By Coshandra Dillard
Most people don’t have an opportunity to learn alongside their sibling, parent or child in college. That’s exactly what Chester Brent Miller, Timikia Miller, and their mother, Ruby Hollie did.
The close-knit family enrolled in Texas College’s Success Program inadvertently about the same time in 2013.
They’re also finishing together. The three will cross the stage Saturday during the school’s commencement ceremony.
“It was really exciting to be going to school with my children,” Hollie says.
The family provided a built-in support system and they helped each other with their studies.
Hollie, 66, did not plan for this change of course in her life, but she’s glad she did.
She had taken nursing classes at Tyler Junior College years earlier, but didn’t finish with a degree. She’s spent more than two decades working with home health and at nursing homes.
Most friends were retired, and others had died. She commits a lot of time with a women’s ministry and vacation bible school at her church.
So returning to school was the furthest from her mind.
That changed when she got a call that was supposed to be for Timikia from a Texas College coordinator. When Hollie learned about a religion degree through the Success Program, she was hooked.
The coursework opened her eyes to the numerous differences between Christian denominations and motivated her to further her ministry work.
“It was all God’s plan,” she says. “You don’t have to be prepared for God to call you.”
Brent, 40, always knew he wanted to be a businessman. He’d also gone to TJC on and off throughout the years. He admits he didn’t always apply himself. Now a husband and father of three, this time is different. His family provides the motivation.
“I wanted my children to see me graduate,” he says.
Brent now works at a post office, but was laid off from his job at the time he enrolled at Texas College. His sister, Timikia, contacted him when she was about to enroll in the school’s Success Program. It was the green light he needed to move forward.
“It was confirmation. I was already thinking about it,” he says.
Brent aims to put his degree to use when he opens and operates a retail store. He encourages others to not let where they are in life stop them from taking the steps he did to get an education.
“Go. Don’t give up,” he says. “No matter how old you are, you can do it. If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
Timikia, 38, has had the toughest time on the road to earning a college degree. A mother of three young boys by age 19, she struggled with being a single parent and attacking her goals.
She received a GED in 2002 and later enrolled at TJC. When her son—then only 4 years old—was diagnosed with brain cancer, it threw a wrench in her plans.
But she persisted.
“Going to school was my way of trying to deal with what was going on with my son,” she says.”
Nonetheless, her grades took a dive during the ordeal and she was placed on academic probation. She, too, would go to school intermittently until she landed at Texas College in 2013.
Things are looking a lot better. In addition to earning a degree, Timikia, now a mother of four, recently joined the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Her younger sister, Tywanna Miller, says she has beaten the odds.
“All of the troubles, trials and tribulations … this girl has been through it,” she says. “She’s a diamond. She’s really stepping into herself.”
Tywanna, 35, was the first in the family to earn a college degree. She studied political science at Sam Houston State University and finished in 2005. She beams with pride as she touts her family’s newest accomplishments.
“I am really ecstatic,” she says. “To see them graduate is an awesome feeling.”
The Miller/Hollie family note that the unyielding support of family, faith and ambition is what has gotten them to where they are. They hope to inspire others to be as audacious in life.
“Never give up on your dreams,” Hollie says. “Life is not about being dealt with a good hand. You’re going to have ups and downs … When you reach for the stars, you can’t help but succeed.”