TSC student struggles with loss, moves forward with support of college family

Texas Southmost College General Studies program student Dylan Shepard.

Step by step and day by day is how Dylan Shepard has recently been living life as a student at Texas Southmost College.

What started as a traditional college experience quickly changed into one of the hardest moments in the 20-year-old’s life.

“In March I lost my biggest supporter – my mom – and life hasn’t been the same,” said the TSC General Studies student.

The Brownsville native’s mother was diagnosed with congenital heart failure last summer, during a time when Shepard was finding himself as a student and singer.

College was going well for Shepard, living the dream his mother had for him and taking private voice lessons that would spring board him toward his career as a performer.

“When my mom received her diagnosis, the emotional and financial struggles began. Hospital bills began to mount and my singing lessons took a backseat, but the one thing my mom never let me do was quit school,” said Shepard. “When she passed, I promised her I would finish. So, I have to. It’s a must.”

As an older brother to a 13 and seven year old, there are times Shepard must take on a parenting role and combine it with the pressures of school. There are times that he feels like he can’t go on.

“Sometimes I feel like I can’t keep going, but because I don’t want to disappoint my mom I decided that I have to,” he said. “And it’s the instructors at TSC that have helped me to push forward and keep living in my mom’s honor.”

There are many instructors that have touched Shepard’s life since this tragedy hit his family, but he said it’s his TSC English Instructor Rebecca Perales who has impacted him the most.

“Everything for me in the fall and after my mother’s death just piled up on me,” said Shepard. “But Ms. Perales kept me grounded. She was the first person I told about my mom’s passing. She empathized with my situation and taught me how to keep going.”

Shepard added that artists like Bon Jovi and Madonna have even found their way into his homework routine so he feels closer to his mother, but the closeness he feels to her when he is on campus is much larger.

“TSC is a family affair,” he said. “My dad got his associate degree from TSC, and my mom received her bachelor’s from the University of Texas at Brownsville when it used to be a part of TSC. So being on campus makes me feel closer to her.”

His mother was the first person in Shepard’s family to become a college graduate, which is why her dream for him to finish was so crucial before her passing.

“I’m glad TSC is close to home and affordable. It allowed me to stay with my mom until the end, and allows me to continue a family legacy,” said Shepard. “My mom’s dream was to see me graduate and perform so I’m working on making that come true.”

Shepard has one more semester at TSC before transferring to a four-year university where he will pursue a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance.

He’s enjoyed singing since he was a child, but his shyness held him back, and even though he has nay-sayers, he remembers what his mother, late grandfather and grandmother told him, which is the same advice he has for others.

“Follow your dreams and your passion, that’s how you’ll find happiness,” he said. “Keep pushing forward, even when life isn’t easy because the hard work will pay off and you’ll finally see success.”

Shepard said he knows this moment in time will shape his future and who he is, but what he has learned is that he is determined like his mother.

“This has been one of the worst times in my life,” he said. “But I feel myself evolving and growing and I know I get that from my mom. I’m glad that in this point in time TSC is in my life because it’s the people here who have supported me and been a huge help in my moving forward.”