Persistence pays off for SC State graduating senior with sights on education career

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

ORANGEBURG, S.C. – An attitude adjustment. Support from trusted friends and mentors. Faith. Perseverance. And in the end, an iron will.

Brandon Mckinnedy needed all those things along his path to graduate with a teaching degree from South Carolina State University. The Greenville, South Carolina, native is among more than 260 seniors slated to receive degrees from the university on Friday, May 7.

Professor Leon Myers “My attitude was bad,” he said. “I know that I struggled with that. I struggled with people pulling on me and not pouring into me.”

At his lowest point, Mckinnedy turned to his faith and his mother for guidance.

“I’m glad that I am in the right head space now,” he said. “I’m glad that I came out on top. I’m glad that I am seeing the future as I walk ahead.”

After graduation, Mckinnedy will begin his education career as a sixth-grade science teacher at Robert E. Howard Middle School in Orangeburg. Ultimately, he hopes to complete graduate degrees and progress through administrative positions to become a district superintendent.

He was not always sure he would be on that path.

His hurdles included anxieties about mathematics, which prevented him from passing the Praxis exam to gain his teaching license over numerous attempts.

“That was a huge weight on my shoulders,” Mckinnedy said. “I never knew I was going to see this day wearing a cap and gown and receiving my bachelor’s degree in elementary education.”

Test fees were adding up, and he often used his last dollars to give the Praxis another go. His frustrations spilled over into his academic pursuits.

“There were times when I went to class and my teacher had to tell me to chill out,” he said. “I would come to class so mad because I was thinking, ‘What is wrong with me.’

There were times when I wanted to change my major and take the easy way out.

“I thought I was going to be here another seven or eight years or longer, because I did not know I was going to see this day.”

He credits SC State’s Call Me MiSTER program and its director Dr. Rashad Anderson with helping him overcome his attitude and anxiety. Call Me MiSTER is a collaboration between Clemson University and other colleges and universities, including SC State, to recruit and train more Black male teachers, who make up a fraction of the workforce in U.S. classrooms. The program is highly competitive and provides scholarships and stipends.

“This program has shaped me because I have had brothers come into my life,” Mckinnedy said. “They made sure not only was I squared away for the classroom but had my inner self together.

“I’m grateful for them, because if it wasn’t for first, God, and then them I would not be where I am today.” Having passed other subject sections of the Praxis exam for elementary education, Mckinnedy reached out to Call Me MiSTER brother Yancey Washington.

“He was able to sit down with me and help me overcome my math fear. I was able to pass math with flying colors,” he said. “I stuck with the fight instead of giving up.”

He found additional brotherhood in Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

“We speak together as family, and they don’t hesitate to call you out if you are wrong about anything,” he said. “I am grateful to be in a chapter where we strive to build together and make sure we are of one accord and we are straight at the end of the day.”

Professor Leon Myers 2   

Mckinnedy also credits his involvement in student leadership -- beginning as a freshman and concluding as vice president and chaplain of the Student Government Association -- with bolstering his experience at SC State.

“When I got on campus, there was nothing but laughter and fun, people watching out for me and making sure I was good on my end because I was a freshman,” he said. “They made sure I was involved in student leadership immediately.”

The experience kept his ego in check.

“All the time, you have to make sure you’re able to work with others. I’ve learned I need to keep my mouth closed at times,” Mckinnedy said. “When you have a boss or someone in charge, sometimes you just need to keep your trap closed and do the work.

“I’ve learned to control my emotions, because usually what someone is saying is actually trying to help and not trying to harm you in no way, shape, form or fashion. You have to make sure you have that compassion for others and you’re able to help others when you see them struggling.”

Media Contact
Sam Watson
Public Information Officer
South Carolina State University