From troubled past to success, Dr. Tommie Mabry works to inspire youth

Overcoming obstacles - one Mississippi man uses his troubled past to show young people how to create a successful future.
Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 9:13 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Overcoming obstacles - one Mississippi man uses his troubled past to show young people how to create a successful future.

Motivator, educator, author, father and husband are all hats Tommie Mabry, Ph.D., wears daily. Coming from a rough start, Mabry believes young people need role models, not critics.

Flashing blue lights and crime scene tape are things Mabry remembers most growing up.

“It forced me down a path of trouble,” said Mabry.

Mabry was around 7-years-old when he was expelled from his first school in Jackson, eventually being expelled from nine others.

“Well, school was never a safe haven for me,” Mabry said. “School was fear. That was the only place I felt incompetent. Like, I was never engaged, if that makes sense. I was always present, but I wasn’t engaged. That was just a place I thought it was smart to be dumb and dumb to be smart. So, I was fighting for acceptance.”

Mabry said the odds were already against him, leading to an arrest at just 11 years old.

“I got locked up my 5th-grade year for breaking and entering,” Mabry said. “Just hearing the judge tell me in five years, I’ll be dead or locked up that really lit a fire to me.”

Going from being expelled to degrees in a matter of years had many people wonder one thing. When did Mabry decide to take that pivot in life and no longer be the statistic he was already labeled as?

“I was a standout basketball player in Jackson,” Mabry said. “I got shot my senior year in high school. And it’s sad to say that it took a bullet to shift my perspective, but it did.”

Now Mabry travels across the state and country, from jail cells to school auditoriums, sharing his story to inspire others. He even made a few stops in the Pine Belt, visiting William Carey University in September and Jefferson Davis County schools back in March.

Mabry was the first in his family, out of eight siblings, to graduate high school and then went to Tugaloo College. He earned a bachelor’s in Education and a master’s in child development, eventually obtaining his Ph.D. from Jackson State University.

Mabry said while crime is what’s most highlighted in his hometown, he and other successful natives are proof that the city is more than crime.

“I think we should do a better job promoting some of the beautiful things that come out of Jackson,” Mabry said. “If we only show the crime, the water, the roads, that’s the perception we’re giving off until we widen the screen and show there are some beautiful things that come from Jackson. You got to be in a position to be mentored.”

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