business

McAllen, TEXAS – Even through his darkest times, Aaron Powell credits a group of caring administrators, faculty, and student veterans at South Texas College who helped guide him to finishing his degree this December.

In the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the lives of his wife, mother-in-law and young son, Powell said he was determined to be strong for his surviving family members and earn a degree he had worked for years to receive.

On the evening of Aug. 9, 2018, a driver allegedly veered into oncoming traffic striking a vehicle containing Powell’s family members. The accident killed his wife, mother in law, and 3-year-old son Joshua.

Powell is finding the strength and inspiration to persevere in their honor.

Now set to walk across the stage to earn his Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Leadership (BASOL) degree, Powell says he hopes his story can inspire his surviving family members or even other students enduring similar circumstances to help them reach their dreams.

“Frankly, I did it so that they know that even with kids that you can still continue your education, and I continue for them because if I can do it, they can do it,” Powell said. “I just want to thank the BASOL leadership and Dr. (Emma) Miller because they didn’t have to help me as they did.”

The situation left Powell struggling to balance his education and prompted him to take time off to take care of his family while the case entered the courts.

STC faculty, however, refused to let him quit.

“They even held an office fundraiser for me. I don’t think any other college or university would have done that,” Powell said. “I was dropping out because of this family emergency but they welcomed me immediately back and she (Miller) personally even helped me get my affairs in order so I could continue learning.

“I had my struggles, but the administration at STC and especially those in the BASOL program helped me reintegrate back into my studies as seamlessly as possible,” Powell said.

Powell, an Army veteran, is currently employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as an information technology specialist. Beginning with CBP as a mission support specialist right after leaving the military, Powell says entering a career in technology has been a longtime goal.

He first entered STC in the spring of 2011 and taking a few classes each semester eventually earned an associate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2015. Deciding to continue his education, Powell is now set to walk across the stage in December.

BASOL instructor Dr. Emma Miller says she was moved to help Powell following her own personal tragedy through college. Her experiences, she says, have given her the understanding of students and their many challenges as they pursue their degree.

“I also had a tragedy while attending school so I know how it feels,” Dr. Miller said “I know he (Powell) is doing it for himself, for the family he lost, and his current family.

“Because he was able to persevere and overcome, I know he’s going to provide an even better life for his family,” Dr. Miller said.

Looking to the future, Powell says he hopes to earn a master’s degree in Homeland Security Studies and looks forward to moving up with CBP.

“I guess just because life happens doesn’t mean you have to stop your education,” Powell said. “You keep going and keep doing it no matter what the struggle is. Even if it’s like me where it was one or two classes at a time, eventually you’ll do it, you’ll get it done.

“You don’t give up on your goals,” he said. “You just build on it every day, and you do something productive to put you towards that goal. Eventually, you’ll get there.”

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