Sutter County Adult Education
Nominated in 2021
Thomas Lee Phillips, Jr. spent most of his youth being passed from one foster home to another. His mother was addicted to drugs and Thomas was taken out of her care at the age of 10. Thomas dealt with feelings of abandonment by abusing drugs and alcohol beginning as soon as he was placed in foster care. Thomas' education suffered because of lack of support, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities that were never addressed. He dropped out of high school feeling defeated by the system. Thomas aged out of the foster care system and continued to abuse drugs and alcohol until he hit rock bottom and went into a rehabilitation program. While in the program, Thomas decided to begin changing the course of his life by enrolling in Adult Education to get his high school diploma.
Part of Thomas' rehabilitation included helping him through his abandonment issues and depression. He was referred to Sutter County Adult Education as a potential student. After enrolling, it was discovered that Thomas had a vision impairment that hindered his education goals. The teacher contacted the Lions Club who helped Thomas receive an eye exam and obtain glasses. He was now able to read, eliminate headaches, and gain confidence in his learning abilities. Thomas also had some learning disabilities and physical disabilities that needed to be addressed in order for him to meet his educational goals. Sutter County Adult Education worked with Thomas to meet his needs in education. Accommodations were made for his physical disabilities and learning disabilities that provided greater opportunities for success. Through the help he received, Thomas became more confident and encouraged. Thomas began to do more schoolwork with better success. He was also encouraged to exercise as part of the physical education credit, and he made exercise a daily part of his life as a result.
Thomas has lived in a group rehabilitation home for the last five years. Some of his housemates also attended Adult Education classes. Thomas began to open up during class and help some of the other students with their work. When COVID hit, the students had to do distance learning and he helped the other students in his house as much as he could. Thomas did not have a computer for distance learning, so all the work was handwritten and delivered in packets to his house. Thomas has severe arthritis in his hands, which makes writing difficult and it was another hurdle that had to be overcome. Thomas worked with the other people in his house. They helped him write and he helped them study. Thomas transformed into a helper and tutor. He helped do extra work around the group home, he helped aging adults with their yards, and he showed kindness and care to the people around him.
Sutter County Adult Education is associated with the One Stop program, and Thomas was able to join a work wellness program. He worked for a local pet shop for six months and loved having purpose, work, money, and the chance to help others. This opportunity also spurred Thomas to finish his educational goals so that he could look forward to continuing education and getting a meaningful job. Thomas worked on his classes, but his previous high school records were not located to know exactly what credits Thomas needed. Thomas' teacher spent more than a year trying to locate transcripts without success. After a grueling investigation, Thomas' teacher finally located his transcripts in the Fall of 2020. Thomas' work could then be focused on what he needed to complete his high school credits. Thomas completed all his credits in the Spring of 2021 through distance learning.
Thomas is encouraged by his accomplishment and plans to attend the local Community College for mechanics. Thomas has received the help and care that he needed and passes it on in the way that he helps and treats the other people around him. He encourages others to continue their education and to get help with drug and alcohol addiction. Anyone who has a conversation with Thomas will be encouraged to become a better person through church, education, and rehabilitation.