Communication Student Works to Bring Groups Together
By Bri Phillips
Daniel Bennett stepped onto Cal State San Marcos’ campus knowing that this was his second chance. Not only for himself, but for his 8-year-old daughter, Analise.
Formerly incarcerated, Bennett was 26 and felt like he didn’t have many options. But he knew he wanted to make a change.
“I remember I was sitting in the car with an old friend of mine and she told me to go to college,” Bennett said. “She told me about how to get financial aid and how it can help. And that’s when I decided I was going to go to college.”
Four years later, Bennett hasn’t looked back.
After receiving his associate degree in self-development and wellness from Fullerton College, he learned from his father about CSUSM’s memorandum of understanding with a group of community-based organizations representing the interests of Black students that strives to increase educational access and social mobility. Bennett’s father is a pastor at the Friendship Baptist Church, which is based in Yorba Linda and part of the Coalition on Black and African American Education, which is a collection of community-based organizations that works to close educational equity gaps related to historically underrepresented students.
Bennett said he was the first person accepted through the MOU in spring 2022, and he knew he wanted to pursue a bachelor’s in communication and get involved on campus.
“I find as a Black male that it is imperative that our behavior and our communication can align in multiple spaces,” Bennett said.
Once Bennett came to campus, he noticed that there was no one applying to be the student president of the Black Student Union, so he decided to give it a shot.
“I wanted more people to feel more comfortable and build a stronger sense of belonging,” Bennett said. “We are small, but mighty.”
During his presidency, Bennett wanted to start bringing cultural groups on campus together. Bennett helped develop events in collaboration with the LGBTQA Pride Center because he saw that there were more opportunities to connect with students.
“If I can be in leadership for the Black Student Union, and then also work inside of the Pride Center, I can bridge these two areas together,” Bennett said. “I love that I have the support of the staff. The faculty and administration of this campus has been so supportive of making sure that we're continuing to bridge gaps and work together.”
While Bennett was working alongside the Pride Center, he found himself looking up to its director, Robert Aiello-Hauser, as a mentor. Aiello-Hauser inspired Bennett to pursue his master’s in communication after he graduates in 2024.
“Danny, with his infectious personality and kindness, has been a breath of fresh air to the Pride Center this year,” Aiello-Hauser said. “The students in the space have grown to respect him for his allyship and community building; and for me, the hard work and respect that Danny brings to the job helps the center to be successful. Danny has been an important part of bridging the gap between the Pride Center and students of color. Representation matters, especially when you are such a welcoming and loving presence.”
While Bennett’s term as Black Student Union president has ended, he plans to continue to work in the Pride Center as a peer mentor.
Bennett has had to overcome numerous challenges, but has big plans on the horizon. He wants to become an image consultant to help people’s confidence with their appearance, and he is also pursuing his real estate license.
“I think this upcoming semester, I'm most excited to make sure that I continue to make headway for students to feel comfortable in queer spaces,” Bennett said.
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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