Passion, Purpose and the Drive to Keep Living
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
In October 2015, with nothing but $40, a one-way plane ticket from Oakland, Ca. and a leap of faith, Marcel Campbell moved to Atlanta, and one day upon his arrival he decided to take a trip to the school he always heard about growing up: Clark Atlanta University.
He walked from the Vine City Marta Station, eventually made a right and passed Morris Brown College until he saw a CAU campus public safety sign. He had years of security experience under his belt and needed a job, though him traveling to CAU that day was not for employment, he applied and became one of CAU’s public safety officers.
In a strange twist of fate, Campbell later became a student at CAU in August 2018. “I figured it out, all I needed was 12 units and a 2.5 GPA to transfer,” he said. Campbell attended Atlanta Metropolitan College, located minutes from the campus of CAU, transferring with 16 units and a 3.5 GPA. He is now a rising junior Mass Media Arts major concentrating on Radio, Television and Film at the ripe young age of 31 years old.
CAU has an estimated 3,000 students currently enrolled, the majority of whom are traditional students who decided to go to college straight out of high school. Though, there is a small percentage of students who chose a different life path upon high school graduation but still found their way to the brick laid promenade of CAU.
Campbell is one of those students. He graduated high school in 2006 and never had plans to attend college because “I was the kind of student who got into a lot of trouble. I went to junior college for sports, I was broke and I didn’t have a purpose. Track was all I cared about. But then I tore a hamstring,” Campbell said.
He entered the workforce not long after, doing security for celebrities in Hollywood for several years, and traveled the country doing stand-up comedy. He shared videos of a hilarious stand-up he did in a New York night club on his YouTube channel. There are several videos he shared displaying his adventures in Hollywood and his interactions with celebrities.
His face lit up as he explained the stories behind each video he shared. It was obvious to see that there was always passion within him, but no purpose to drive it forward. Though, he was doing something with his life, “It felt like I was just going through the motions,” he said. But, the decision to move to Atlanta awakened his spirit.
“I didn’t have any passion when I was in school. So, coming here and seeing my peers and black professors and learning about the prominent figures, it made me feel like, what am I doing?” Campbell said, “one person told me if they could go to school than I could too. They said I was smart, and I’ve never heard that before.”
Being a decade older than his student peers can be frustrating at times, but Campbell handles it as well as he can. “I feel like I’m the connector. I’m in touch with the older (faculty) and the younger people, I feel like I can bring them together because I understand both sides. I’m bridging the gap,” Campbell stated.
Professor Michael Oby, a speech communications teacher, has had the pleasure of having Campbell as a student in one of his classes. “I think the fact that he came back to school at a much later age, he is so consistent and hard-working, and he communicates very well is what makes him a great student. I like him a lot.” Professor Oby stated.
Campbell and Professor Michael Oby
Photo shot by Corinne Coleman
One of his peers, senior Mass Media Arts major Brandon Washington, thinks that it is great to see someone Campbell’s age pursuing their academic goals. “I think Marcel fits in very well with the rest of us. His age doesn’t matter, he doesn’t even look his age, let’s be honest. Plus, his energy on campus, when people hear him yell ‘Booboop!’ they know who’s coming through,” Washington said.
BooBoopTV is Campbell’s social media handle and platform where he uploads countless footage of campus activities, class assignments and his personal skits. It is also something, as Washington stated, that can be heard up and down the promenade in a call and response fashion. “BooboopTV is my platform. It’s not just for the AUC. It’s here now because I’m here. I started it when I lived at 875 Parsons, but it will leave when I leave,” Campbell stated.
Campbell has come a long way since that fateful one-way ticket, and he is further along than what he could have imagined. If he could go back and give his 18-year-old self any advice, he said, “With my life, I wouldn’t take anything back because I probably wouldn’t be in this position. You have to go through your trials and tribulations because that’s what makes you great. I would tell my 18-year-old self to just keep living.”
It is inspiring to see someone find their purpose after years of searching, only to find it after a serendipitous stroll through Atlanta. Having the courage to go back to school after so many years is an enormous decision, financially and personally. It was amazing to hear how the panther family has embraced his academic journey and have stood by to help him reach his purpose.