Education wasn’t a priority in Daryl Griffin’s family. “I lost my father at a young age and my mother, brothers and I moved around a lot,” says Griffin, a fourth-semester Criminal Justice major at BMCC. “I didn’t put much effort into schoolwork. My attitude was, ‘whatever grade I got, that’s what I got.’”
Unsure about what he wanted to do with his life, Griffin enlisted in the Marines and served honorably in combat. But by the time he was discharged and returned home, he was burdened with a drinking problem and severe anxieties about his future. “It was a tough time,” he says.
But Griffin was tougher. With the encouragement of friends, he quit drinking and smoking, got back into shape—and, one day in 2009, called Eric Glaudé, BMCC’s counselor specializing in veteran affairs.
Getting back on track
“He wanted to know how to go about enrolling in BMCC as a veteran,” recalls Glaudé, who asked questions, learned about Griffin’s military background, and suggested that he come to the campus to continue the conversation.
“We hit it off from the beginning,” Glaudé says. “This was a bright, highly motivated young man, willing to do whatever was asked of him—and determined to get an education.”
An ex-Army man himself, Glaudé works closely with veteran counselors in each of the college’s administrative departments, helping veteran-students navigate the complexities of enrollment and registration, learn what benefits they’re entitled to, and “deal with any issues they may face—academic, administrative, vocational or psychological.”
Griffin worked hard in his first year at BMCC, making ample use of the services available to him and meeting often with Glaudé, who became his advisor, cheerleader and friend.
By the end of his second semester, Griffin was active in the BMCC Veterans Club, initially serving as treasurer and eventually as president. “He was a great president—hands-on, creative, and extremely well-liked,” Glaudé says.
Meanwhile, Griffin was pulling straight As. He was also thinking about ways to reach out to others who had traveled the same road as he. That’s when he learned about PROVE.
Another chance to help
Through PROVE—the Project for Return and Opportunity in Veterans Education—interns from the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work provides counseling services to returning veterans enrolled at a CUNY school.
The program also recruits student veterans as mentors. “Naturally, Daryl signed on,” says Glaudé. “Whenever there was a chance to help, he was there.”
At the same time, Griffin played—and continues to play—an active role in the Veterans Resource Center. “All sorts of problems can arise when you’re a newly-returned vet, or even if you’ve been back a while,” he says. “For example, sometimes a vet will have trouble getting their pay or VA benefits.” With nearly four semesters behind him, not to mention his own frustrating encounters with administrative snafus, Griffin is well-qualified to help.
“VA benefits can be tricky, and sometimes a hold-up in pay means that school isn’t paid for,” he says. “But we have good working relationships with the college’s bursars and registrars, so that I can usually intercede on a veteran’s behalf and solve the problem.”
Somehow, Griffin found the time to fall in love with a fellow volunteer. Their son Isaiah spends virtually as much time as his dad on the BMCC campus—specifically at the Early Childhood Center (ECC).
“Isaiah absolutely loves the center,” says Griffin. “When I go to pick him up, I have trouble getting him to leave; he just wants to stay and keep playing with the friends he’s made there.”
The ECC, he adds, “gives Isaiah a wonderful place to be, where he can be with other kids and start learning to read and write. At the same time it frees me to focus on my education. It’s been an amazing resource for my entire family.”
Veteran, father, student
Griffin’s daily interactions with Isaiah reveal “a strong commitment to family,” says ECC’s executive director, Cecilia Scott-Croff. “Darryl is a loving and actively involved dad. If there is a family that stands out and speaks to the mission of the ECC, his family is it.”
Griffin credits BMCC as an integral part of his reentry to civilian life. “The opportunity to work with other veterans here and help them reintegrate back into society has been incredibly rewarding,” he says.
Those opportunities, together with the support of the ECC, “have helped me become a solid man—as a veteran, a father and a student—while giving my son an opportunity to flourish.”
Griffin will continue his studies next semester at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Darryl’s emotional resiliency is going to take him far in life,” says Scott-Croff. Glaudé agrees. Griffin, he says, “is one class act.”