Promises kept – and more

Mar 23, 2011 by

For more than 80 years, Tyler Junior College has made promises to support its students, give back to the community it serves, and ensure a bright future for generations to come.

The faculty, staff and donors are passionate about providing a quality education, vibrant student life and service to the community. When economic challenges arise, they affect TJC as well, but they don’t negate the promises made in the past.

In February 2009, the “Promises to Keep” Scholarship Campaign was launched to offset a shortfall in scholarship funds that resulted from suppressed endowment payouts during the economic downturn.  This urgent need prompted the campaign that was organized by the TJC Foundation Board, the Tyler Junior College Board of Trustees and the TJC Alumni Association Board of Directors.

“The Promises scholarship has been a lifeline for me. Simple things such as books and other supplies are not a hassle, and I can focus on one thing: school.”
Jawoine Hawkins

The campaign task force included Kevin Fowler (TJC director of human resources), Janet Hills (TJC alum, community volunteer), Micheal Lavender (TJC alum, Firstbank), James Sheridan (TJC alum, former TJC Alumni Association president, Southside Bank), Idalia Trent (TJC chemistry professor) and EJ Unegbu (TJC alum, TJC coordinator for professional development.)

“Education is the driving force of our nation, and we must support this endeavor if our country is to remain strong and be competitive in a global marketplace,” Sheridan said. “Education is one of the best investments we can make. The leaders of tomorrow need our support today.”

During the campaign, more than 450 contributors stepped forward to help meet the $350,000 goal and to ensure scholarship funds for the 2009 and 2010 school years. This generous effort impacted many students attending the College. With record enrollment, the success of the “Promises to Keep” initiative will reverberate for many years to come as students move on to greater academic achievement and future careers.

With ongoing challenges for the nation’s economy, the “Promises to Keep” Scholarship Campaign is transitioning from an emergency effort to an ongoing program in order to help fill the annual need for scholarships. As tuition at four-year institutions becomes less attainable for some students, TJC’s enrollment continues to rise, nearing 12,000 students this past fall; and approximately 50 percent of these students required some form of financial assistance.

Tyler Junior College is attractive to students near and far because of the quality of its two-year programs. Ideal for students planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree, the College also prepares students for more immediate careers and provides a much-needed workforce training for high demand technical fields. With unemployment at its highest in recent memory, TJC is also fulfilling a vital role by assisting adult students to retrain for new careers.

The College’s dedicated faculty and staff are passionate about ensuring the future through quality education. For the last two years, TJC personnel have given approximately $42,000 to the “Promises” campaign, and their gifts helped TJC meet the two-year $350,000 goal.

Sarah Harrison

Sarah Harrison, English professor and chair of the English language studies program, is a 35-year veteran in the College’s classrooms. She previously honored her parents by endowing the W. Oscar and Marguerite Herrin Award for Excellence and gladly contributed to the “Promises” effort.

“My folks were able to provide what I needed during my college days – but they always stressed that not everyone is so fortunate and that we must always reach out in any way we can to invest our extra resources in those who will also ultimately ‘pass it along,’” Harrison said. “Without the community college, many people with great potential might not have the chance to discover and develop their gifts. This college that I know and love is one that continues to offer students that chance.”

Librarian Robin Insalaco is equally committed to the “Promises” initiative. “Education is one of the most expensive investments a person can make, but it also offers one of the biggest returns. TJC really does help the student’s educational dollars go farther,” she said. “When you want to try and give back, I think you look around where you are and then start giving there. Think globally, act locally.”

Grand Prairie native Jawoine Hawkins is a speech and theater major. He would like to be an actor or work in mass communications and public relations. A “Promises” scholarship funded by faculty and staff has made his time at TJC possible.

“When I heard of the expenses in college, I was really pushed away,” Hawkins said. “Seeing the price of one book, or even the cost of living; college was like a huge mountain that I didn’t have the guts or the equipment to climb.
“Though apprehensive, I signed up to be an Apache; that choice was the defining moment in my life. The ‘Promises’ scholarship has been a lifeline for me. Simple things such as books and other supplies are not a hassle, and I can focus on one thing: school.”

Raised in Hawaii, Christina Eichelberger came to TJC specifically to take part in the College’s radiology program, which is one of the top 10 such programs in the country. She looks forward to studying advanced radiology and cyber technology  – “Star Trek as reality,” she calls it.

“Before, I attended school part time while working 30 to 75 hours a week,” Eichelberger said. “This year has been the only time I could attend full time, work two jobs and still be involved in student activities as president of the Interfaith Club.”

Both students encourage their peers to investigate available scholarships and other financial opportunities.

Christina Eichelberger

“TJC honors what it states,” said Eichelberger. “Every person on staff and faculty truly believes and lives it. It’s not a gimmick; it’s a creed they live by.”

Writer Robert Brault said, “Each morning I gaze at the eastern horizon, and if the sun keeps its promises, I keep mine.” As long as new students enter the halls of TJC there’ll be promises to keep to ensure their success – just as they have

promises to fulfill to the future. To give to the “Promises to Keep” scholarship program, please contact the Tyler Junior College Foundation at (903) 510- 2718 or visit the TJC website at and click the “Donate Now” button.



Academics, On Campus, Spring 2011, Students

About the author

Elise Mullinix is Tyler Junior College's Editorial Manager. She can be reached at 903-510-2370 or at