High school dropout now on path to help othersOctober 19, 2021

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Alexandra James

“On my 17th birthday, I was four months pregnant,” Alexandra James explained.  “I stayed in high school until after my daughter Zoey was born, and then with only six credits short of a high school diploma, I dropped out and started bartending at the age of 18.

“I actually didn’t mind high school; I guess I was just bored.  I would make good grades when I wanted to do so.  I remember that on Mondays, I would be failing.  My parents wouldn’t let me go out on the weekends if I had failing grades for the week, so around the middle of the week, I would start studying, and by the time Friday rolled around, I was passing.

“Three years ago, I never would have thought that I’d be attending college.  However, when I went to a friend’s college graduation at Texas State University, and I saw him walking across the stage, I thought, ‘you know, I can do the same thing.’  He came from a really rough background and was the first person in his family to graduate from college.  He pulled his life together; I can do the same thing.”

In August of 2019, James passed the high school equivalency diploma (GED®) exam and then immediately applied to begin working toward an associate degree at Midland College (MC).  

“I didn’t know anything about applying for college and registering for classes,” James recalled.  “The staff in the Enrollment and Advising office were very supportive.  They helped me every step of the way.  I had done the hard part, which was making up my mind to start college.  The rest was pretty easy after that.”

Today, James, now 28, is taking courses toward a degree in MC’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling program.  This past spring she made the President’s List, and in May 2022, she will graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree.  

 “I originally wanted to major in welding, but by the time I applied, all the welding classes were full,” she explained.  “Perhaps that was divine intervention because I decided to choose alcohol and drug abuse counseling.  Working as a bartender, I saw a lot of people with alcohol and substance abuse problems.  I guess the saying that bartenders are good listeners is true.  I always enjoyed getting to know my customers and hearing about their troubles and life stories.  So, I would just pour them another drink.  Now it’s time to really start helping them.”  

James said that when she first started her coursework at MC, she made ‘D’s.’  

“I had to repeat several classes because of failing grades,” she explained.  “It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle the material.  I had to learn to be organized.  Now, I’ve organized my life and know what I’m doing.  I’m making straight ‘A’s.’  I pay for my classes, and I sit in the front row.  I want to get my money’s worth!”

During the past spring semester, James wrote a paper entitled “A Memoir on Land Maps—How to Read Land Maps Correctly.”  The essay won honorable mention in the MC 2021 Nonfiction Writing Contest.   

“Writing seems to come naturally to me,” James stated.  “However, I also give a lot of credit to Dr. [William Christopher] Brown who was my English teacher at MC.  The organized layout of his classes is awesome!”

“Aley embodies the best of what non-traditional adult students bring to college classrooms:  enthusiasm, focus and work ethic,” Brown said.  “Like many working adult students, she has responsibilities to her job and family; nevertheless, she still prioritizes doing well in all of her classes.  I believe she will continually improve as she advances through the rest of her degree and beyond.”

Alexandra James is married to Rene Garcia who works in the oil and gas industry.  Her daughter is now 11.  The family enjoys swimming, eating and fishing.  James’ ultimate educational goal is to get a bachelor’s degree in counseling or social work.  She credits part of her success up to this point to the support she has received from her husband and daughter. She also admitted that others weren’t as encouraging and were skeptical that she would succeed in college.

“A lot of people told me I couldn’t do it, and there were times when I also doubted myself,” she said.  “However, I was tired of going down the rabbit hole.  I would tell anyone who has been through ‘life experiences’ and is a little older than the normal college student not to quit.  Stick with it.  It takes grit, determination and perseverance.  It certainly isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but the fact that I’m on a journey of self-improvement and working toward a goal of a career where I can help others is extremely rewarding.”

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