Purpose. Dream. Leadership.
In June of 2007, my Professor Frances Frei challenged me in a way that no one else has. She told us how she disagrees with some African-American parents because they push their children to work for the “big name” companies, instead of doing something your passionate about. At this point, I said Wow! Only because that’s exactly how I was raised. I began to think about what I am passionate about. After a few days of analyzing this question, I realized that I am passionate about helping others. This is when I got the idea of creating a platform that supports purpose, dream, and leadership.
Considering my past, and challenges I faced growing up in Detroit I wanted to focus on minorities in urban areas who may not have the resources and provide them with assistance, mentorship, motivation, and encouragement to birth their dreams.
This organization would use leadership techniques to create more confidence in students who may be unconfident from the environment they were raised in. The idea is to take the average student who has potential and develop them into a world class leader at an early age. I want to create a model that will significantly increase the chances of becoming successful, and promote community projects to revitalize urban cities that once were financially stable.
Exposure is another major component to the organization I want to create, because if you don’t have an idea to what’s out there, how can you have anything to seek? I want to expose my students to different languages, culture, and countries all across the world.
Growing up, I learned a lot about the importance of having dreams. Mr. William Latham once said, “Dreams are the midwife of your greatness that usher in the travailing destiny that others will benefit from throughout the totality of your life!” Throughout my life, my dreams have kept me focused and helped me make progress despite overwhelming challenges. I grew up in poverty in Detroit, in a single-parent home. My mother was on welfare, and our resources were limited. That’s why, to me, it was nothing not to have a car, or not to go shopping for clothes, or not having a lot for Christmas, or just not having money, period. So as I grew up I embraced what I did have. If I lacked the resources I somehow either found or made a way. I made the best out of every situation.
Detroit was a hard place to grow up. Track and field was my escape from the hostile society that surrounded me. Track gave me the opportunity to travel the country and see the world beyond Detroit. I excelled in high school track -- I was recognized both locally and nationally in the sport and was named an All-American. Being an All-American was my most significant accomplishment up to that point. That award made me confident that I did not have to succumb to the streets of Detroit, that I could take the opportunity to do something positive.
After struggling through my first few years of college, primarily because of a lack of financial support, I chose to sit out a year and work to save enough money to return to school. It was difficult running track, working, and going to school. I had zero financial aid, so working was my only option. And I worked hard. I often worked sixty hours per week, and saved my money. After a year of working and growing, I eventually earned enough to go back to school and allow myself to concentrate on my studies. I was more driven and more focused than ever. I worked hard to improve my G.P.A. and secure an internship, and I was also admitted to the Harvard Business School 2007 Summer Venture in Management Program.
My faith has given me the strength to overcome adversity. I was the first person to graduate from college in my family, and it took everyone’s love and support to get me there. Many sacrifices and prayers helped my dreams, and degree become a reality. So when I received my degree I didn’t keep it -- I proudly and humbly gave it to my family because they deserved it just as much as I did.
While in Detroit Public Schools (DPS), I acquired deep understanding of facts about the disparity in the urban education systems in the United States. Personally, I was typically a good student, if that simply means doing what I was instructed to do. In reality, I wasn’t. I lacked the necessary fundamentals to perform well compared to the average student. I didn’t realize that I was underperforming until I had an opportunity to spend a semester at a school in a suburban school district in Georgia. In Detroit, I was getting A’s and B’s on everything. My first couple of weeks in the school in Georgia, I was failing geometry and chemistry. I was in complete disbelief, considering that I just received an A in both of those classes in Detroit. My teachers took time out to identify the root cause. It turned out that some critical fundamentals were simply not there. So I was put in other courses to gain those fundamentals. That was the moment that I realized that schools are different. Achievement was measured differently. A good student in Detroit could be an underperforming, obedient student. A good student in the suburban school was a student that performed at a high level compared to the national average.
The life-changing experience I had in my “Foundations of Leadership” course during my senior year of undergrad helped me identify there was something else out there for me to do to. During the course we learned about more than leadership. The class was focused on finding our passion, realizing our purpose, and living our dreams. This course gave me the confidence to believe in my dreams. It encouraged me to inspire others in my actions, and to walk in excellence everyday. Out of all the classes I took throughout my undergraduate matriculation, this is the course that inspired me to pursue greatness and become a world-class leader and a force for positive change. The result of the classes aided me in creating a mentoring program, called Developing Renewing Embracing Aspiring Men (D.R.E.A.M). This program gave young black male freshmen a support system for issues that they faced and will ultimately face during their matriculation in their college years. I encouraged them to seek purpose and follow their passion. I wanted them to create and sustain momentum and change on campus and in their community, and learn and apply the leadership principles that were taught in the Leadership course. I learned the skills and the mindset that was needed to make an impact.
Q&A With Daniel
It’s not so much why do I feel connected to help minorities, but more so individuals that have obstacles in life from the jump. Many kids are born into poverty. You don’t ask to be born poor. Poverty sees no color. It’s just that a large portion of minorities within in urban communities fall into this circle. If it’s not poverty, it lack of support, negative influenced environments, the idea that to get what you want out of life you need to hustle on the block. I know kids whose families had more money than mine, but did not have the motivation, that faith, the exposure that I was provided with. I am connected to help kids, teenagers, young adults that want more out of life than what they see now.
All-American in Track in Field – High School
First in Family to Graduate from college; then graduate degree
Selected as a participant in the Harvard Business School (HBS) Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP) – 2007
Progressive career in Aerospace & Defense Industry (Boeing & Northrop Grumman)
Pledging $10K + to philanthropic efforts