Joe Wyatt
Published September 14, 2016

A few short years ago, Eric Van Marter would leave home only for reasons most necessary, maybe to see a doctor or buy groceries. To avoid excessive contact with others, he braved a local Supercenter only in the wee hours of the morning.

Eric Van Marter


That lifestyle is just a memory today; for Eric discovered the abundance of student-support services available at Amarillo College, aptly leaned on them and now, at age 52, he has an associate degree in photography in hand and is working toward a second degree, in art.

Eric has long been saddled with depression, severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, afflictions exacerbated by “a lifetime of abuse and neglect.”

Anyone in the same boat might similarly drop anchor on a reclusive shore.

But Eric was dissatisfied with his meager existence. So he contacted the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), which in turn pointed him in the direction of Amarillo College. Pursue retraining, DARS urged.

And so in 2012, nervous but hopeful, Eric, a banking accountant in decades past, visited the Washington Street Campus, sat for an assessment test, and learned he could proceed only upon taking – and passing – a course in developmental math.

Fortunately for Eric, that’s also when he learned about three invaluable AC resources that combined to put gale-force wind in his sails – disAbility Services, Adult Student Services, and Social Services.

“I found a family at AC,” said Eric, who recently completed his second term as president of AC’s socially inclined Photography Club. “The help I received – I even got a gas scholarship so I could afford to drive to school – made all the difference.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without the help I got from the wonderful people that make these services possible.”

Through disAbility Services, he received academic assistance and arrangements were made so that Eric, who has difficulty tuning out distractions, sometimes takes exams in relative isolation. He swiftly conquered the math.

Adult Student Services, in addition to providing the gasoline allowance, not only bestowed additional scholarships but on one occasion helped him make rent.

Social Services contributed occasional sustenance from the AC Food Pantry and, at his request, guided Eric to professional counseling.

“I remember when I was literally spending all my time at home dealing with my mental disorders,” Eric said. “I could no longer work in banking because all that knowledge had been lost to me – I have blank spaces in my memory.

“Coming to AC and finding out that so much help is available from so many truly nice and caring people, well, it changed everything. Photography was fantastic. Now I’m finding that I have a little talent in art.”

Eric completed his photography degree in 2015 with a 3.875 grade point average and was included in “Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.”

He works 28 hours a week at the front desk of a local hotel.

If you catch him shopping in the wee hours these days, it’s only because he’s pressed for time.