HawkStrong: Charles Brooks named Star Biology Student

Release Date
Charles Brooks smiling and wearing glasses, is holding a framed certificate in front of an HFC backdrop.

The HFC Biology Department named Charles Brooks as the 2023 Star Biology Student, awarding him with a certificate of achievement and $500.

“This is a great honor. I have worked very hard since I started at HFC. Using HFC’s resources, I give so much credit to Assisted Learning Services and the people in the biology lab. My lab partners really helped me. It means so much to me because anyone at HFC who knows my story knows I was in a place where I wasn’t feeling right, I didn’t feel like I fit in. When I got into the lab, I found a place there that made me excel and find a home for my intellect,” explained Brooks, a lifelong Detroiter.

Every year, the Biology Department chooses a Star Biology Student. Students are chosen for their academic record in biology courses at the College, along with their service and leadership.

“I have to mention my mentor and greatest supporter, my older sister Parees Brooks, who has a master’s degree in nursing,” said Brooks. “She showed me how to love biology. She is my backbone in school. The leader in the village of my support system. I would have not received this award without her.”

Desire to return to the medical field and become a nurse

The second of seven siblings, Brooks earned his GED from Ferndale Adult Education. He went on to earn his medical assistant certification from Ross Medical Education Center in Redford.

In 2021, Brooks enrolled at HFC. He is a student in the College’s Nursing program, where he has a GPA of 3.6. He is also the president of the honor society Phi Theta Kappa: Alpha XIMU Chapter and is involved with the BMQFG at HFC. Brooks expects to graduate from HFC, earning his associate degree in nursing in 2025. Afterward, he plans to transfer to Wayne State University to finish his bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“Charles is a dedicated student and amazing leader. I am able to say this with full confidence after having had the privilege of working with him in multiple settings,” said HFC English instructor and BMQFG co-advisor Dr. Courtney Matthews. “Charles' energy and positive outlook rub off on all who work with him. That was evident in watching him deliver his speech as president at the PTK induction ceremony last semester. In each of these settings, there is the constant thread of someone who shares honestly, is reflective, and enjoys encouraging others.”

Brooks’ goal is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.

COVID-19 inspired him to go into the nursing field. In the early days of the pandemic, Brooks was quarantined alongside his family with the coronavirus across the street from DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit. He witnessed the hard work and dedication of the nursing staff. He also saw how burned out they were. Many healthcare professionals would step out of the hospital for a moment or so to cry, then pull themselves together and go back inside to help patients.

“It was sad,” he said. “I knew I needed to help.”

What he saw gave him the impetus to enroll at HFC. “I knew I was needed. I knew I had the passion,” recalled Brooks. “I saw nurses who were burned out yet kept going and I wanted to help. I wanted to get back into the medical field, and I knew HFC would help me do great things to get me there.”

“It was a blow, but it wasn’t a knockout”

Brooks has spoken freely about being visually impaired in one eye. He never let that stop him. And he didn’t let being injured in a hit-and-run accident at the beginning of 2023 stop him.

“Even with a disability, I’m able to roll with it and keep going. I’m able to move forward with my education. Yes, it was a blow, but it wasn’t a knockout,” said Brooks.

HFC Director of Academic Services Dr. Cristina Bailey had Brooks in her Anatomy and Physiology II class during the Winter 2023 semester.

“Charles started the semester with many difficulties,” said Bailey. “But he never missed a day of lab or lecture. In the classroom, he is unable to see well, so he records every lecture and studies the videos. He also makes great use of the colorful handouts I provide to the class. He scored 96% and 97% on two of the lecture exams.”

Maximizing his strengths in learning through different methods

Brooks wanted to give a shout-out to HFC biology instructor Dr. Gregory Karapetian’s biology videos. He said they were essential in learning the material.

“I can definitely say I grasped so much information from his videos,” said Brooks. “There are 168 hours in a week. Use your time wisely. Biology may seem hard, but if you dedicate the time and you focus on the lecture and the lab, you will succeed.”

Added Bailey: “Since he is mostly a kinesthetic/auditory learner in the lab, Charles takes full advantage of the models; he records my models' explanations and even the reviews. In lab practicum, he attained the class's highest score. He contacted me frequently with questions. He is an example of resilience, determination, and an excellent attitude about learning that produced excellent results.”

HFC Director of Student Activities Cassandra Fluker echoed Bailey's sentiments.

"It makes me elated just to see how far Charles has come and how high his levels of happiness and satisfaction have elevated," she said. "He is definitely on the path to success. He is studying to become a nurse, and due to his leadership skills and character, I see nursing as a great career for him. Charles is genuine, empathic, and willingly helps others. Each time I see Charles, he has a big, bright smile on his face, especially when he has additional good news to share."