Carlton Childs added his own flair to the commencement ceremony when he danced across the stage on Saturday, Dec. 11, in the Tom and Kathleen Elam Center. The Humboldt, Tennessee, native earned his degree in health and human performance from the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Childs is a graduate of Humboldt High School and former basketball player. As a high school student, he thought a career in athletics was in his future, but an injury caused him to reevaluate those plans. “Although I couldn’t finish my basketball dream and create my own legacy, I can continue my mom’s legacy and be another graduate of UTM,” said Childs about his decision to attend UT Martin. His mother, LaToya Montgomery, graduated from UT Martin in 1998.
“My mother always told me, ‘Why would you shorten yourself or limit yourself to just one population? Why not try to help all populations?’”
With athletics still at the forefront of his mind, it was his mother who encouraged him to broaden his options and finally helped him settle on a career in physical therapy. “My mother always told me, ‘Why would you shorten yourself or limit yourself to just one population? Why not try to help all populations?’” With that in mind, he began his journey to become a physical therapist.
Service and faith were a big part of Childs’ four years at UT Martin. As an undergraduate, he served as a Peer Enabling Program (PEP) leader helping freshmen adjust to college life. He credits his involvement with the program for sharpening his leadership skills. “That just taught me how to lead people, being able to bridge the gap from the student to the professor,” he said. His leadership positions didn’t stop there. He also served as the president of the Zeta Kappa chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
“God was with me through this whole journey, and without Him, I wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage or dance,” he said.
Childs believes he wouldn’t have earned his degree without faith. “God was with me through this whole journey, and without Him, I wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage or dance,” he said with a smile.
Holding leadership positions in student organizations didn’t come without challenges. Childs remembers how he struggled early on with prioritizing his schoolwork with his social calendar. “I had to have a talk with God, or rather God talked to me, and realize that my main focus was to get a degree,” he recalled.
Childs felt that UT Martin had a huge impact on his life, and as he studied for the GRE and prepared applications to physical therapy school, he knew he needed one last special memory before graduating. “Everywhere I go I try to leave my mark. Commencement was not as high as I’m used to seeing it, so I was like, ‘Okay, I can make a spark and give everybody a smile,” he said. This led to his snap decision of dancing across the stage, and sure enough, the crowd smiled and clapped for this new UT Martin alum.