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Student POV

by Taylor Barrett '24


Growing up I did not believe college was for people like me. People who grew up without a father and got in trouble with the law. People who moved every few years into another abusive stepdad’s home. People whose mother cried to them not knowing where their next meal was going to come from. People whose mother’s lives were scarred with misfortune and poor choices. Who would expect anything from a child of that environment?

I can hardly recall a time in which I lived in a stable environment. My mother has been married seven times, many of the marriages involving physical abuse, emotional abuse, drug addiction and poverty.

Shortly after we entered the most impoverished portion of my childhood, when I was 13, I began hanging with the wrong crowd and getting into trouble. I drank alcohol, smoked marijuana and got in trouble with the law. My grades suffered.

We moved when I was 15, and I changed schools. Uprooted from my old friends and the trouble we got in together, I realized I was being offered an opportunity to start over. It was tough to break old habits, but by surrounding myself with people who thought and behaved differently, I realized I had a choice to make a future better than my past. I began thinking about my future. I wanted to be a physician so I could help young people who came from childhoods like mine. But I had a terrible history, no money and no means to begin my path, so I decided to join the Army for the educational benefits and to gain the self-discipline I desperately needed.

I left for basic training to be a medical laboratory technician; my stepping stone to becoming a doctor one day. Within three weeks, however, I suffered four hip stress fractures. It was a year later, living with those fractures, that I was ultimately honorably discharged. I never wanted to leave the Army; it showed me how mentally tough I was and that I could do anything I set my mind to. I worried that without the Army, my chances of becoming a physician were out of reach. Thankfully, I retained my military educational
benefits and began thinking college was possible.

I chose USI for its familiarity, beautiful campus and the great things I'd heard about it from others. I had no idea how grateful I would become. My biggest challenge was closing the gap between my capability and my performance. I did not know how to prepare for exams or manage my time.

Slowly, I increased my workload and responsibility to challenge myself without shocking myself. There is no doubt I am a completely different person having attended USI. I now know how important and influential a child's early years of development are to their future. My older brothers experienced much more abuse than I did. One has been in and out of prison and the other experiences mental health issues. Although I love my mother, her choices eventually led to her incarceration.

Her choices, however, are not my choices, and I consider myself lucky. Without perseverance, the Army and USI, I would not stand a chance at getting accepted into a medical school somewhere. That is a gift I could not have received elsewhere.

USI has bridged the gap between where I was and where I want to be. It has helped me prove to myself that I am able to do what I set out to do— despite the circumstances. I am so glad I am included in this community. Every day I wake up knowing I am lucky to be where I am, and fortunate to earn an education so I can one day give back.

Author Bio:

Taylor Barret is a biochemistry major and preprofessional medical student who plans to graduate from USI in Spring 2024. Outside of the classroom, he volunteers for events on campus and at the Ronald McDonald House Charities. He is learning to grow bonsai trees and works hard to keep them safe from his four cats who find the little trees tasty.

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