Humans of Parkland: Kofi Bazzell-Smith


Scott Barnes

Staff Writer

“I’ve had a bit of an idiosyncratic college experience. It has been a long and drawn out process during which I made mistakes, learned from them and grew a great deal as a person.

I actually started at the University of Illinois with a full ride scholarship right out of high school. As great as that may sound, I didn’t quite know who I was at eighteen. Despite the fact that school has always come relatively easy to me, I chose to drop out of U of I and pursue a career as a fighter.

Much to the chagrin of my parents I gave up on my scholastic endeavors and devoted myself wholeheartedly to honing my craft as a cage fighter in 2008. Later that year I won the CFC national championship and began gaining recognition in the martial arts community. In 2009 I switched over to boxing and 3 years later became a Golden Gloves champion—one of the premier titles in the sport.

Notwithstanding my success as an athlete, times have been hard financially. Never satisfied with my occupation and with unfettered pride I frequently jumped from job to job; repeatedly suffering from the mental stagnation and demeaning quality characteristic of low-wage labor.

I registered for Parkland and still took classes here and there on the side to keep my mind busy. However, I only stayed in a given class just long enough to learn what I wanted to. After losing interest in my classes I would usually just stop going and my grades would go from As to Fs. My GPA has suffered severely due to this. At the time I didn’t understand the importance of getting a degree to get on with my professional life. I merely took classes for fun. It was only when I stumbled upon my intellectual niches that I realized both the importance of school and that I had the capacity to achieve academically.

I took Japanese on a whim and found that I have an exceptional ability to learn and understand the intricacies and complexities of a given language. Similar epiphanies arose after taking writing and philosophy courses. Finding what I was good at here at Parkland was instrumental to the rekindling of my intellectual hunger. If it weren’t for the nature of this institution, with its intimate class sizes and professors who show genuine interest in student achievement, I may not have ever found my love for learning.

Due to my investment into a career as an athlete and large variety of other extracurricular interests, finishing school has proved to be quite a task. However, I now only have a few gen-ed classes to take so I should graduate with an associate’s degree soon. I have yet to decide whether to pursue a Bachelor’s degree but if I do it will likely be in linguistics or journalism.

Currently, my attention is fully focused on the 2016 Golden Gloves tournament which starts in the first week of March. This will be my final amateur tournament before turning professional and I plan to win the whole thing. My first match will be on Saturday, March 5.”