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Carothers awarded TSUS Grow Your Own scholarship

Rory CarothersRory Carothers, assistant director for transfer admissions at Lamar University, has been awarded the Texas State University System Foundation 2018 Grow Your Own scholarship to support his work toward a doctoral degree.

The Grow Your Own scholarship is offered to a nominated Texas State University System candidate who is a member of an underrepresented population with the desire to become a part of the host university faculty. Carothers is the fourth recipient for Lamar University since the scholarship was established in 2005.

“Rory is a first-generation college student who has a passion to counsel and assist individuals who are looking for access into higher education,” said Deidra Mayer, executive director of the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. “This scholarship will benefit Lamar University as Rory continues his research and work to mentor and counsel both incoming and current students.”

The path to his doctorate has not been a direct one. Carothers grew up in Chicago in a single-parent household where his mother “struggled throughout my childhood to raise three boys alone.”

“The Chicago public school system in the poor urban communities were on probation until I graduated from high school,” he said. “I fought to stay in high school and my GPA suffered because there were times when I had to decide if I wanted to earn money and work, or go to school and better myself.”

“There were many negative distractions in my neighborhood,” he said. “It was riddled with drugs, gangs, and urban social traps that prevented a lot of my peers from continuing their education and their lives.”

He found himself on his own by age 17 and decided he wanted to attend a local university. “I vividly remember going to the admission office and an elderly lady flung a clipboard at me and stated ‘fill this out.’ I was at a loss. I had no idea what to do or how to do it. I put the clipboard on the desk and left in tears.”

Over the next two years he worked a variety of odd jobs, moved frequently, and “did my best to survive.” He felt that military service would give better opportunity, and it was in the Army that his educational journey began again. He took college course periodically, however, the needs of the service kept completion of a degree tantalizingly out of reach.

“Through my military experience, I found my passion for helping people,” he said. “ I felt a psychology degree was the route to helping others,” he said of beginning studies at LU while managing a recruiting station in nearby Port Arthur.

He completed a bachelor’s degree, with a psychology minor, shortly after he retired from his military career as a Sergeant First Class. “I knew my endgame was a Ph.D. in psychology,” he said. “I wanted to counsel minorities and service members who may have experienced the same types of traumas I had in my life.”

“But, fate had a different story for me. While pursuing my undergraduate degree, one of my professors took an interest in my future and suggested I look into the M.Ed. Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Lamar University. The program changed my life. It was exactly what I needed in order to help underprivileged students and veterans with mental health issues.”

While working toward this degree, Carothers began employment as an admissions counselor at LU, and his passion for higher education flourished as he helped many students begin their journey and also helped create partnerships with local community colleges. He was soon promoted to assistant director of the department, and began to serve as an adjunct faculty member teaching a social work course he helped design on working with veterans.

“With a doctorate in education, I will have an opportunity to address the needs and concerns of underprivileged students who may have had trials, just as I did. I would also have an opportunity to mentor faculty and staff on new and innovative strategies to address these students,” he said.

“I have broken the stereotype and succeeded as a first-generation college student. With all odds stacked against me, I have excelled. This scholarship will allow me to become the pillar of hope for those students that do not have any,” Carothers added.