Poverty to Politics
Political science student makes good on a second chance, overcoming a series of obstacles to fulfill his mother’s wish.
At the end of his second year at SUNY Brockport, Daniel Davis broke off a relationship with his fiancée. Moments later, he received a letter informing him of his academic dismissal. Then, a car accident left him without transportation and forced him to couch surf at various friends’ apartments with little more than a book bag full of toiletries.
Throughout his struggles, Davis held on to a single challenge coin from his time at Brockport. The token helped push him forward and apply for re-admittance. His second chance at Brockport would, among other things, result in him landing a prestigious internship with the New York State Assembly.
“The only thing that I carried with me (during the couch surfing time) that was not utilitarian was the challenge coin that I received on that rainy night during my first year of orientation,” Davis said.
“Through a bout of illness and immense vulnerability, she told me the only thing she had left on her bucket list was to watch one of her kids graduate from college.”
When he encountered that challenge coin from time to time, it served to subconsciously reserve a place for college in Davis’ mind. The final motivation to re-apply to Brockport came from a visit with his mother who had developed a serious cough during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was introduced to the idea of going back to college through my mother,” Davis shared. “During the start of the pandemic, my mother and I became a lot closer. Through a bout of illness and immense vulnerability, she told me the only thing she had left on her bucket list was to watch one of her kids graduate from college.”
Davis’ application was accepted for re-entry, but his academic journey was far from easy. He was balancing a full-time job alongside his classwork. The overload led him to cut corners on reading assignments. While the University’s counseling center offered relief, it was his professors that made the difference.
“If Dr. (Robert) Shum hadn’t told me very sternly that I haven’t been doing the readings properly, I probably would have tried skirting through the rest of my college career without (reading properly),” Davis said. “The entire department has been unrivaled in their level of support, compassion, and kindness. I couldn’t have effectively come back without that sort of community.”
In time, Davis’ reading comprehension of political science content improved with assistance from his professors and peers. He made the most of his second opportunity by tackling his problems head on, asking questions, staying proactive, and remaining engaged in his studies.
Davis’ hard work paid off when he secured a highly competitive opportunity to intern with the New York State Assembly working under Assemblyman David DiPietro from District 147. The district covers most of Davis’ home county of Wyoming as well as the majority of Erie County.
“We have introduced and re-introduced legislation, as well as communicated and corresponded with local towns, other municipalities, and agencies,” Davis said. “Most of us interns have learned the value of patience. We’ve watched bills that our members or staffers worked day and night to perfect, die in committee.”
Despite the legislative setbacks, Davis proudly recognizes the life-altering effect the internship has provided. He has made friends and colleagues from across the globe while expanding his professional network just a few short years after receiving notice of academic dismissal.
The soon-to-be graduate is fulfilling his mother’s dream and stepping up to meet the challenge of “Building a Better Community” presented on the coin he received during first-year orientation.