The CEO of Fathers’ Uplift reflects on his journey and the foundation B-CU has provided

Ever since he heard about Dr. in grade school. Mary McLeod Bethune and the college she founded, Charles Daniels, Ph.D., LCSW (’09) told him he wanted to attend Bethune-Cookman College. His maternal grandmother lived in West Palm Beach and although he grew up just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, he considered himself partially raised in his mother’s home state.

“Coming out of high school, I didn’t really know what my worth was as a dark-skinned black man,” he said, acknowledging that having grown up only around a lot of people looking in on him didn’t was enough to give him a sense of pride and worth. Daniels took a year off after high school to prepare financially for college, but he never lost sight of the goal.

“I was always inspired by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. I was always inspired by her legacy. “I felt like I had to understand it, I had to be in the middle of it,” he said. “I heard about this statement that (Dr. Bethune) said, ‘I will not rest until all my children have had the opportunity to get a decent education.’ I didn’t do well on the SAT or ACT, and I mentioned that Cookman might give me a chance.

He enrolled in classes in the summer of 2005 to prepare for the fall, and as soon as he stepped foot on campus in the summer of 2005, he knew he had made the right decision.

“I took the first class on Dr. Bethune and said, “You went to school on $1.50?” Yes, teach me,” he said. The institute “helped me understand not only what it means to be a black man, but also to be a black man in academia,” said the current visiting scholar at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS Yale University’s School of Public Health.

That understanding of himself was just the beginning of what Daniels said he gained during his time on campus: He met the woman who would also become his wife and partner in life and business at B-CU.

Daniel's beach

Dr. Charles Daniels and his wife Samantha met on a trip to Daytona Beach as B-CU students.

“I had a car, so I was the one responsible for picking up groceries (for the members of the male fellowship house, where he lived, and for their sister dormitory) and giving people a ride if they wanted to go somewhere ”, he recalls. . One day the residents of the stock exchange houses wanted to go to Daytona Beach and Daniels was asked to take everyone there. That was the day he set his sights on courting the former Samantha Fils (’10). “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to get her, she’s going to be my wife,’” he laughed.

After some urging from Daniels, she finally gave him a chance. And the rest is history.

Cooks couple

Daniels went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from Simmons University, a Master of Divinity degree from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in social work from Simmons.

“Working at Cookman made me mentally stubborn,” he continued. “Knowing that I could do anything I wanted. If your founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune is, there’s nothing you can’t do. My founder started a school with $1.50. I don’t care about your racism, I don’t care about your big city. If my founder could do it, I could do it too, he said.

That sense of confidence and self-esteem made a huge difference for Daniels, who has struggled with the impact of his father’s absence his entire life.

“At Cookman, I had to deal with the consequences of not having my father,” he said. “Samantha, she has always been the air under my wings. She flowed into me at every stage. Samantha had her father in her life and she saw me in my evolution. She helped me figure out why my father was absent the summer before I started high school. When I got to the Northeast, she said, “I can’t let this man struggle and not know his worth because of his father.”

She welcomed her into her family, and her father also became a father figure to Daniels, checking in on him and reminding him that he is loved and appreciated.

“Cookman gave me a wife and a father,” Daniels said.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Daniels

With Samantha’s help, he founded Fathers’ Uplift, an organization that provides outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment to fathers and families, helping fathers become and remain emotionally stable for their children. They focus on helping fathers process the shame, guilt, and shame of not being there for their children, and help facilitate a path to redemption to bring families back together.

“I feel like there is an inner child inside me that always longs for his father’s presence, and every time my wife and I help another child who may not have seen his father for five years or more, I cherish it that part of me, Daniëls said.

The Daniels’ upcoming book, Present, highlights their journey and is a tribute to B-CU and all the men in their lives. It will be released in the summer of 2025.