College proves challenge worth accepting
Tyreco Colbert grew up in a big foster family. The goal his foster mom set for him was to go to community college and transfer to a four-year institution like his sisters had done.
But his family had more confidence in him than he had in himself, so he chose a different way.
In the end, it was the right path for Colbert, who graduated from UBalt in May 2023.
Out of high school, Colbert enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Fort Lewis in Seattle, Washington where he would find a mentor in a major.
“My major, Major Russell, used to always say to me that, ‘You should go to Officer Candidate School. You don’t belong. You shouldn’t be an enlistee.’ I had maturity. I spoke really well. I could write really well. And he basically said you should go to college, and then become a lieutenant and move up the ranks.”
The idea stayed in Colbert’s mind. When he was injured, he decided it was time to pursue the path he was meant for.
“I found out that I had my GI Bill® and the rest of my benefits, I just figured that I could go to college for free. So basically, I did what my foster mother basically instilled in me: came home, went to community college, and then transferred to UBalt. And then the rest was pretty much history.”
Driven by tragedy
Colbert started at Anne Arundel Community College and started researching where he would pursue a bachelor’s degree. He learned about UBalt through a childhood friend who knew he was interested in law enforcement.
Colbert came to UBalt for its B.S. in Forensics Studies program, concentrating in forensic investigation. He gained the experience he wanted and a network he needed, in his classes and The Bob Parsons Veterans Center.
After earning his bachelor’s degree, he entered the academy for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.
Colbert has a dream to become a detective and help solve cold cases.
“In my family we have a history of losing relatives to gun violence and we never got answers to it,” he said. “A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to go to college, graduate and work for Anne Arundel County police department and solve my cousin’s murder case and help my family heal. But then I noticed that I’d have probably been too close to the case, so I decided that maybe I could do it for someone else.”
The work to earn his degree wasn’t easy for Colbert as a first-generation college student.
He had to learn to ask for help and even where to ask for help. He had to be persistent and work harder than he ever had. He had to find the right people.
When he did, he said, college felt easy. And it was worth it.
“I think this was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. At first, I said when I joined the Armed Forces, that was the best decision I’ve ever made. They did give me the structure that I needed. But college gave me a skill set to compete in the world and influence people. It just changed my life.”
Going First is an ongoing series highlighting the students, alumni, faculty and staff part of the UBalt community who were the first in their families to earn a bachelor's degree. Read more first-generation stories.