Biologist credits life turnaround to Victoria College
Brandon Mitchell
Former Victoria College students Laura Leigh Mitchell and Brandon Mitchell show off their Texas A&M University-Kingsville graduation rings while Brandon holds their son, Mason.

Brandon Mitchell was working on an assembly line at an Austin computer company in 2004 when a brief conversation with a coworker changed his life forever.

“There was this man in his mid-50’s working beside me,” recalled Mitchell, who was 18 years old at the time. “I don’t know why, but I told him, ‘You’re a real nice guy, but I really hope to God I’m not doing what you’re doing when I’m your age.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I hope you’re not, either.’”

Those words motivated Mitchell to embark on a rollercoaster 12-year journey that began at Victoria College and saw him transform from a dropout to earning summa cum laude honors and being named the Undergraduate Student of the Year at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Seeking advice on where he should start college, Mitchell made a phone call to his father, Scott Mitchell, who had recently taken a job in the Victoria area as a biologist.

“He said there was a great little college in Victoria,” Mitchell recalled. “I checked out the VC website and it was easy to navigate, so I decided I would go for it.”

Mitchell moved to Victoria and registered for classes at VC for the Spring 2005 semester. But he regularly missed classes and wound up being placed on academic probation after receiving three F’s and a D in his four classes.

“I don’t know how I got that D because I don’t believe I ever showed up for the final,” Mitchell said. “Honestly, I was trying to get a girlfriend at the time. I really didn’t understand the consequences.”

Mitchell moved back to Austin where he found a job at Walmart.

“I began hanging out with the wrong people,” Mitchell said. “I really didn’t have a home. I was homeless in a sense but not in the sense that I didn’t have any money. I was crashing on friends’ couches. I was basically just trying to float through life. As long as I had enough money in my pocket to go where I wanted to go, pay my cell phone bill and do what I wanted to do, I was happy.”

Five years later, Mitchell, then 24, moved back to Victoria with his father and decided to give VC another try.

“My dad went back to college when he was 31 and graduated from Texas A&M University in College Station and then got his master’s at Sul Ross State University, so he knew what was going on,” Mitchell said. “He just told me to do something to be a productive citizen in society.”

Mitchell again registered for classes at VC. When he learned he could not receive financial aid due to his prior academic performance, he followed the procedure to appeal to the financial aid committee.

“I wrote down my plan that I was going to take this class and that class,” Mitchell said. “I asked them what my GPA would be if I made all A’s in my classes. I told them I just needed a break.”

The committee granted Mitchell financial aid for one semester.

“That was the turning point,” Mitchell said. “I made three A’s and a B that semester.”

Mitchell recalls retaking algebra, the class in which he had previously earned an F.

“I wound up having Miss Melanie Yosko again,” Mitchell said. “She said, ‘I don’t know why, but I remember you.’ I told her, ‘I was hoping you wouldn’t.’”

Even though Mitchell had started to turn around his academic career, he still struggled with developing good study habits.

“I was doing alright, but I was still trying to figure out how to take tests better,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to find out all the resources I had at VC. That’s when I found the KEY Center. The KEY Center was absolutely instrumental in my success and getting me where I’m at now. It helped me build confidence.”

Mitchell left VC in 2012 with a 3.48 GPA. He also accomplished one of his original goals during his return to Victoria College.

“I met my wife-to-be at VC,” Mitchell said. “She had a low GPA when I met her, so I started pushing her. She didn’t have any drive at that time. She wound up getting out of VC with a pretty good GPA.”

Laura Leigh Mitchell went with Brandon to attend Texas A&M-Kingsville in 2012. Brandon earned his bachelor’s in range and wildlife management and will obtain his Master of Science degree in agriculture in May. Laura Leigh, an animal science major, graduated magna cum laude.

Brandon, who is currently performing field research at the Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute and will begin a job as a biologist at a Victoria County ranch in May, and Laura Leigh have two sons – Mason, 2, and Ethan, 9 months. Mitchell said he already has his children’s college future planned out.

“They are going to a community college,” Mitchell said. “One reason is to save money. You get a lot more for your buck.”

Yosko, who is still a math instructor at VC, said she often uses Mitchell as an example for her students.

“The Brandon Mitchell I first met was very different than the mature young man who enrolled in my class in Spring 2011,” Yosko said. “When he returned, he was motivated and excited and wanted to learn. I often tell other students his story to let them know how big a role motivation and determination play in being successful. I’m very proud of the young man he has become and all he has accomplished.”

Mitchell said he would have never imagined 12 years ago that he would be where he is today.

“When I left Victoria back in 2005, my GPA was a 0.25,” Mitchell said. “When people tell me school is too hard, I tell them I once had a 0.25 GPA. They tell me they didn’t know a GPA could get that low.

“I am sure there are people in similar situations like I was in and even worse situations. When you’re in a situation like I was in, all you can do is dig yourself out of it. I put myself there. I didn’t go to my classes. I took those F’s. I owned it and I had to fix it, and I have reaped the benefits on the backside.”

Brandon Mitchell
Brandon Mitchell, right, takes a blood sample from a turkey while performing field research for the Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute.
Published: Wednesday, 30 November 2016

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