College of the Mainland graduate Anthony “AJ” Taylor
College of the Mainland graduate Anthony “AJ” Taylor

For many students, college is a time of discovery, not only in the classroom, but also in life. Anthony “AJ” Taylor is one such student.

Upon enrolling at College of the Mainland in the fall of 2017, Taylor had no idea of the road ahead. But after connecting with a special network of resources available at the college, he transformed his college experience into a remarkable journey of growth and discovery to unlock his true potential.

That journey will conclude on Thursday, December 12 when Taylor earns his Associate of Arts degree in general studies during College of the Mainland’s first fall commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. in the Abundant Life Center in La Marque, Texas. The Texas City native is among 424 students in the graduating class of Fall 2019 who will be celebrating during the momentous occasion.

But long before the pomp and circumstance, Taylor was a fresh-faced student learning to adjust to the freedom and hectic nature of college life. Balancing his academic responsibilities alongside the commitments of his personal life proved to be challenging for him after the passing of several close loved ones.

“With things like that, you get down,” Taylor recalls. “But you just have to push and persevere. I had to find solace within myself, and I knew that they wouldn’t want me to give up.”

After a tough start, Taylor was soon introduced to a welcoming network of support at COM. This network included Greg Benefield, Tige Cornelius, Santiago Guerrero and others in Student Life. Here, Taylor not only found his voice and purpose as a student leader, but also a foundation of support where staff works hand in hand with students for the common goal of cultivating a positive student experience. He greatly credits those relationships for shaping his own success.

“Those connections are important,” Taylor said. “I feel like if I didn’t know these people, I’d be struggling. I probably wouldn’t even be graduating this semester. They really help you stay level-headed, and they truly do care. It’s really important to me to have people who really care about me in my corner.”

After joining several student organizations including the Minority Men for Excellence (MM4E) and club basketball, Taylor soon found his place in the College of the Mainland community. He now serves as president of MM4E, a student group that provides academic support as well as character and leadership development through programs, workshops, mentoring and community engagement opportunities. Through the program, Taylor had the opportunity to visit several university campuses and consider his next steps after COM.

“I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people, get insight and see new perspectives,” Taylor said. “It gets you to see the big picture for those who may not have been out of Texas City or Galveston County. It’s an eye-opening experience.”

And now Taylor will be taking that perspective to new heights. Upon graduating, he looks forward to transferring to Stephen F. Austin State University in the spring to pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in business communication and corporate education.

While he is excited about starting this new chapter in his life, he is grateful to College of the Mainland for getting him there.

“Although my first semester was rough, I haven’t had a bad semester ever since. There’s so many people here that really want to help you.”