Brandon Smith and Howard Patton
The Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male (BNRC) at The Ohio State University has sparked many lifelong friendships between its organization’s members. The same happened for Brandon Smith and Howard Patton. With Brandon Smith being from Atlanta, Georgia, and Howard Patton from Cincinnati, Ohio, it would have been a challenge meeting each other. However, out of all the organizations they were involved in on campus, the BNRC brought them the closest together. In addition, the BNRC had the biggest impact on them. For Brandon, the BNRC represented a dedication to service, purpose, and excellence. It demonstrated a very clear standard to be a servant leader and to stand for nothing short of excellence. On the other hand, for Howard, the BNRC represented a high standard and provided him with a true sense that he was worthy and cultured. He now carries himself much higher and hopes to be a beacon of light for other Black males on Ohio State’s campus.
Together, Brandon Smith and Howard Patton wanted to travel abroad to Panama; however, they didn’t have the required money to do so. Nevertheless, the BNRC helped to fund the trip so that these two men could go. The Panama trip moved Howard and Brandon so much that they formulated the Smith+Patton Study Abroad Scholarship. They saw the scholarship as a chance to give back to a unit that did so much for them over their years on campus and to provide support to worthy underrepresented populations at Ohio State. They committed to fund at least one BNRC student a year to support the mission that the BNRC works hard to bring to life every day.
Having a responsibility to serve also contributed to making the scholarship. Mr. Patton and Mr. Smith wanted to be intentional about having direct influence on connecting underrepresented students with the rest of the world. Creating this scholarship came from a very natural and honest place for Mr. Patton and Mr. Smith. They have managed to raise over $13,000 and have been awarded the 2014 Columbus Black Achievement Award. In addition, they have also become the youngest living alumni of Ohio State with an active, self-named scholarship. They both advise to make a difference now.
Even with these awards, their most sacred reward is knowing they helped to give underrepresented students a chance. With all they have seen and done, Howard Patton and Brandon Smith offer this advice to current students. Together, they believe that students have everything at their disposal and all the time in the world to take advantage of it. While they believe college is an experience in growth, fun, and self-discovery, they emphasize the point to not allow it to be the “best time of their life.” They advise that the best time to act is now. They have found that their most successful friends didn’t sit on their dreams, but instead went after them head-on.
In addition to this advice, being underrepresented has impacted Mr. Patton and Mr. Smith upon graduation. For Howard Patton, being an underrepresented male has been an experience of forced assimilation post-graduation. His father always taught him that Black people had to be the ones to assimilate, and that has held true thus far. Growing up in a mixed family, he has little discomfort in predominantly White settings; however, he realizes that he cannot bring his true self to work because there is risk of becoming the stereotype that people expect. On the other hand, for Brandon Smith, Ohio State was a complete 180-degree shift in cultural surroundings coming from his neighborhood in Atlanta. However, he knew that his dreams would require him to be comfortable in environments where his skin color and background weren’t the majority. He believes this skill is essential in business and can be the catalyst in a career as a leader.
Written by Bell student Yonatan Tsige.