After struggling in the foster care system and with abusive situations for much of his life, Thomas Busch eventually was assigned to a caseworker who helped him turn things around. He moved to a new city and transferred to Warwick High School for his senior year, which he describes as the “best year of his life.”

During that year, when he turned 18, he moved out on his own, got a job and supported himself as he finished high school. Instead of going into the military or to a trade school as some people suggested, he applied to several colleges. He vividly remembers the day that he received his acceptance letter from Longwood. He’s majoring in business, and you can tell he is “all business” about completing his degree and securing a successful future for himself.

Here are some random interesting facts from Thomas about himself:

  1. I’m active. I like to play sports, and my favorite is basketball.
  2. My favorite lazy thing to do is to lie in bed with some snacks and watch a movie.
  3. I like watching older cartoons because they remind me of being younger.

My Life Story: What Foster Care, Determination and Longwood Have Taught Me

On March 17, 2000, I was born to a couple that I feel didn’t deserve me and weren’t capable of taking care of an infant boy. I was given up to social services shortly after birth and jumped from foster home to foster home till the age of 3, when a family living in New Jersey adopted me and attempted to take me in as their own.

When I was 7, we moved to an old country house on the edge of Farmville, where I spent the next seven years. I was a troublesome kid, and I was the victim of a lot of emotional and physical abuse for the first 14 years of my life. I hate to admit that they had any effect on me, but I suffered from depression, anger issues, low self-esteem and deep trust issues.

Growing up, I didn’t understand these psychological issues. As I got older, they started showing more and more in everyday life because I kept getting in trouble, which caused even more problems at school and within the household. When I was 14, the people I was living with had had enough and gave me back to social services, where I was assigned a caseworker. She helped me get away from that negative environment and tried putting me in places where I could be nourished and grow.

I am very grateful now thinking back on it, but back then I was defiant. I didn’t really start to change until I met with some therapists and talked. The average therapy session is roughly an hour, but there were days where I spent hours upon hours just talking. They helped me recognize my emotions and even helped me control them. I didn’t suppress the emotions, but I learned to think rationally about them. Instead of acting on how I was feeling, I started acting on what I thought would be the best for myself and my future. I realized that how people treat you should have no impact on how you treat them or change who you want to be.

When I was 17, I moved to Newport News and started a new life. There were plenty of challenges and obstacles, but I was able to overcome them. A month into my senior year I started school at Warwick High School, where I felt as if I finally fit in and was normal. It was the best year of my life.

The day I turned 18 I moved out on my own and was maintaining a steady job while also finishing my high-school education. I had a lot of people rooting for me, but I also had a lot of people waiting for me to slip up, so when I walked across the stage with the rest of the class of 2018 in the Hampton coliseum, it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

I wish I’d had more time to congratulate myself, but I had to keep going because the next step was what was I going to do with my future. Throughout the years I had a lot of passions: I wanted to be a therapist; I wanted to be a lawyer. But I finally decided that I wanted to obtain a business degree. There were people who thought I should settle for something else like military or trade school, but I followed what I thought was right and applied to numerous colleges, Longwood being one of them.

I still remember the day that I had got my acceptance letter from Longwood. I was starting to get nervous because I had already been rejected from one college, so I tried not to get my hopes up when I saw an envelope with the official Longwood seal on it.

At Longwood, I found people who were supportive of me and what I was trying to accomplish. They helped me get started, and, no matter what, I will be forever grateful to them. It’s too late now for me to give up. It would be selfish, and I can’t let myself or anyone else rooting for me down. So I am going to do whatever it takes to get this degree and give back to the world because, aside from what I was taught growing up, there are good people in it.

No Judgment: Longwood Lets You Be Who You Want To Be

My first couple weeks at Longwood exceeded any expectations I had set before arriving on campus. Actually, I didn’t know what to expect—I could only speculate on how this experience would compare to others like high school.

I realize now that it was a mistake to try to judge this experience like I had others. People here are much more understanding and less judgmental than anywhere else I have been. I quickly found out, especially during New Lancer Days, that it doesn’t matter what you look like, what race you are, what clothes you wear… . No one judges you here. You are free to be yourself or anything you want to be.

My advice to anyone who is still struggling to make friends or who is wondering where they fit in is this: Just take a risk. Put yourself out there, and I promise you will find people with the same interests as you who will help you succeed and will be there if you need help.

There are thousands of people here, and the first couple of days were a lot to take in for me because I wasn’t used to being around so many different people. I consider myself social, but I also have an introverted side where I like to be by myself and take a step back to think and reevaluate my priorities. It’s easy to get caught up in the crowd and lose sight of the real reason we are here. While making new friends and being social is great, the top priority for everyone should be to work toward their degrees and secure a better future.

There are going to be challenges. Some days I just want to stay in bed and sleep, but I know I have classes that day so I push myself to get up and work through it. It all depends on your motivation and how badly you want to succeed. A successful life looks different for everyone, but one day I want to be able to wake up and do whatever I want, buy whatever I want and travel wherever I want. I won’t stop until I make that happen.

I hope that reading this will inspire many of you to ask yourselves what you want out of life and motivate yourself to grind and go get it.

Taking Advantage of An Unexpected Opportunity

Orientation at Longwood was an experience I will never forget. So many different thoughts and feelings were running through my head. I was excited but also nervous. College is a completely different level when compared with my experience in high school. College students may be adults and free, but with that comes more responsibilities and higher expectations.

I was excited when I finally went through my orientation because, honestly, it didn’t feel real that I was going to college. It wasn’t until I was in the auditorium listening to an administrator speak that it sank in.

While listening to her tell us about all of the advantages of being a Longwood student, I realized how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity. I’ve always wanted to go to college, but it was never really an option until recently, when I was able to excel and move forward from the environment I was born into.

One thing I have learned is that nothing will change unless your motivation to be more outweighs your desire to live an average life. I believe that attending Longwood University and obtaining my MBA is the next step to living a successful life. I have never been one to sit around and do nothing; I can’t settle for being average. We only have one life, and I will not quit until I can use my potential to obtain my degree and do the things I enjoy.