Darnell King ’23 shines just as bright today as when he first set foot on campus in 2003. As a children’s novelist and stay-at-home dad who recently added a bachelor’s degree in political science to his résumé, it’s safe to say that King has accomplished his dreams, both in his personal life and his academic career.

Shortly after arriving at Brooklyn College 20 years ago, King took a break because of personal issues. More recently, he was inspired to return because of his family members who hold advanced degrees, paired with his longing to make a positive impact in his career. “I stayed committed and dedicated and persevered through the challenges,” said King. “It took me 20 years, but I would do it all over again.”

Though he had a few Incompletes on his transcript from 2003, he was able to rectify those grades and apply his old credits to his degree in progress, allowing him to pick up where he left off—even down to having some of the same professors. Professor and Political Science Department Chair Immanuel Ness, who had King as a student in both 2003 and 2023, noted that he was still just as excellent, a gifted wordsmith, and always kind to those around him. “I remember Mr. King as an outstanding student, so I was pleased to see him return to finish his degree,” Ness said.

In Ness’ class, King completed a capstone project about conflict on the U.S.-Mexico border, sparked by his curiosity about how the conflict can be explored through a political science lens. Not only did he conduct his own research, but he also helped his fellow students to develop theirs.

This time around, King noticed a difference in his mindset, perspective, and the general course structure. “The classes I took in 2003 were very lecture-like, and the classes I took when I returned felt more engaging. The professors were understanding, and it helped make my journey a much easier one,” he said.

Not only did King notice a difference in his classes, but also in his point of view. “The School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the melting pot of different cultures, classes, and people at Brooklyn College have helped me look at the world with a new perspective,” he said, thankful that he had the opportunity to learn more than what was in his textbooks.

Many students, like King, have seamlessly picked up where they had left off college many years ago with support from the Brooklyn College Reconnect Program, which pairs older, returning students with an advisor who helps guide them through the re-application process, financial aid, and other facets of college life.

King hopes that his story can inspire those around him who are considering going back to school, no matter how long it has been. “I hope that people can use my experience as a backbone to say, ‘Well, you know what? It doesn’t stop here,’” he said.

King plans to apply to a variety of graduate programs as he reflects on what he has learned. He is currently looking into law school programs that specialize in mental health policy as well as master’s degree programs in mental health counseling. Whatever advanced degree he chooses, he will tap into his empathy and strong writing and communication skills to make a difference in the lives of others. This year, he will publish his debut children’s novel, Bee U, which teaches young readers to remember who they are inside, have courage, and persevere through hardship. Just like he did.