TCC student veteran wins national essay contest

June 7, 2018

Presley and AgamaUpdated June 7, 2018.

Tallahassee, Fla. (March 19, 2018)—A Tallahassee Community College student and U.S. Army veteran is one of three winners of an essay contest sponsored by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development.

Troy Presley, 27, was one of more than 200 students nationwide to submit entries to the Scott Wright Student Essay Contest, which asks students to describe how a faculty or staff member helped them succeed in college. His essay was one of only three selected for the top prize.

View Troy Presley reading his winning essay on stage in Austin, Texas, on May 27, 2018.

Presley wrote about Forster Agama, TCC associate professor of English, whose class he was enrolled in during his first semester at TCC in the fall of 2017.

“He genuinely cared about not only the student but the person themselves,” said Presley. “I felt like he deserved some recognition. Even if I didn’t win, just to let people know that he cared.”

In his essay, Presley talks about the anxiety he experienced as he transitioned from life as a soldier to his new identity as a college student and how Agama supported him:

I can’t overstate how nervous I was to walk into that classroom last fall. My fear was multiplied by the fact that this was an English class, and I’d never really been one for writing. There were so many ways this class could’ve broken me, but because of Dr. Agama, I felt welcomed, appreciated, and encouraged to rise to the challenge of a new mission. On the first day of class, Dr. Agama recognized me for my service in the Army and made me feel welcomed. He encouraged me to believe that I really was capable of achieving my goal of earning my degree.

Presley is a graduate of Pace High School in Santa Rosa County. He tried college directly out of high school, but soon realized it was not right for him at that time. Instead, Presley joined the Army, where he served for six years as a drone operator. He was stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas, and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in 2015-16.

When Presley’s tour of service ended in February 2017, he and wife Michelle took a three-month road trip through the American West. Afterwards, Michelle was set to begin a master’s program at Florida State University. FSU was Troy Presley’s goal as well, but he chose to attend TCC first, anticipating that smaller classes and more direct contact with professors would make the transition easier for him.

Presley, who is part of the TCC2FSU Program, plans to graduate from TCC in Spring 2019 and then transfer to the Florida A & M University-Florida State University College of Engineering to study electrical engineering.

“I want to change the planet. Basically, I want to go into solar energy…I want to do something with sustainable energy, and electrical engineering, I feel, is the best way to do that. I’d like to make the world a better place.”

Agama said he was not surprised when he learned Presley was one of the contest winners.

“Mr. Presley was one of the most astute students I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at TCC. His viewpoints on issues discussed in class were both enlightening and invigorating, given his experience in the U.S. Army and knowledge of current affairs. I’m truly humbled and highly honored for being a part of his success story here at TCC and beyond.”

As part of the contest, Presley and Agama will each receive a $1,000 prize. They will also receive complimentary registration, up to three nights lodging and airfare so they can attend NISOD’s 2018 International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence May 26-29, in Austin, Texas.

Student and professor will be recognized during the Excellence Awards Dinner and Celebration held during the conference, and Presley will be invited to read his winning essay from the stage. He is the first TCC student to win the contest.

For information, contact Carmy Greenwood at greenwoc@tcc.fl.edu or (850) 201-8470.