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Dr. Aaron Thompson speaks to students at SCC's transfer conference

Thompson motivates transfer students at Somerset Community College conference

Kentucky Council for Postsecondary Education Executive Vice President Aaron Thompson was the guest speaker at the Somerset Community College Whats Your Plan? transfer conference, held on the SCC Somerset campus on March 4, 2016. As the keynote speaker, Thompson shared his story of success and his recipe for helping other achieve their highest potential.

Thompson, born to an illiterate coal mining father and a mother who only went through eighth grade, is now a sough-after speaker, professor, successful business man and author.

Thompson was born in Clay County, Kentucky. He grew up surrounded by family, but did not have things that are now considered essential, such as an indoor bathroom, until he was a senior in high school.

There is a belief system that if you're from Central Appalachia, that you are white, poor and uneducated, Thompson said while stating that most people cannot believe he was born and raised in this region. I tell you this because sometimes your bias will keep you from success because you get lost in where you are now.

Thompson's mother and father both valued education, he said. His father wanted him to get an education so he didn't have to break his back in the coal mines and his mother wanted him to be able count his money. He was the first person in his family to attend, and finish, high school. He went on to earn a bachelors degree, masters degree and Ph.D.

Thompson shared his recipe for success with the crowd of more than 150 attendees at the conference. He believes four things can help create success: family, community, institutions and you.

The family is far more important than we give credit, Thompson said of his first point. And its not just your mom and dad or grandparents. Its those that love you, support you and push you, even when you don't like it.

Secondly, Thompson said doing something for your community, and choosing the first people to associate with, is also an important ingredient in the recipe for success.

You have to choose to be around people who are going the right way, Thompson said. My parents weren't educated, but they taught me innovation. When I got to high school, I found the five smartest kids there and did what they did. You have to follow people who are going where you want to go and then you have to learn to be a leader.

Third, Thompson said that while college may not be for everyone, each person needs some type of advanced training through a certificate, diploma, two-year or four-year degree

College, though, isn't just about classes, Thompson said. In college, the world opens up. High school is a short amount of time that will follow you forever. Be sure you are making the most of it.

The last ingredient in his recipe for success, Thompson said, is you.

You have to make the decision. You have to recognize what you don't have or need to be successful and know how to get it, Thompson said. Success gives you a sense of belonging, freedom and accomplishment, but you have to do it with good character.

College isn't about them giving you knowledge, said Thompson. College is about gaining a process for lifelong learning.

Those who attended the transfer conference where Thompson was speaking had the opportunity to speak with representatives from 14 different colleges and universities at the event, which was funded by the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Student Services Grant from KHEAA.