Michael Crouch admits he has struggled both personally and academically over the past years with challenges that sidelined his academic and professional journey. Today, substance-free since 2013, he proudly talks about the road to achieving a lifelong goal of earning a college degree.
He says he couldn’t have done it without Tri-County Technical College, its support services and most important, its instructors.
“It really helps when you have people – specifically instructors — who are also mentors, in your corner,” said the 41-year-old Seneca resident who balances his time with college classes and working as a certified peer support specialist for Pickens County Behavioral Health.
After several unsuccessful attempts at college while struggling with substance abuse, as well as ADHD and social anxiety, today Crouch is in long-term recovery and earning grades that landed him on the President’s List (all A’s). “Tri-County is helping me to redevelop my mind to believe I can achieve,” he said.
He says both people and resources at the College have contributed to his academic and personal success.
“I wouldn’t be here without any of them,” said Crouch, a 1997 Seneca High graduate, who began his studies by enrolling in the College’s Developmental Education math and English classes in preparation to enter the university transfer curriculum.
“My journey through life has been similar to my experience in college. I am not only a college student, but I am also a person in long-term recovery. I have been substance-free since January 2013, and excelling at Tri-County Technical College for well over two years,” he said.
“Finding and sustaining recovery from substance use disorder has been very much like discovering developmental education and achieving success in college,” said Crouch. “Recovery from addiction is by far my biggest life accomplishment, but facing and overcoming challenges in academia comes in at a close second. With this in mind, my involvement in developmental education has been the key to my ability to achieve at a high level in for-credit courses and in my professional career. I have used principles found in recovery and developmental education to achieve my goals inside and outside the classroom,” he said.
He told his story to a group of peers and educators at the March 4 – 7 National Organization of Student Success (NOSS) conference where he received the Martha Maxwell Scholarship for Students in Student Success Programs.
He is the first student from South Carolina to receive this prestigious scholarship and award from this national organization. The purpose of the award is to support completers of programs related to student success as they continue their college degree aspirations.
Crouch earned A’s in his Comprehensive Studies English and math courses and continued in the Associate of Arts (university transfer) program, earning A’s across the board and participating in the Learning Beyond Campus program. Last October Michael received the 2019 South Carolina Association of Developmental Education (SCADE) Scholar Award, which was awarded to a developmental education student who demonstrates exemplary academic performance.
His goal is to transfer to Anderson University to study human services and eventually work as a peer support coach in a collegiate recovery program.
Crouch says he initially thought developmental education courses “would just help me become a more productive student.” He quickly found instructors like Jonathan Warnock, Developmental English instructor, and Developmental Education Mathematics instructor Jimmy Walker, who helped him build a foundation for college transfer math and English classes.
“Jonathan and Jimmy have a compassion for the people they work with,” said Crouch.
“They are engaged and help students. I feel very lucky to have found so many mentors here at Tri-County. They are helping me to fulfil a lifetime goal.”
Crouch says developmental education has been the foundation for his ongoing success and his ability to understand math, his toughest subject.
“I also wouldn’t be here without the tutoring center where I got help with math and writing assignments. They are just another resource,” he said.
“Developmentally learning has truly been the biggest factor in my successful career in college. Only through building a solid and creative foundation in developmental learning was I able to transition to and be successful in higher-level, for-credit courses. Developmental education has helped me discover my true potential inside and outside of the classroom as a certified peer support specialist,” he said.
He also credits Alex Eaton, humanities instructor in the Arts and Sciences Division, who also influenced his journey as an advisor for the Learning Beyond Campus summer program whereby students travel to Boston for a seven-week course titled Early American Studies. Classes meet for three weeks on campus and in early June, they travel to Boston to study the New England area. The class combines History 201 and English 201.
Students visit the literary and historical sites to visually experience what instructors have been teaching. Students establish an historical connection to the history of the New England area in a way that the traditional textbook and lecture format never could,
“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” Crouch said
“I have found the characteristics of success I learned in developmental education and recovery, such as humility and determination, are one and the same,” he said. “In the same way I humbled myself and asked members of recovery support groups for help with addiction, I reached out for assistance with academic coursework from instructors and the tutoring center. Even though I was excelling in education, my determination to become a productive member of my community pushed me to gain employment in the field associated with my education, and I have been able to begin helping others with substance use disorder,” he said.
After graduating from Tri-County, Crouch’s goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree. “I want to use my life experiences to help others overcome obstacles and develop a pathway of recovery that works best for them. My experience in developmental education taught me that I never stop learning. For this reason, employing educational and life skills I discovered in my developmental courses will be an ongoing process throughout my college career and my professional life.”