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Graduate Spotlight:  Aaron Autler

Posted on May 16, 2019

By Holly Walker

A few years ago, Aaron Autler decided he would not be defined by the challenges he faced. He fought to take back his life, one step and one day at a time. Now, thanks to his determination and to a support network that includes his parents; girlfriend; veterans support organizations; and faculty and staff at John Tyler Community College, Aaron is proudly paving a path to a career where he will become the support for others.

When he was younger, Aaron didn’t enjoy school very much. So, when he graduated, a traditional college education did not feel like the right choice for him. He decided, instead, to explore his interests in other ways by joining the U.S. Marine Corps. Aaron describes the education he received during his seven years in the Marines as complex; multi-faceted; and both good and challenging. And, some of those biggest challenges surfaced as he transitioned out of the military. Drinking and drug use became a part of his life, and with that came a couple of brushes with the law. It was then that Aaron realized he needed to change direction and take back his life. He entered a treatment program in the VA and got sober. He also took part in a multi-month PTSD program and got involved in runs and events sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project and Semper Fi Fund. During it all, his support system grew, as did his interest in psychological and physical health.  “Even when I was in high school, I was interested in exercise,” says Aaron. “I now know psychotherapy along with physical exercise or therapy can really help you as you transition through a recovery program, anxiety and PTSD.” With a desire to learn more, Aaron began attending college in his home state of California. After moving to Virginia, he decided to continue his education at Tyler. He enrolled in the General Studies, Science Specialization program, and with his growing support network that now included members of Tyler’s faculty and staff, the person who once disliked school thrived academically. When he graduated in December 2018, Aaron did so with a 4.0 grade point average. “I am so grateful to John Tyler Community College,” says Aaron. “It is here that I was able to continue to establish a base of education that will follow me the rest of my life.” Aaron is now building on that education at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he plans to double major in exercise science and psychology. After that, he’s setting his sights on graduate school. Aaron’s goal is to get job at the VA, working in the recovery program that helped him, so he can guide and support other combat veterans who are facing the same challenges that impacted his life. #Tyler2019

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