Tommie Mabry struggled through life growing up in Jackson’s Midtown neighborhood. He was shot twice, arrested for burglary around age 11, and expelled from seven elementary schools and three middle schools.
So it wasn’t surprising the joy and satisfaction he felt when he received his doctorate in higher education from Jackson State University last August.
“Excuse the tears in this video. But today is one of the best days ever. Allow me to re-introduce myself I am Dr. Tommie Mabry!!! I did it,” he said in a Facebook post that had over 50,000 views within a day.
The first in his family to graduate high school and college, Mabry is today not only an educational consultant but a motivational speaker and an author. He recently recalled his early days during an interview with the Clarion Ledger.
“We modeled what we saw,” Mabry said. “What was cool to me were the guys that were getting all the attention. Those were either rappers, athletes or drug dealers. I wanted to be that.”
But later realizing that kind of life wasn’t worth it, he decided to mend his ways, first by joining an AAU basketball team that traveled around the world. That team, he said, saved him and gave him hope that it was possible to make it in life no matter the circumstances.
Although he was shot in the foot during his senior year of high school, he kept going while “seeking God” and keeping his faith strong, he said. Soon, he was able to graduate with a 1.8 GPA and was admitted to Missouri State University-West Plains. But there, colleagues and teachers still thought he wouldn’t be able to succeed.
I didnt know how to write a paragraph until college, and they dont teach that. I had a professor tell me I wouldnt get a degree because I dont write the way I should, Im not a scholar. So I stayed In the writing lab at every college I went to, Mabry told Because of Them We Can.
The hard thing wasnt the neighborhood; that was easy because Im from it. It was sitting in a classroom with other scholars and scared for them to call on me to spell something on the board, that was my biggest fear. I worked on that my whole college career, but my mind was different, my why was different.
At the end of the day, Mabry proved everyone wrong, receiving his honors Bachelors degree in education from Tugaloo College, a Masters in child development from Tugaloo College, and now a Doctorate in Urban Higher Education from Jackson State University.
In fact, after his undergraduate studies, he taught school in the same district where he had been expelled several times. He was also hired at Tougaloo College as the Director of Enrollment in 2016.
The husband and father of two, who has written and published best-selling books including A Dark Journey To a Light Future and If Tommie Can Do It, We Can Do It, is now the founder of the Tommie Mabry Company. It is a platform that “tackles the experiences and challenges that at-risk students face in communities and educational environments,” Mabry said of the company.
As a motivational speaker, 32-year-old Mabry has also been traveling around the world to inspire others. “As an advocate for education and student success, I travel around the country encouraging educators to focus on the whole student and motivating youth to never give up on hope,” he said on his website.
“The world today is full of childhood trauma and toxic stress. In many cases, the home life is the source of the childs trauma. Many of these children suffer from childhood adversity after being exposed to neglect, sexual, physical and mental abuse.
He said: “The Tommie Mabry Company has touched many lives and opened doors for youth by acknowledging my personal struggles and demonstrating my success after graduating from Tougaloo College with a Masters of Arts in Child Development and developing the Tommie Mabry Company.”