Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center (MSB-BC) is extremely fortunate to be one of three AVID for Higher Education (AHE) schools in the state of Minnesota. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a system in the elementary and secondary levels that prepares students for college. AVID students learn study skills, collaboration, accountability, and a sense of community. Because of AVID’s success, AHE was developed. AHE helps students with persistence in college and success in their careers.
MSB-BC is currently in their second year of implementation with the AHE program, and it has shown to be highly beneficial for the students. Throughout the three years that it takes to have the program fully implemented throughout the school, staff and faculty receive phenomenal training from AHE representatives. At the beginning of January, the MSB-BC community welcomed Jonathan Grant Brown back for his second adventure with the campus.
Brown is an AVID Alumnus and most recently was promoted to the position of program manager in marketing and communication for AHE. Brown is a motivational speaker and works to show students that there can be a bright future ahead. To fully understand the ‘why,’ one must first hear his story.
When Brown was five years old, he and his younger brother were at the local park with their mom. At one point during their trip, he remembers watching his mom beginning to cross the street; she told her sons that she was going to the store to get snacks for a picnic in the park. It was not odd to either boy to leave them alone because she had done it before; however, she had always left them with another person. The boys found other kids to play with, and throughout the day, families would come and go.
Nighttime came. The two boys found a concrete tunnel and hid in it for two nights. On the second night, a police officer found them, and Brown, not wanting to get his mom in trouble, told the officer that they ran away from the baby sitter. The officer brought both boys to the baby-sitter’s house, and the boys played with the sitter’s children. Later in the evening, the police came back with a woman who wanted to take them. Initially not wanting to leave with the strange woman, Brown said that they were not going anywhere. After being promised that they would be reunited with their mom after two days, though, he packed some clothes for himself and his brother, and they left.
Two days turned into fourteen years in foster care. Throughout his time in foster care, it seemed as if no one could tell Brown and his brother what to do. The only element in their life that they could control was their behavior, so they misbehaved. They misbehaved time and time again so that they could move to a new location.
Finally, when Brown turned nine years old, he was told that a letter arrived from his mom. As Brown said, “I was excited because a letter or a picture meant that she was still real.” The letter said that their mother was relinquishing all parental rights, so Brown did what he knew best: he kicked, screamed, and ran away. Between the two boys, this behavior cycled several times, and eventually, a judge decided to split them up because “enough was enough.”
Junior high was the most difficult for Brown because he dealt with all of his problems in a physical manner. Then high school came, and he learned that age eighteen his time in foster care would end, which meant no food or shelter. Brown no longer had a goal of turning eighteen, much less graduating. What changed everything for Brown? He was introduced to a program called AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) during his freshman year by his algebra teacher. While he never was in the habit of listening to teachers, he actually liked this one. He did the homework and even took the tests, which he received A’s on! So, when his algebra teacher recommended his for the AVID program, he was leery at first to fill out the application because he knew that he was not meant for college. He did it, though, to make the teacher happy, and after the teacher left, he threw it away.
The next day, he found his crumpled application taped to his locker with a note telling him that he “would be at the interview.” He went to the interview, but only because that meant skipping class. The AVID teacher took one look at his crumpled application and made him fill out a new one. She asked what he wanted to do with his future, to which he replied, “I don’t have a future…I won’t even have a family when I turn eighteen.” She was the first person that he ever shared that he was a foster child because he had always been too embarrassed up to that point.
She didn’t feel sorry for him. She told Brown that his life would be valuable to him every time he overcame a barrier because he would know hard work. He now knew that he would have to get to college. If anything, college would be his new foster home with food and shelter.
AVID taught Brown how to become a better student. He could make the grades. He learned that going to college was about discovering a new way of learning. Brown graduated from high school in 2006.
He enrolled at Texas Tech and even received a scholarship to play football, which he lost due to an injury. Brown did not let that stop him, and he decided to go to a junior college to heal and take classes. While he was there, he did news and radio and even worked with ESPN and Fox Sports. Eventually, Brown graduated from the junior college with a communications degree and then went to graduate school. While in graduate school, he taught an AHE freshman seminar at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Brown told his students, “You won’t get “there” if it is too much work. Grow critical thinking abilities. Get the paper that says you are good enough to do whatever you want to do. Show them that you can do it.”
In December 2013, Brown graduated with a Master in Professional Education. He now works for AHE and continues to be a motivational speaker.
Where did he end up with family? He moved to Killeen, Texas, when he and his brother were split up and was adopted by the Brown family when he was seventeen. He did see his birth mom at a gas station during his freshman year in college and made eye contact a few times with her before she left. Heading to the Brown household right after, he realized that they were his family. That was his home and the one God intended for him. Looking at the other kids that his parents were still fostering, he realized that life was not hard for just him when he looked at the other foster kids there. His idea of success changed then. He needed to knock down barriers for the other kids, too.
Brown said, “Everyone has a life story. His “why” he was in college changed that day. The “why” is what will get you to the satisfaction of walking across the stage and being able to say ‘I told you so’ to all those who said you couldn’t get there.”
The MSB-BC campus community thanks Brown for sharing his story with students, staff, and faculty. He is truly inspiring to everyone here!
For more information on the AVID for Higher Education program at the Brooklyn Center campus, please call 763-566-7777.