TJC grad stresses importance of seizing opportunities, getting involved

May 9—Jayla Wroten is living proof of how being open to new experiences can make a big difference.

A Troup native, Wroten will graduate from Tyler Junior College Friday with an associate degree in psychology.

Next fall, she will continue her studies at The University of Texas at Tyler, with eventual plans to earn her doctorate, become a therapist and open her own practice.

Wroten began taking dual credit classes in high school, and then became a full-time TJC student after graduation.

"I chose TJC mostly because it was close to home and it was affordable," she said. "I received the Presidential Honors scholarship, so I got to come here for free, plus I received other scholarships on top of that."

At TJC, Wroten delved into academics and worked on campus as an Honors program intern.

"[TJC professor] Clint Selman was my favorite teacher ever," she said. "I took all of his psychology classes. I love the way he teaches. He's so personable and makes class fun. He expects us to do the work and he pushes to a level to do the work, but he doesn't do it in a hard way."

She said he also helped her through her Honors Capstone research project on adult anxiety and the effect of potting plants during therapy.

"The results were inconclusive, but that's OK because that's how research works," she said. "So, I think I'm going to redo it at UT."

By a chance meeting, she also became heavily involved in TJC's Alpha Omicron Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

"I wouldn't have been involved in Phi Theta Kappa if I hadn't walked downstairs in Rogers Student Center after work in the Honors loft, heard a lot of noise and said, 'What's going on?' and then someone said, 'Hey, do you want to come to a PTK meeting? We have free food.'"

As a member of PTK, Wroten was one of only 15 students in the nation to earn the 2024 Hites Transfer Scholarship, the organization's largest and most prestigious scholarship, which will provide $7,500 for her to use at her next institution.

A lot of stars aligned for Wroten to land that scholarship.

"The Hites scholarship is research based, so I was able to use the research from my Capstone as part of the very involved, 14-page application packet which involved a lot of essays and materials," she said. "I really didn't think I was going to win. I thought maybe I would get the $2,000 one. When I found out I got it, I literally just stood up from my chair. I couldn't believe it."

That wouldn't have happened if she hadn't walked downstairs in Rogers Student Center and wandered into a Phi Theta Kappa meeting.

Which brings us to her final bit of advice for current and future students:

"Talk to people," she said. "Talk to your professors after class. Talk to people wherever you go. Communication and just being open to new experiences is what got me everywhere."