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Polly Howell

Polly Howell (right) with Sherian Oakley (left) in the Library

Howell finds world of opportunity at Motlow

Although moving to a new place can sometimes be difficult, for Motlow student Polley Howell, it opened a world of opportunity. In 2006, when she was 13, Howell moved with her family to Tullahoma from Tupelo, Miss. For Howell, she said it felt a little like starting over. However, it didn't take long for her to settle into her surroundings.

She immediately became involved with the Tullahoma High School swim team and competed with the team until she graduated as a home-schooled student in 2011. After graduating she was asked to help coach the team. Delighted, Howell accepted and has been coaching juniors and seniors for the past two years. She said her experience as a coach helped her choose physical education as a college major.

While in her junior year of high school, she became a dual-enrollment student at Motlow College. Dual enrollment students are students who, while pursuing a high school diploma, are also enrolled in college courses for which they receive both high school and college credits.

"I absolutely loved it," Howell said. "I was kind of done with my high school work and was looking for something else to do and more of a challenge."

Howell added that enrolling at Motlow while in high school also helped her to gain confidence in stepping out into the world.

"The staff at the college was so helpful," she added. "So I decided this is where I wanted to be for the next two years. Coming from being home-schooled, I wanted to slowly integrate myself into a classroom setting, and Motlow made the transition so easy. It's nice having a teacher that knows my name; whereas some of my friends who attended bigger universities were one of hundreds."

When it came to time to begin college full time, Howell said she knew that choosing Motlow College was a decision she wouldn't regret. "Both my older brother and sister attended community colleges and then went on to bigger universities," said Howell. "Both of their experiences were successful, and from their success and encouragement, my decision to attend a two-year school was an easy one."

With the help of advisor Sheri Mason, Howell chose a schedule that worked best for her. Her typical day begins at 8 a.m. working in the Academic Affairs Office.

"Working with Ms. (Dawn) Copeland and Ms. (Sherian) Oakley has been such a wonderful experience," she said. "I came to work for them after being accepted for the academic service scholarship."

After finishing work around 10:30 a.m., Howell heads to class. She has been able to balance two online classes and two on-campus classes each semester. "I really enjoyed my class with Coach (Tori Raby) Gentry, learning about physical education for elementary students," she said. "It was so much fun. We got to create an individual lesson plan, which was very interesting."

Howell is president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Motlow College sponsors the Alpha Xi Pi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa with student members from all four of the college's campuses.

"It has been such a rewarding experience," Howell said. "I recommend getting involved with something, whether it's Phi Theta Kappa, art club, or any one of the college's organizations, because it can open up so many opportunities. It did for me."

Howell added that opportunities for her included traveling to Seattle, where she attended the organization's international convention. "Our PTK advisor, Mr. (Greg) Garrison also encouraged me to run for vice president for the region, an office I now hold," she added. "It has been another great experience and enabled me to meet many people and develop many great friendships."

Howell plans to earn a master's degree in occupational therapy and to become an occupational therapist.