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LUFKIN, March 6, 2014-- Jeremy Thomas claims he was one of those “overlooked” students in high school. He wasn’t the “Most” anything, nor was he in the top 50 percent of his class. Like so many other students that age, he went virtually unnoticed.
He did, however, have in his path the types of mentors that would influence him far past graduation night. Because of their guidance, he moved into the same roles they played in his life, leading to recognition from the Texas Academic Advising Network (TEXAAN), the state affiliate of the National Academic Advising Association, which last week presented Thomas with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Thomas, Angelina College’s Director of Enrollment Services, credited those who saw something in him all those years ago.
“I had people taking me under their wings and kick me in the tail when I needed it,” Thomas said. “To this day, I still hear from them; when I posted this news on Facebook, they were the first ones who chimed in to congratulate me. I really have taken that to heart, and I want to give to students the same opportunities I received.
“I come from a small, blue-collar family, and I’m drawn to students like me who have potential but have never had the chance to use it. Those diamonds in the rough, so to speak. That’s why I do what I do.”
Prior to his position at AC, where he’s served for the past six years, Thomas worked at Northwestern State University in Louisiana as an academic advisor, at College of the Mainland as Director of Advisement and Dual Credit Services.
Thomas has also served as TEXAAN’s president, as well as in other officer capacities; in addition, he’s testified before the Texas Senate Committee on academic advising on behalf of the state organization. He earned his graduate certificate from Kansas State University, holding an A.B.D. (All But Dissertation) with a doctorate in Developmental Education. Thomas also served on the committee that developed the state standards for academic advising in Texas.
Thomas who said he didn’t really didn’t “hit my stride” until he started college, began his academic career with advising in mind; originally, he thought he wanted to be a band director. Then he landed his first job working with Kappa Kappa Psi, the national college fraternity, where he traveled the country working with students on such issues as hazing, alcohol abuse and fund raising. Encountering those young people helped Thomas find his niche.
“It was a wonderful experience, but it led me to the idea that I really wanted to work with students. That’s where the fun and fulfilling part is.
“I want to influence students the way others had influenced me.”
Working at a community college often means a very diverse student population, with those students ranging in age from teens to older, “non-traditional” types who enter college at a later age. Thomas said he can’t help but look for those who remind him of himself.
“These are people who, for all practical purposes, society has written off,” Thomas said “They have so much more to battle to reach a successful level. No one ever expected great things from them, and it takes someone saying, ‘Yes, you can do it’, one day holding their hands to guide them and another kicking their tails to keep them moving. Sometimes it takes both approaches.
“You never know when you’re going to affect someone. It doesn’t matter what position you have. You never know how far something you say or do will go toward pushing someone toward success.”
Thomas’ route has caused him to cross paths with numerous students; one can see it during AC Commencement ceremonies, when students pause a little longer to greet him before crossing the stage. If anything changes in his future, he said, it won’t be a drastic deviation from what he’s doing now.
“Whatever it is, it’ll have to be dealing with students,” Thomas said. “I just enjoy it so much. The day I stop enjoying it will be the day I’m finished, and the day I’ll know I’m moving too far away from them.”
Photo: Angelina College’s Jeremy Thomas, Director of Enrollment Services, recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Academic Advising Network, the state affiliate of the National Academic Advising Association. (AC Press photo)
© 2017 Tomlinson-Leis Communications L.P.