My colleague, Trina Robinson, asked me what this week’s #SWAGon6 student did to make him a Student Working At Greatness. My reply, and I’m paraphrasing, was, “What does this kid not do?”
Tommy Collins is the first in his family to go off to college. He’s one of Miami Senior High School’s Silver Knight nominees, he’s a leader in the Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, National Honor Society, 5000 Role Models of Excellence, and oh yeah, he’s the co-captain of both the basketball and track and field teams.
“My goal’s just to figure out who I am, as a person, try to grow every day, that’s what I’m trying to do,” Tommy said.
At Miami High, Tommy is a renaissance man. His friends and teachers say he’s charismatic, optimistic, compassionate and super smart. Tommy kills it in the classroom, with his 4.6 GPA, and he earned a full academic scholarship to FSU. He also started his own mentoring program, like a matchmaker for mentors and mentees, recruiting his friends to join the effort.
“I had one girl who was very interested in art, so I found an upperclassman who’s great with drawing, sketching, painting and I paired the two up,” Tommy explained as an example of what he does. “I work with the kids on an individual level, it’s not so much of helping them with school success, which a lot of clubs do, I help the kids find their passions in life.”
Where does he find his own passion and drive? Tommy says part of it comes from living in Overtown, an everyday experience that gives him the motivation to succeed, a work ethic his mentor sees every day.
“His perseverance, the best quality that he has, he does whatever it takes to get ahead, obstacles come in his way and that does not stop him from doing what he does,” said Dr. Erick Hueck, Tommy’s chemistry teacher and the sponsor of the Beta Club.
With his heavy academic load and extracurricular commitments, Tommy realized he needed to utilize every bit of his free time. So he started a trend on the basketball team: studying before games.
“A lot of my friends, they’d be looking at me like what is this guy doing, homework on the bus? Like dude, get ready for the game, but I’m good, I’m good, I got this, I got this!” Tommy said, laughing. “After a while, a few of my teammates started doing the same thing, started bringing books to study, so I felt good, like I impacted them somehow.”
His teachers will tell you that Tommy is the kind of kid who won’t settle for anything less than an “A”, and he says he’s just a hard-working student, but to his friends, he’s an inspiration.
“He’s overcome the struggles and I think a lot of students in our school kind of go through the same thing,” said his classmate, Helen Acevedo. “If he sees you struggling or having a hard time, he’ll go up to you and say hey, what’s up, are you OK, how can I help?”
“He is a role model and to be honest, he’s a role model to me, because I always strive to be like him even though my grades aren’t up to par with his but I do strive to be like him every day,” added Kevin Hernandez, one of Tommy’s closest friends.
Follow Tommy around campus, and everyone seems to know him. He could not be more popular, but he’s most proud of being the kid who everyone turns to for help.
“It makes me feel amazing, I mean, no trophy or award could beat the feeling of knowing that I’m really trying to make a difference in a kid’s life because it’s not really about me it’s about my peers and everyone who’s here in general,” Tommy said.
He’s leaving a legacy of service. The Stingarees are going to miss Tommy Collins.