Student Beats the Odds to Graduate

  • November 27th, 2019
Timothy Skipper poses for a photo near a support group advertisement
Timothy Skipper

In a few weeks, 22-year-old Abbeville native Timothy Skipper’s story at The University of Alabama will come to its conclusion, as he walks across the stage to receive his Bachelor of Arts in creative media.

His Capstone story didn’t start on “First Day UA” his freshman year, but in a childhood fraught with trials that would prevent many people from even dreaming of attending college, let alone graduating.

Growing up

“I didn’t move to Abbeville until sixth grade,” Skipper said. “Before that I lived in Dothan in a place called the Johnson Homes, which are housing projects. I lived with my mother, older sister and three younger brothers.”

Skipper said his early childhood memories are a haze, but he keenly recalls not always having electricity, staple foods being Ramen noodles, getting new clothes only at tax return time and his mother, who didn’t steadily work, drinking, smoking, and always being very angry and abusive.

When he was 11, Skipper, his sister and the brother closest to him in age were placed in kinship care with his grandmother and her husband. His two youngest brothers were placed in the custody of their aunt in Dothan.

He didn’t lack for mother figures. In addition to his grandmom, he made a diverse group of friends whose moms treated him as their own. His high school librarian also played a pivotal role.

“My high school librarian, Mrs. Tillis, believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.” With her help, he received a United Methodist Children’s Home scholarship for foster kids to UA.

Initially he majored in athletic training, but after watching the movie “La La Land,” he was inspired to follow the movie’s primary theme, which he said is “Here’s to the Fools Who Dream.”

Wishing on a star

“I’ve always been a creative person, from poetry to really becoming passionate about film in high school when my grandmom showed me the Martin Scorsese film, ‘Good Fellas.’ That was the first film I ever saw where I was like ‘wow, movies.’

Timothy Skipper looking at the cameraman on set
Timothy Skipper directs while on a set.

“But when I saw the movie ‘La La Land’ it asked the question, ‘what are you willing to give up to pursue your dream?’ I felt that was a sign, so shortly after that I switched my major to creative media.”

Writing and directing short films became his passion. Like many artists, he is rarely satisfied with his work, but continues to “chase the high” of crafting new art because he loves it and enjoys the impact his work has on others.

Though he’s written numerous scripts, he’s directed only one film currently in the editing process. The short film, “The Rose that Grew from the Concrete,” is named after the Tupac poem, and focuses on specific life lessons between a mother and daughter.

“I chose this because women have been very impactful in my life. I don’t have a close relationship with my mother, but I have had other women come into my life and show me what having a mother is like.”

The Capstone experience

Before coming to UA, Skipper was given a word of advice that he’s tried to remain faithful to: “Be a sponge. Absorb as much as you can, and always be hungry and eager to learn.

“In following that, I’ve learned to listen more than I speak, even though I’m an extroverted person. You can only learn so much from talking, but you can learn a lot from listening.”

One of the biggest lessons he’s learned, he said, is that failure isn’t the opposite of success, it’s a part of it.

“The idea of coming short of my expectations for myself and choosing to work harder and do better the next time has made me grow. Growth and comfort cannot coexist.”  — Timothy Skipper

Skipper said the two best decisions he’s ever made were coming to UA and going to the UA Counseling Center.

“Counseling was a game changer. While college was a lot better than the first part of my life, I still had to deal with anxiety and depression, and counseling was essential in coming to terms with all that I had to overcome.”

He also ardently appreciates his experience with Alabama REACH.

“On such a big campus it’s hard to find a group of people –- orphans, kinship care, foster kids, homeless youth –- who come from the same background as you do, but, turns out, there was a group for it. It’s such a great sense of community and family.”

After graduation, Skipper plans to spend a year working in media. Following that, he hopes to go to film school to refine his skill set.

“To the UA students coming behind me, I want to leave a quote from a favorite movie of mine, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower.’ The main character says, ‘We can’t choose where we come from, but we can choose where we go from there.’ I know it’s not all the answers, but it was enough to start putting these pieces together.

“Over this semester, in the process of putting my film together, I learned that dreams don’t work unless you do. Tell yourself that every day.”

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.