Tyler’s Story: Part of the Solution

Facing College: Diverse Student Voices from Michigan State University

I’m a little different than most MSU students, I guess. I’m married, for one, and I’m a little older.  And I’ve had some health issues that have affected my time here in different ways.

I grew up in Centreville, Michigan, right down by the border of Indiana. It’s one of those towns where everyone knows everyone; a very small rural town with lots of Amish and lots of farming. My graduating class was 66 people. What’s funny is, that small high town school is where I met my wife, who happens to be from Belgium—she was an exchange student one year, and toward the end of that year, we just started talking and fell for each other. I actually got to spend the next summer with her in Belgium. We were in the city, so it was a lot different from where I grew up.

I lived at home with my mom and stepdad and went to community college in Centreville for a few years, so when I started at MSU I was already 21—and I love my mom and everything, but I was ready to leave. Twenty-one, you know, that’s kind of the age where you’re just ready to move away. And I didn’t move into a dorm or anything like that—I moved in with my wife. So my first year here, I was not only figuring out how to be on my own, but also how to be married—it’s a little bit of a different experience than your typical freshman figuring out how to deal with a roommate.

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced since being on campus is stress: the stress of finals, the stress of deadlines, stuff like that. And the stress made things worse for my health issues. I manage my stress by trying make things into smaller tasks and not just waiting to the end to try to rush a project through. For example, if I have a paper to do, and it’s a long paper, I know that I can just get a few pages done a little at a time. That kind of planning and project management tends to help out, and I think it’s important to have a good stress reliever, too, like video games.

My major is criminal justice, which is something I’ve always been interested in. The more I learn about the criminal justice system, the more I realize just how messed up it is. I would rather be a part of the solution than just add to the problem by throwing people in jail. Imagine if the system actually tried to rehabilitate people, you know? To teach them to be productive humans, to contribute to society rather than just throw them in jail and hope they learn their lessons that way. My wife is also in criminal justice, and she and I are actually hoping that when I graduate we can move to California and work in the criminal justice system there. Hopefully we can make a difference.

I know, though, that law enforcement is not an easy career choice. It can set you apart from other people in a lot of ways.For instance, I used to work as a “Green Coat” security officer here, at the football games. Being at the games is always fun,even just being a part of the student section with all the cheering and the excitement,. This was a good way to be at the games and make money at the same time. Working security is not the same as going to the games to have fun, and it’s nothing like tailgating.  Sometimes situations could get a little uncomfortable—because I was a student, but I was policing other students.

At times it could be funny because it was ridiculous to see the stuff that people thought they could get away with; the kinds of things they thought they could sneak into games. But there’s a balance. You can joke about this a little bit, kind of joke around with people, and have fun on the job, but then, you know, it gets to a point where you have to be serious because the rules are serious and it’s your job to enforce them.

This story originally appeared in Facing College: Diverse Student Voices, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

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