Originally from Laconia, NH, Michael Brown has led an interesting and remarkable journey that has landed him on the campus of UNH. Mike’s story proves that as people, we can rally around others and help them to realize their goals. This May, Mike will be graduating from the Thompson School of Applied Sciences with a major in Community Service and Leadership. He plans to transfer into the Community Development Program in one of UNH’s four-year colleges. Mike has traveled from Laconia to Durham, and along the way his journey has taken some unexpected twists, including moments of healing as well as moments of despair.
To say that Mike is an involved individual would most certainly be an understatement. Mike is incredibly giving of his time, energy, and expertise. Some programs he has advocated for include: New Hampshire Public Television, AIDS Response Seacoast and the AIDS walk, Alternative Spring Break, Habitat for Humanity, City Year, LGBT, and Lamprey Health Care, where he has volunteered and worked for the last 4 years. Mike explains that his work at Lamprey Health Care has really allowed him to grow and reach out to people. He has worn various hats in his time there from coordinator of an Outreach Program for asthma sufferers (he himself is an asthma sufferer) to a supervisory position in the Medical Records department.
Mike describes his first semester at UNH as being a difficult transition for him. “I had a lack of confidence in myself and my abilities…a lot of that insecurity was inspired by my high school experience.” Mike attended a high school in New Hampshire that made him out to be an outcast and eventually asked him not to return for his senior year. “My three years in high school were awful. I didn’t want to be there and the teachers didn’t want me there.” Mike felt that the teachers at his school “knew who [students] to invest time in and who not to invest time in.” During his junior year, Mike’s guidance counselor told him that he should leave school and that he was “taking up an extra chair.” It was at that point that he realized no one was an advocate for him. Mike has made it his mission to be an advocate for those who don’t have one. “Being thrown out of high school [on the first day of his senior year] threw me into an emotional whirlwind. I wanted a better life for myself, and knew that I needed to overcome all of my problems [poor family life, drugs, alcohol].” Since that time Mike has re-dedicated himself to being a good person who makes good choices for himself and the others around him.
Since becoming enrolled here at UNH, Mike has gained tremendous confidence and has been inspired to help others more often. “UNH has allowed me to see that I have what it takes…to get a degree. It has let me see my true talent.” Even with his successes and gained independence, Mike claims that battling shadows of his past remains a constant battle. “I always hear the voice in the back of my head telling me that I can’t do this.” Mike attributes much of his success to Kate Hansen, Director of his program in the Thompson School. “Kate really helped me to see that it [the program] would be a good fit. I never realized how perfect the two-year experience would be for me. I had been out of high school for so long.” Mike says that Kate’s efforts in investing in her students, taking a lot of chances, and allowing students to see their true talents towards success have not gone unnoticed.
Mike realizes that the academics will only get more difficult from here. He knows that he will need to put in many more hours studying in order to get the job done. “I need to study at home where there are no distractions. Unlike other people, I need a quiet area where I can be focused.” Mike says that his partner, Bob, has been an incredible influence on him, supporting him to fulfill his true potential. Through his first two years at UNH Mike says that a lot has changed socially. “The first year I felt isolated…I couldn’t relate on multiple levels with the other students. The age difference was definitely there.” But during the past year Mike describes an amazing turn-around where he has been able to really open up and get caught up in some great dialogue. In the long term Mike sees himself becoming more and more involved with community service. “I want to be a role model for people who don’t have others investing in them…I want to invest in the people who nobody will invest in.” Ultimately, Mike wants to be more “comfortable in his own skin and be happy in life.”