Tyler Douglas just completed his junior year at Olivet College, something he never thought he would be saying. Tyler didn’t believe he would even attend college due to his surroundings and lackluster approach to high school classes. What he did know, was that he loved to play football and was pretty good at it too.
High school graduation passed and Tyler wasn’t sure where to turn. He quickly realized he had made a mistake by not taking his future more seriously and became determined to turn his life around. It became evident that earning a college degree was the best way to invest in himself and he began seeking options. An opportunity presented itself when Tyler attended a college football recruiting event near his hometown of Griffith, Indiana not far from Gary, Indiana. That was the first time he met Dan “Moose” Musielewicz, head coach of the Olivet College football team who was then serving as a recruiting coordinator. Suddenly, Tyler’s dream of attending college seemed to be within reach.
But first, Tyler had to prove himself capable of handling the college work load, something that seemed daunting when Tyler’s high school GPA was considered. Olivet offered Tyler the chance to participate in the Olivet Opportunity, nicknamed the O2 Program, signifying a second chance. The rigorous program gives students a taste of being a college student by attending classes, living on campus and requiring the use of time management skills. Tyler rose to the occasion and passed with a perfect GPA.
“In high school, I was known as a jock who played sports but didn’t do my homework,” Tyler explained. “Once I was accepted into Olivet, I knew there was no way I’d let the same thing happen again because I was so thankful for my second chance. I totally refocused myself in the classroom and started taking my studies seriously, with the goal to really make something of myself and have a successful future helping others.”
Once on campus as an official student, Tyler found his home playing defensive tackle on the football team, but struggled to find his place in the classroom. Thinking nursing was his professional calling, Tyler focused his studies in pre-medical before realizing psychology was his true passion. John Moore, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, made sure that Tyler would be still be able to graduate within four years through one-on-one academic advising sessions before he officially changed majors.
“I really enjoy the way Dr. Moore teaches his classes,” explained Tyler. “He makes the lessons relate to the real-world very well and provokes conversation. I’ve always been good at making people comfortable around me and enjoy helping others through difficult times, so when I realized how much I liked my psychology courses, it all fell into place. I’m interested in looking into careers in therapy.”
In one of his psychology classes, Dr. Moore was teaching students about zest, a trait known as a great enthusiasm or high energy. Tyler said his mind flew directly to Coach Moose, the most zestful person he knows and the man who helped launch his college journey. “I love Coach Moose,” Tyler exclaimed. “He has been a steady supporter and role model throughout my entire time at Olivet, and I know he will continue to be after I graduate and throughout life.”
In addition, Tyler joined the Black Student Union (BSU), a group that has a strong commitment to recognizing and fostering the diversity on campus through special events and education. Recently elected president of BSU, Tyler wants to be a role model for other students from similar backgrounds. His personal mission is to prove that black students are not confined by the color of their skin and that they should be proud of their culture. For all students who face challenges, Tyler said, “You have the ability to make an impact, work to make it a positive one.” In May, he received the John W. Porter Community Responsibility Scholarship for his service to the college.
With a year left at Olivet, Tyler is on track to graduate next May. He will be the first person to do so in his family, something he is extremely proud of, and so is his mother. “I come from a place where people like me aren’t supposed to go to college,” Tyler explained. “We’re not supposed to be getting our education, receiving scholarships, and broadening our horizons. We’re supposed to drop out, end up where we started, and fall victim to our environments. But by the grace of God, Olivet College gave me the opportunity to not only further my education, but become someone that people back home can look up to and see hope.”
In the coming academic year, Tyler will serve as president of BSU, captain the football team and be an active member of the Minority Student Forum. “I am so proud of Tyler and all he is accomplishing,” said Maria Davis, Ph.D., provost and dean of Olivet College. “He is a great student and a wonderful leader who is making a difference in the lives of others. I am so thankful that he is a member of the Olivet College family.”
On top of his other college commitments, Tyler will take part in the invitation-only President’s Leadership Institute, a yearlong training program dedicated to developing top leadership in Olivet’s students, as well as enabling them to become the principal professional and community leaders of the future. “Attending Olivet College has helped me identify my purpose behind the things I do; it’s what motivates me to get out of bed and work hard every day and be able to look in the mirror and be proud of the person I see looking back at me,” Tyler said. He wants others to do the same.