Once homeless to graduating with honors - Henry Ford College student beats the odds

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His love for music shines inside Henry Ford College in Dearborn - but life for Byron Brooks has not been as smooth as his key strokes when he plays the piano.

"I was raised by my great-grandparents, because my mom had me in prison," Brooks said. "And I didn't know my biological father."

Brooks, 23, grew up near Fenkell and Wyoming, he had a rough time in school.
"I got kicked out of Mumford the first week of my ninth grade year," he said. "I was hanging around the wrong crowd, got into a lot of fights."

Brooks bounced between four high schools before finishing up at Cody Academy of Public Leadership, He then enrolled at Henry Ford in 2015, studying music and recording arts.

"In the middle of that I became homeless because my mother didn't want me to go to college," he said. "She gave me an ultimatum of working at a factory or going to college. I chose college."

Brooks slept at bus stops, inside abandoned homes and even at school. Then Brooks discovered a new family there.

"One of my friends, he made sure his aunt would make lunch for me every day to make sure I was able to eat," he said. 

He was homeless for a year and a half but those uncertain days are long gone. Brooks, who will graduate as his school's president, will receive several awards but is particularly proud of his medal from the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society and the interest he's received from numerous universities.

"I've actually chosen to stay local," he said. "Because I have an offer from Ferris State, and they have a program that lines up directly with my background and what I want to do:"

Brooks plans to start school again in the fall and is majoring in music industry management, hoping to open an artist development center for at-risk youth.
"So many people here in this community and others showed so much love to me, so I owe it to them and myself to give back," he said.