Student Support Services Montgomery coordinator, author tells story of perseverance

Deetra Benn, a former Student Support Services student and current program coordinator, spoke to Dothan students last Friday.

Deetra Benn, a former Student Support Services student and current program coordinator, spoke to Dothan students last Friday.

Deetra Benn didn’t have encouragement, financial resources or a support system in her life when she started her college journey.

At Troy University, however, she found those things through Student Support Services, and the experience made such an impact on her life that, today, she is a two-time TROY graduate and current coordinator of Student Support Services at the Montgomery Campus.

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.

“I’m here to support our students, because I was once a participant in this program,” said Benn, who spoke Friday at the semi-annual Student Support Services meeting and awards luncheon at the Dothan Campus. “I wanted to let students know that [Student Support Services] does work, and also let them know how it has impacted and influenced my life for the better.”

A difficult upbringing and academic struggles often caused Benn to question herself.

After finding guidance through Student Support Services, she earned a bachelor’s degree in 2007 and a master’s degree in 2012 before becoming program coordinator.

“I come from a very impoverished background,” Benn said. “I was constantly depressed all the time. I felt like my whole life was in a sinkhole, and I didn’t know if I was going to climb out or keep sinking. I didn’t come from a family of support, with pats on the back, but I was blessed to find in [Student Support Services] a family that did give me that. If students take away nothing else from my speech today, just know that it’s OK if you fall down sometimes, just make sure you don’t stay there.”

Benn turned her experiences into two books, “Glitter but No Gold: How I Turned My Wounds into Wisdom” and “Let’s TALK! Conversations That Need to be Had, but Often Go Undone.”

Today, she is working on a third book while continuing to help current, future and former students.

“Even when my students graduate, I always keep contact with them and let them know that even though they’ve graduated, they still have support,” Benn said.

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 Mandatory Program and Awards Recognition Luncheon takes place twice a year and honors SSS students who have earned academic honors and reached milestones within their academic careers.