Burnette wants to inspire and give back to his community

Greg Burnette is an Aggies fan, having received his associates degree in electronics from the A&M extension school in 1983. “I try to alternate, one day Rams and the next an Aggies, I support both my schools,” he said.

Greg Burnette is an Aggies fan, having received his associates degree in electronics from the A&M extension school in 1983. “I try to alternate, one day Rams and the next an Aggies, I support both my schools,” he said.

About four years ago, Greg Burnette didn’t want to live. In November of 2017, Burnette parked his car under a bridge in Itasca, Texas on the shoulder of 35W South and stared up at the dirty ceiling of the car he now called home. He lay on the reclined driver seat, waiting for his body to shut down from starvation. 

“I prayed to God, I said, either take me or save me. I don’t care which, just make it permanent,” he said. 

Burnette had lost his long-standing job at Xerox and IBM, laser printing for 28 years of his life. He recalled the first few weeks after getting laid-off, “I slept by a phone 24/7. So, I was just under constant pressure.” 

But after some time, and several short-term jobs, Burnette began to lose hope and prepared for the worst, distancing himself from his two kids and grandchildren and refusing to eat for almost a month. 

That night, Burnette had been sitting in his car for six days and wasn’t sure he would survive. 

The next morning, a truck driver rapped on Burnette’s window and got him the help he needed. From the ambulance to the Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth, Greg Burnette was set on a new path, one where he found out he had been suffering from major depression. 

“I just went down a death spiral, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I just lost all hope to live, just didn’t care about anything,” Burnette said. 

After he began medication and therapy, Burnette found out about a program at TCC South campus that helps those who are homeless transition into college. He was thrilled to go back to school. 

“With the professors that originally got me in, they majored in and taught psychology. So, I got real interested in that and all the treatments that it went through. I just decided, you know, God gave me a gift and it’s to give back,” he said. 

Burnette said he never thought he’d get into Texas Wesleyan, but he was very blessed to have what he has now, “When you have peace in your life, you can’t put a price tag on that,” he said. 

Burnette said he knew he wanted to major in psychology because he wants to be able to help people in the same way he had received help.  

“With this pandemic, the homeless population and the people in need are more than ever now. I actually saw that one in five Americans suffer from some sort of mental illness. And most people just don’t realize it; they shrug it off to this or that or they start doing drugs or alcohol,” he said. 

TCC was the place Burnette discovered what he wanted to do in life, but Texas Wesleyan was the place he discovered why.  

Dr. Kendra Weddle, a religion professor here at Wesleyan, met Burnette on the first day of school, where she had presented a prompt to her students asking them to write about their childhood experiences. 

“He gave me a copy of the Dallas Morning News article to read. I thought that that said a lot about him, because he was being vulnerable with me right off the bat,” she said. 

Weddle sees Burnette using his experience, not as a way to focus on himself, but simply as a way to be able to share any insight he has with others. She finds him to be very courageous and unique. 

“I think that he is intentional about reflecting on his life experience and wanting to make the most of it. I think it gives him a strong sense of purpose and meaning, he brings that to the study,” Weddle said. 

Burnette said he had never considered minoring in Religion, but looking into it, he found that it paired so well with what he had been through. “God just keeps opening doors, it’s just amazing,” he said. 

Burnette’s 27-year-old son and a 30-year-old daughter, whom he never thought he’d see again, reconnected with him through Facebook. After reestablishing the relationship with his kids, Burnette got to meet his grandchildren for the first time. 

“I think that was God’s way of rewarding me for what I went through and sticking it out and showing me hopefully, to be able to show other people, to never lose hope because there’s always something out there,” he said. 

Burnette now describes himself as a much better person, for the first time in a long time. While Texas Wesleyan is a lot more challenging than TCC, he’s been enjoying not having to be online, like he had been for the past year and a half. 

“Just getting back into that routine and learning time management again is an adjustment, but I go to the volleyball games, and I plan to go to a football game. I support my school, and I’m enjoying the experience. I might be a little older than most y’all, but I still got the same fever that y’all probably do so it’s a good feeling and I’m very blessed,” Burnette said.