Two decades ago, Aaron Gartlan was a student looking for help at Troy University’s Dothan Campus.
He felt lost and aimless as an undergraduate, so he sought tutoring and academic counseling.
What he found, though, was something more lasting: support.
“I had been feeling I was lost in the shuffle of failures and mistakes and dead-end jobs,” Gartlan told a group of TROY students during his keynote speech at Sony Hall for the Spring 2017 Mandatory Program and Awards Recognition Luncheon. “I went into the office of Student Support Services here expecting to receive some tutoring and guidance, maybe even some career counseling. I wound up getting so much more than I bargained for.”
Today, Gartlan is a successful Dothan attorney with his own firm, the Hogg and Gartlan Law Firm, and a website where he writes about personal injury issues.
He credits much of his success to the decision he made that fateful day to walk into the office of Student Support Services (SSS) Director Dr. Debora Pettway.
“The biggest benefit, the thing I didn’t count on getting, was the encouragement,” Gartlan said. “The encouragement to inspire me to continue the undergraduate program and then follow through and make a commitment to go to law school. Just that support system and guidance helped so much.”
TROY Student Support Services is a federally funded initiative established to increase the retention and graduation rates of eligible students. This is accomplished by providing academic support, study skills instruction, academic counseling, career planning and exploration, instructional labs, financial and economic literacy assistance, graduate and professional school visits, and financial assistance.
The SSS program is available to undergraduate students who are U.S. citizens enrolled at Troy University at the time of application and have a need for academic support. Students must also meet at least one or more of the following criteria: a) first generation student; b) income within federal guidelines; and/or c) have a documented disability.
The program instilled a belief in himself that carries through for Gartlan to this day.
“Being around someone like Dr. Pettway that truly values people and can identify potential in people (was vital),” he said. “Looking back, that’s exactly what she did with me. She saw the value, saw the potential and encouraged me to go out and work toward achieving that potential.”
Of course, the free tutoring helped as well. But while it’s important to have help in the classroom, it’s just as important to have a support system outside it.
The lessons he learned through SSS continue to guide Gartlan through his law career.
“It’s a constant reminder to me to continue to learn and build and grow and go out and apply it in the community,” he said.
He also feels more students should become involved in the program, especially if they’re struggling.
“I would even further and encourage it even if they may not feel like they’re struggling,” he said. “If it’s a student that qualifies for the program, I would highly encourage it. I’d definitely encourage it for someone feeling challenges academically, but even if they’re not, the guidance and support are invaluable.”