Against the Odds – Minority Male Uses His Experience to Support His Peers
Darnel attributes his success to sheer resilience. The 21 year old is graduating with his Associate of Arts after three years. Broward College was not Darnel’s first choice. A high academic achiever and student leader in high school, he received an offer to attend the University of Florida. Excited, he accepted the offer but it was not until he and his mother arrived in Gainesville that he realized that the financial aid offered would not nearly be enough to offset the cost of tuition and housing.
Luckily for him, he had accepted the advice of Broward College representatives who visited in high school in his senior year and had applied to the institution. He was immediately offered the Irmgard Bocchino Freshmen Scholarship (IRMS). His tuition and books were fully covered for his entire first year.
However, coming from single family home where his mother was the sole provider, Darnel needed to find ways he could assist. In addition to several leadership roles at the Robert “Bob” Elmore Honors College, he was juggling a 20 hour work study job at the College and working the same amount of hours in a popular retail store. “Though I was doing well in my extracurricular activities, I struggled with balancing my academic performance. During my sophomore year, my household experienced some financial instability which pressured me to work about 40 hours per week and attend school full time. With the stress of work, school, and other personal problems my academics performance declined over the next three semesters.”
His grades suffered and he fell behind. Soon, Darnel lost his scholarships and eligibility for Financial Aid. It was stressful but he was undaunted. “Failure was not an option,” he said. “Education is the only way to move ahead. He paused as he recalled how difficult it was to press ahead but the smile that followed spoke volumes of triumph even before he continued. “I did not give up faith or lose momentum, I’ve paid for my last three semesters out of pocket by working and with some help from my family and friends, who I have now paid back and owe no debt to!”
Darnel’s experience motivated him to become a peer counsellor with the Broward College Minority Male initiative. A program to help young men of color who are at risk stay on track with their academic goals. “My experience is familiar to one too many minority males, but unfortunately many are not able to persist in their education like I have due to barriers. Although my academic journey at Broward has come to a close, my work with MMI has just begun and I plan on being a mentor to students who are experiencing similar barriers and are unsure of what to do next.”
Darnel’s other accomplishments include being elected Honors Student Committee President from 2015-2016. In 2016 he was awarded Seahawk Outstanding Leadership Award (2016), selected to introduce Hillary Clinton to Broward College during her election campaign rally at Broward College and a member of the 2017 Broward College 2017 Hackathon winning team in the “Code for a Cause” category.
Darnel is moving on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science this fall. His desire is to work in the creation of artificial intelligence that assists people with learning disabilities.