Client Spotlight: Jack Austin
Jack came to work for the Choctaw Nation shortly after receiving an honorable discharge from the Army in 1991. He started out in Material Management as their supply person and gradually moved to Property Officer and then to GSA Fleet Manager for Health Services Administration. Jack is the son of Tribal Councilman Jack Austin, Sr.
Q: What made you decide to further your education and why did you choose counseling?
A: When I completed my time with the Army, I sat a goal for myself of returning home and working with Native American people. I had a real desire to work with the Choctaw people. My mother and father were great examples to me and what it meant to help other people. I knew in order to put myself in the best position to help people, I would need an education. So I visited a local school and enrolled; not knowing what direction to go other than complete my basics. After meeting people at the Choctaw Nation Healthcare Services Administration and making acquaintances at the university, I knew the counseling field was for me. Soon after I began to attend specific classes for counseling, I was afforded an opportunity to transfer to a grant funded program that assisted Native American families and their children with counseling services. After being a part of this program for a week I knew I had made the right choice.
Q: What, if any, obstacles or barriers did you face prior to going back to school and/or during school?
A: This is a great question. I hadn't thought about barriers on my journey. Home life and work are two of the biggest areas that were tough for me. However after the first semester, I evaluated what I could and couldn't do and tried to stay as close to those boundaries as I could. There were times I would push the limits by taking more hours or tougher classes. Two of our three children were actually born during the period of going to school. I took off a semester after they were born. Even after I went back to classes, I made sure they (the classes) didn't interfere with my family life. It was definitely a juggling act to say the least! I almost forgot to mention that my wife and I both were attending classes at the same time. This actually was a great support for me.
Q: How did you overcome the obstacles/barriers you encountered?
A: The support of my wife, family and friends. Not just babysitting; but the continual verbal support of everyone in our lives. Also, I believe keeping my focus on obtaining my goal(s) helped me overcome any barriers. It was a give and take situation by knowing my boundaries and knowing when I had to pull back a little or push forward a little harder.
Q: How has obtaining your counseling degree helped you?
A: It has opened doors for me that otherwise wouldn't have been possible to even knock on. I have been fortunate to receive promotions with new duties and responsibilities. The work we do at the Recovery Center with the Choctaw Nation, where I am now employed, is very rewarding to say the least. I have been able to put my education to use for the purpose and intentions of my goal--to serve the needs of Native American people the very best I can in whatever capacity I am in.
Q: What advice would you give to other tribal members who are considering or who are already furthering their education?
A: Set a goal and go for it. Don't allow self-doubt or not believing in yourself to come into the equation. Develop a plan. Ask yourself: What is it I want to do? How will I get there? Then, GET STARTED. Choctaws are a strong and resilient people. We can do anything when we put our mind to it. The journey may not always be easy but the destination is well worth the trip.
Q: Is there anyone you would you like to thank?
A: Yes--My wife & children, mother and father, mother and father in-law, aunts and uncles, and many friends. I would like to also thank the Career Development program. My career counselor, Jeanne Rorie is the greatest and was always there for guidance. I would like to thank Larry Wade and his staff for their assistance as well. A special thank you to those people I have worked with in the past or continue to work with presently-- Renee Baughman, Sandy Stroud, Kathryn Pitchford, Joe Bray, Kari Hearod. Finally, I would like to thank our tribal leadership--Chief Greg Pyle, Asst. Chief Gary Batton, and the Tribal Council for making it possible for tribal members to further their education.