Campus & Community

Wheeler to encourage mental health dialogue as student trustee

Growing up, Tarruck Wheeler saw school as an insurmountable problem.

“It was always challenging for me,” says Wheeler, who ended up getting a GED.

At the time, Wheeler, now PBSC’s newly selected student trustee and a Dr. Floyd F. Koch Honors College student, was struggling with dyslexia. However, he did not realize it until he was officially diagnosed later in life. Once diagnosed, he got the courage to pursue a higher education.

Wheeler, who will serve for the 2021-22 academic year, will be the 21st student in the role. He was chosen out of five candidates who interviewed for the position. On Aug. 10, he will represent PBSC’s student body at his first District Board of Trustees meeting in Lake Worth.

“When I heard I was selected, I was so excited I started jumping up and down,” said Wheeler, who enrolled last year to pursue an Associate in Science degree in computer programming.

Being someone who struggled in school, the thought of higher education after high school seemed too overwhelming. Instead, Wheeler decided to enter the workforce. He traveled and worked with several consulting firms, as well as governmental and nongovernmental organizations that dealt with infrastructure development in emerging nations in West Africa and the Economic Community of West African States.

“Through that work, I learned a lot about different cultures and got a new appreciation for what I have in life,” Wheeler said. “It was also very gratifying working on projects to improve people’s lives.”

He plans to use his experiences abroad, along with learning to adapt to a unique ability, to help other students in his role as a student trustee.

Wheeler also became a father in high school to his son, Caleb, who plans to enroll at PBSC as a dual enrollment student this fall.

“I understand students’ struggles firsthand through my own experience and my son’s, transitioning from high school to the college setting,” Wheeler said.  “I want to help all students but notably those who are at risk of becoming technology marginalized, which can often lead to a barrier in the pursuit of higher education.”

Wheeler also hopes to have an open mental health dialogue to help students with hidden issues.

“Mental health awareness is so crucial right now, especially with the added stress that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought,” Wheeler said. “If students don’t get the support they need, those students will quickly burn out and end up loathing the learning environment of school.”

In addition to giving students support, Wheeler wants to provide accurate information on COVID-19 vaccines while fighting disinformation. Currently, he is the PBSC ambassador for the COVID Campus Coalition, a national student-led organization that offers college students accurate, timely information about existing and emerging vaccines.

As the ambassador, Wheeler attends weekly meetings to gather facts, debunk myths, and spread facts via social media. He is also a part of the College’s Return to Campus Task Force, organized to ensure thoughts and concerns are taken into consideration to determine how best for students and staff to return to campus safely.

“Tarruck is not only a nontraditional student with exceptional qualities, but he has both a high EQ and IQ with extensive background in philanthropic endeavors and advancement of cultures in developing countries, specifically in Africa,” PBSC Associate Professor Robin Fiedler wrote in her nomination letter. “He possesses professionalism and life experiences that will allow him to bridge communications and accomplish goals between the community, administration, and with a wide-range of students from diverse ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and those who are differently abled.”

Wheeler hopes to eventually earn a Master of Business Administration and work in the cybersecurity field for the government.

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