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UA Little Rock alum authors book about challenging life in Arkansas

Tracey McMillon-Roland

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate authored a powerful book about growing up in the projects, earning a college education as a single parent and foster parent to her five younger siblings, and building a successful career to support her family. 

Tracey Lynn Roland-McMillon, a 1994 UA Little Rock graduate, released her book, “Defying the Odds,” in October 2016.

The book is described as “a testament to men, women, children and people of all races that you can make it, regardless of where you come from, your circumstances, or the many life challenges that present themselves as roadblocks.”

Born in Little Rock as the third oldest of eight children, Roland-McMillon took responsibility for raising her five younger siblings when she turned 18, and they went into foster care when their mother could no longer support them. At the time, her four younger sisters and younger brother were 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

Already a single mother to son Geremy, whom she gave birth to as a senior at Little Rock Central High School, Roland-McMillon started taking classes at UA Little Rock in 1987 as a way to provide a future for herself and her family. She earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in liberal arts.

“My book is about being a young mother and taking on the responsibilities of my younger siblings, going to school and struggling, living in an environment that was saturated with drugs and violence and abuse, and the people who were key in my lifeline,” she said.

After graduating, Roland-McMillon first opened and ran a paralegal company for several years. She later moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where she has been a college instructor and worked as a mathematical statistician with the Department of Defense.

“My story is one that needs to be shared, because it inspires and motivates people of all ages,” she said. “It fosters a belief that one can reach goals far beyond their imaginations. It allows people to dream and shows a resolve of determination that if you want it, you can achieve it, despite the hand or circumstances you’re dealt with.”

Roland-McMillon credits Janet Tate, her eighth-grade English teacher at Pulaski Heights Junior High School, and Tate’s ex-husband, Sherman, for supporting her throughout her education.

“Education is the vessel to endless opportunities. My education has opened many doors for me,” she said.

Roland-McMillon continues to spread the message of her book though public speaking at high schools, rotary clubs and colleges, which she hopes will inspire young people to never give up on life, family, and education.

“When I speak, I always see people shedding a tear in the audience, because they know what it’s like to grow up without food and lights and running water at times,” she said. “They know what’s like to be abused, and they know you can grow up to overcome any obstacle in life, just like I did.”

Roland-McMillon is married and has two children, Geremy and Jayde, along with four grandchildren, who reside with their parents in California and Georgia. She also won a community service award for her work as chair of the Hampton Roads Community Health Center Board.

For more information, contact Roland-McMillon at or 757.575.5970.