If anyone has proven that you can overcome overwhelming odds and not only survive but thrive, it’s HFC alumnus Byron Brooks.

Brooks was born while his mother was in prison, and was raised by his great-grandparents. For more than a year during his time at HFC, he was homeless, sleeping in parks, bus stops, and abandoned buildings.

To make ends meet and pay for his tuition, Brooks worked several jobs. Many would have thrown in the towel at this point, but not Brooks. He gutted it out, but he didn’t do it alone. The HFC faculty learned of his plight and helped him wherever they could. They referred him to the counseling office and even helped him purchase a car.

Their belief in him bolstered his sagging courage.

“The support of the faculty pushed me and encouraged me to keep going and not give up on my dreams,” said Brooks, who graduated with his associate degree in music and recording arts May 5.
 “Their support is what pushed me to run for Student Council, because I wanted to pay back that love to the student body and make a difference so no other student would have to go through what I went through.”

Brooks’ soft-spoken, deeply respectful demeanor belies an intense drive that has led him to success in and out of the classroom.

He eventually ran for president of the HFC Student Council and won the election. Some of his accomplishments during his presidency include implementing a Diversity Taskforce Constitution, sponsoring the Heroes Profile Showroom for the newly-formed Animation/Comic Book/Gaming Club, and participating in the 2017-18 Presidential Advisory Search Committee.

Brooks’ ultimate goal is to open a non-profit youth artist development center for at-risk youth who aspire to careers in mainstream music. Music has always been Brooks’ great passion. At age 4, his great-grandmother taught him how to play the piano.

“From there, I taught myself several other instruments: drums, guitar, trumpet, saxophone, trombone, harmonica,” said Brooks, who also sings at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Detroit.

Education is his top priority

Upon graduating, Brooks was accepted to top schools such as Harvard University, Howard University, Southern Illinois University, Columbia University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan. However, for the 2018-19 academic year, he’s attending Ferris State University in Big Rapids, studying music industry management.

“All of these schools are prestigious schools and I’m honored to have been accepted by them,” said Brooks. “I chose FSU because its program lines up so closely with my goals. I want to be both a musician and a businessman. This way, I can come back and help my community.”

Brooks has already set up a limited liability company called Byron D. Brooks Enterprises, LLC. In fact, HFC faculty members Bryan Beeler, Anthony Lai, and Jeremy Palmer serve on the company’s advisory board.

“It all goes back to HFC. I couldn’t have done it without these teachers and mentors. All of them helped me become who I am today,” said Brooks. “It’s a great school with great qualities and unique characteristics that are beneficial to all students.

“There’s a real sense of family here; I see my fellow students as my siblings. The teachers want you to succeed, and they will go out of their way to help you. I’m proof of that. You’re not just a paycheck to them; you’re a person. HFC is what made me who I am today.”