From trou­ble to tri­umph: Fra­zier con­tin­ues learn­ing

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Myrick Edi­tor

Sec­ond chances in life aren’t born from luck, but hard work. That’s a les­son that My­chael Fra­zier has taken to heart fol­low­ing the lat­est mile­stone he’s taken on get­ting con­trol over his fu­ture.

Fra­zier, who joined grad­u­ates in the past weeks at Ge­or­gia Highlands Col­lege walk­ing across the stage to re­ceive an As­so­ciate’s de­gree in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, with plans to con­tinue his stud­ies later this sum­mer.

What makes his story dif­fer­ent from other grad­u­ates this year is where his ed­u­ca­tion first started out: in prison.

Fra­zier’s story be­gins in the late 2000s, when he was st i l l a Cedar­town High School stu­dent and ath­lete hop­ing to go to col­lege on a schol­ar­ship and fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of his mom, who grad­u­ated from Ge­or­gia Highlands when it was still Floyd Col­lege.

But then she died while he was still in high school, and his sup­port net­work for keep­ing up his ed­u­ca­tion fell apart.

“I went a whole other di­rec­tion from my brothers and sis­ters,” he said.

Fra­zier went down a dark path which ended up land­ing him in prison af­ter he was con­victed in 2008 of co­caine pos­ses­sion, and was sent off to prison. That’s when he ul­ti­mately de­cided en­roll in a GED pro­gram and be­gin down a path of try­ing to bet­ter his sit­u­a­tion.

“When I en­rolled this time, that’s when I said no mat­ter what I’m go­ing to fin­ish,” Fra­zier said.

He fin­ished the pro­gram while still in prison, and when he got out on an early re­lease on pa­role, Fra­zier got help and guid­ance from re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer and Cedar­town res­i­dent Pa­trick McNally.

Fra­zier started classes at Ge­or­gia Highlands in Jan­uary 2014, and through the past three years has seen much change in him­self.

Orig­i­nally his plan was to look into a ca­reer as an crim­i­nal at­tor­ney, but through his ex­pe­ri­ences in school he’s look­ing more at busi­ness law now.

“I didn’t re­ally have any ideas of which way to go,” he said. “I started oper­at­ing in a pro­fes­sional set­ting, and that changed the way I looked at things.”

He said the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop his com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, net­work­ing, and get­ting em­ploy­ment.

Cur­rently he’s work­ing at an area mill, but he’s gone through sev­eral jobs since start­ing school try­ing to bal­ance pri­or­i­ties and keep a bud­get, while still help­ing raise his daugh­ter who is now 13.

“At first I en­rolled in school be­cause I didn’t have too many op­tions,” he said. “And then once I got started, it opened my mind to ideas of how to get a job and how to pur­sue a ca­reer. It re­ally opened my mind up.”

He said he spent years think­ing one way, and then when in Highlands his ideas of how he wanted to move for­ward in life be­gan to change as well.

Fra­zier said these days, he’s more fo­cused than ever be­fore on mov­ing for­ward and find­ing a di­rec­tion in life. Where it will take him is still an open ques­tion.

Each day af­ter get­ting out of prison and get­ting into school has some­times been one step at a time, tak­ing each day on its own mer­its for Fra­zier. But over time, he said that he’s started to see dif­fer­ences in the way that get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion has changed him.

It hasn’t al­ways been easy, Fra­zier ad­mits.

“It seemed like at first I couldn’t find a job,” he said. “I don’t know if I was go­ing about it the wrong way, or ap­proach­ing it wrong. But now it’s easy, and maybe that’s be­cause of the ed­u­ca­tion I’ve had.”

He said help in writ­ing out re­sumes and bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how to ap­proach job in­ter­views has also brought about new op­por­tu­ni­ties for him.

“When I f i rst came home in 2012, they gave me this long list. I called ev­ery job look­ing,” he said.

