Member Rediscovers Purpose through Scholarship Succes
Phi Theta Kappa alumnus Brad Conley had dreams of becoming an art or music teacher to children with autism — dreams that were curbed by years of alcoholism and drug addiction. Twenty years later, he has returned to college and is finding great success on the road to accomplishing his educational dreams.
"I came to college after discovering a life of sobriety, an opportunity to redefine myself as a person, and there is no better way to shape one's self than through intellectual pursuit," Conley said.
As a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) in Minnesota, Conley accepted membership into Phi Theta Kappa in 2010. Using the Fall Common Scholarship Application, he received a 2012 Hites Transfer Scholarship and was named a member of the 2012 All-USA Community College Academic Team, a 2012 Coca-Cola New Century Scholar, and a member of the 2012 All-State Community College Academic Team in Minnesota.
“The scholarships allowed me to civically engage on many levels and to rediscover my original academic intent: to help those in recovery from chemical dependency,” he said.
Conley first attended MCTC — then Minneapolis Community College — in the fall of 1992, working during the day and attending classes at night. Following the spring semester, he moved to Duluth, Minnesota, and fell into a life of chemical dependency. Sixteen years later, in 2009, he entered into treatment and, in the process, rediscovered his dream of helping others.
His counselor, also an MCTC graduate, encouraged him to re-enroll in college. In the fall of 2009, he enrolled in the addiction counseling program and never looked back.
“I originally wanted to become a drug and alcohol counselor, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College has one of the best and longest-running programs in the country,” he said. “I later found the entire campus deeply profound with multiple opportunities for growth, including induction into Phi Theta Kappa.”
Conley became an active force on the MCTC campus; he led a fledgling Addiction Counseling Club to prominence, developing a presence for students struggling with addiction and creating a student-to-student support network called SafetyNet. He served two terms as President of the college’s Student Senate, which awakened in him a desire to serve in public office.
He represented four community colleges of the Metro West Region on the Minnesota State College Student Association Governing Council, and he won a citywide election to become the first student to serve on the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program Policy Board.
Today, 40-year-old Conley is a political science major in the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities’ Honors Program. In 2014, he plans to attend law school at the University of Minnesota with a concentration on health law and bioethics. His goal is to provide legal aid and legislative lobbying for the substance abuse treatment field.
When it comes to filling out a successful scholarship application, Conley urges applicants to consider the following questions:
- What makes me rise above the level of academic excellence?
- How do I extend my classroom into the community?
- How do I persevere in the face of personal hardship?
- Do I do these things with compassion and mindfulness?
- What and who in my life have made me what I am today?
“Too many people see finances as a stumbling block to success; the most resourceful among us do not,” he said. “If you develop yourself into a conduit for success, financial investments will transpire.”
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Partnering with Phi Theta Kappa, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and Coca-Cola Foundation will award nearly half a million dollars in scholarships to more than 400 Phi Theta Kappa members and community college students this year.
Billy Wilson grew up wanting to be a member of Phi Theta Kappa — understandable in a household where his mother, Sally, was the Kappa Alpha Chapter advisor, and his father, Ernest, was Dean at Holmes Community College in Mississippi.