The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Back in control

Back+in+control

By Kenney Kost/editor-in-chief

Georgia Phillips/The Collegian
Georgia Phillips/The Collegian

Decisions young people make, for better or for worse, can have a lasting impact on their lives. One NE student knows this all too well.

At age 15, Michael Mills got his GED from Venture School in Arlington, which is an alternative school that allows students to work at their own pace. This left him with plenty of time on his hands at a young age. The extra time led to hanging out with older family members and the “wrong crowd,” Mills said.

“That kind of led me down that path of destruction,” he said.

In 2001, at the age of 18, Mills enrolled in some basic classes on South Campus but only attended for a couple of weeks before he stopped showing up, he said. It was only a few weeks later that his life would change dramatically.

“I was arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute a controlled substance,” he said. “It was a federal charge due to the amount of money and drugs involved.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI launched an investigation into some of the people Mills was involved with, and he ended up caught in the investigation.

“I was only caught with money,” he said. “The others were more involved with the drugs.”

Mills served 11 years in two different prisons from 2001-2012. He served the first four years at the Beaumont Penitentiary, he said, which is a maximum-security prison.

“I left Beaumont due to Hurricane Rita in ’05,” he said. “The eye of the storm hit Beaumont, and since my [security] level went down, they sent me to a medium-security in Yazoo City, Miss.”

Mills said he owns his actions and holds no bitterness toward the others involved, whom he would not name.

“He [another party] was really the one doing it, but I reaped the benefits,” he said. “I was a middleman and getting good money, so, at the end of the day, I’m a man about mine.”

As far as parental relationships, Mills said he didn’t really have a relationship with his father because of his own involvement with drugs. His mother, he said, is doing fine, retired from Xerox and living well.

“My dad has been in jail my whole life,” he said. “We had a little relationship when I was younger, but he’s been in and out [of prison] for methamphetamines. He was a meth cook, so I guess the apple don’t fall too far from the tree, but there is a time and place when it’s just BS and you have to get past it.”

Inside, Mills said he exercised and kept to himself mostly. He took some trade classes that were offered and began to change his mindset to prepare for a second chance when he got out at the age of 29.

“It was definitely an experience I will never forget,” he said. “It has its ups and downs. It ain’t all dreary, you know. I changed my whole way of thinking, really, while inside. I’ve always known right from wrong, but I was persuaded by money. I realize what it’s about now.”

Mills made his way back to TCC last semester when he enrolled in a full load on NE Campus. He currently holds a 3.5 GPA and is the father of a newborn girl.

He said he is interested in behavioral science and plans to transfer to the University of North Texas.

“I like to study behavior and why people do certain things and what leads them to those decisions,” he said. “It comes from my past experiences and interactions with others from all walks of life.”

Jennifer Owens, Mills’ girlfriend and mother of his 1-month-old daughter, said she met him at a New Year’s Eve party in 2013 and thought he was funny and a nice guy.

“I liked him,” Owens said. “He didn’t tell me his story until we had been dating a couple weeks, and I was like ‘What the hell, dude?’ But in the end, he was really such a nice guy, and he was taking all the steps to do the right thing, you know, looking for a good job and getting back into school.”

People tend to make quick judgments of others and fail to see that change is possible in a person regardless of their past, said NE English instructor Shewanda Riley who met Mills in her English composition class last fall.

“I think that, unfortunately, keeps us hostage to the mistakes of our past,” Riley said. “As open-minded as we think we are, we sometimes make the mistake of using these temporary lapses in judgment of others to permanently label them.”

Riley said Mills’ high GPA indicates he is a determined young man who values education and is not willing to waste the second chance he has been given.

“He’s obviously intelligent and doing everything he can to be a success,” she said. “I’m proud of him and hope that others will learn from his example of embracing your second chance.”

With a newborn daughter, a loving girlfriend and a new life, Mills said he is more determined than ever to be a success at anything he does.

“The sky’s the limit, you know,” he said. “I want to be the dad I never had. I’m focused, and I don’t have time for no more wasted time. This is the next step.”

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