The height­ened anx­i­ety at the time of not be­ing able to find em­ploy­ment af­ter call­ing and be­ing told each time “no, we’re not hir­ing right now,” didn’t help Fra­zier’s sit­u­a­tion.

How­ever, he said that once he was well on his way at Ge­or­gia Highlands, the sit­u­a­tion got bet­ter.

“Learn­ing and go­ing to school kept me calm and fo­cused,” he said. “Even when I’m not at school I still study. Peo­ple will be like ‘what are you study­ing now?’ and it’ll be some­thing that some­one asked me a ques­tion about and I didn’t know it, so I’ll go find it.”

He’s also made sac­ri­fices along the way.

Keep­ing jobs while also go­ing to school has been dif­fi­cult, Fra­zier said. And when he first started out, he would have to get rides from fam­ily and friends to get to class, or hitch rides from gas sta­tions and stores to make it to cam­pus on time be­fore 8 a.m. classes.

“I didn’t let any­thing stop me,” he said.

“It was a sac­ri­fice, but it makes you feel good af­ter all those nights sit­ting up writ­ing pa­pers. Some­times I would be up writ­ing on a pa­per un­til it felt like my eyes were bleed­ing, ty­ing to get it done. Writ­ing the pa­per so long you feel sick.”

Un­der­stand­ing that ed­u­ca­tion can also help in con­nect­ing with his daugh­ter has also been a big help. Some nights dur­ing the past years, Fra­zier said he’s sat and stud­ied along­side his daugh­ter and been able to talk to and help in her ed­u­ca­tion while he’s work­ing to bet­ter him­self.

“Even when we’re just hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion, be­cause a lot of time when she’s study­ing, I’ll be study­ing too,” Fra­zier said. “And I’m able to have a con­ver­sa­tion with her about it. One time we were study­ing the same thing, and I was able to have a con­ver­sa­tion with her about it. She was study­ing the Cold War, and I was able to talk to her about it be­cause at the same time we were too.”

He rec­og­nizes that peo­ple are be­gin­ning to look to him as an ex­am­ple of suc­cess, but said he hasn’t sought out to be­come a role model. Fra­zier said that when oth­ers come up to him telling him about their own tri­als at get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion and go­ing to school, he of­fers en­cour­age­ment.

Fra­zier said though he mainly is try­ing to re­mind peo­ple it takes a lot of hard in­di­vid­ual work to suc­ceed.

“It has to start with the in­di­vid­ual, be­cause they have to prove and show this is what I want to do,” he said.

How­ever he points out he wouldn’t be where he is to­day with­out help from the com­mu­nity and fam­ily, and that is im­por­tant too.

“Some­times peo­ple don’t have a strong mind to push on their own with­out a team to help them achieve. So when the com­mu­nity, friends or fam­ily or what­ever don’t stand be­hind them, they give up,” he said.

“That’s when the com­mu­nity should pick them up, but at the same time if you don’t have fam­i­lies push­ing them, it doesn’t help.”

De­spite his tri­als and tribu­la­tions, Fra­zier said he’s all ready to get back to class in Au­gust.

“I took a se­mes­ter off and it’s been killing me. I’ve been go­ing so long with school I have to find some­thing to do,” he said.

And in the mean­time, he’s sa­vor­ing the ac­com­plish­ment of earn­ing his de­gree.

“I hadn’t worn a cap and gown since I was in pre- school,” he said. “When I grad­u­ated and got my GED, I was in soli­tary con­fine­ment. So it was real im­por­tant to me to wear a cap and gown and walk across t he stage. When I started across the stage, the pres­i­dent of the school didn’t even shake my hand. He wanted a hug. When I walked up to him, he was al­ready hug­ging me. And he said to me ‘you re­ally made it.’”

‘Some­times peo­ple don’t have a strong mind to push on their own with­out a team to help them achieve. So when the com­mu­nity, friends or fam­ily or what­ever don’t stand be­hind them, they give up. That’s when the com­mu­nity should pick them up’

My­chael Fra­zier

GHC grad­u­ate

My­chael Fra­zier

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.