Following Your Passion — A NAF Alumnus’ Journey To Computer Science

Brandon Parrish
December 12, 2019

I’ve always worked hard in the classroom and on the field, but it was hard finding the right balance. There was always an assumption—mainly in the black community—that the only option I had to be successful was by running on a track field or throwing a football to a wide receiver. Computer Science was not an option.

When football season came around, I’d see some parents willing to find a way to pay for practice fees but unwilling to fund the books and supplies their kids needed to get the best grades in class. When I debated focusing on my studies instead of football, my parents didn’t quite understand why I was choosing this path. They would tell me I was lucky to be able to excel in both because not everyone was able to do the same. Even though I knew they were right, I realized it was unfair for me to not fully focus on my passion. I felt I was wasting a lot of people’s time, particularly my coaches’ and my own by doing so.

It became clear to me that it was up to me to see a vision for my future and what is best for me, so I decided to focus on what I was most passionate about: Computer Science.

Computer Science made me want to study hard in school to become the best I could be. It inspired me to take up opportunities like the NAF Future Ready Lab Powered by Capital One where I worked with other interns on solving challenging business problems through innovation and design thinking.

But my decision to choose Computer Science over football was still a foreign one to my community. The assumption that a black man’s only value in the world is success in sports persisted.

Since I’ve made the commitment to pursue my passion in Computer Science, I have made it my mission to inspire black kids who experienced the same pushback when pursuing their true passions. Seeing the impact for these kids, I told myself that once I become successful enough, I want to return to my community and tell them my story. I want them to know there is no one-way street in life; black men can and do make it without relying solely on their athleticism.

Because I like to finish what I started, I still play and enjoy sports. Being part of a team has enhanced my leadership skills and ability to work with others to achieve the same goal. These are skills that will help me in my career in Computer Science. I’m currently studying Software Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington where I’m a member of the National Society of Black Engineers. I have decided this will be my last season playing football and I look forward to a future where I pursue the things I am most passionate about while setting that example for others.

This #CSEdWeek, share your journey in computer science education with NAF!

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Brandon Parrish is an alumnus of the Academy Of Health Sciences at Sunset High School in Dallas, Texas.