During Convocation ceremonies last fall, the entering Class of 2022 and their families gathered together in Lumsden Gymnasium to kick off a new academic year. Returning to hold court as featured speaker was David “DJ” Johnson ’10, ’16, a double alum of Daemen’s Individualized Studies and Executive Leadership & Change programs, respectively.

Johnson spoke of his own journey as a first-generation college student. Raised in Detroit as one of six children, Johnson attended college as a student-athlete, playing basketball for NCAA Division I at Canisius College and then Division II at Daemen.

In his current role as Senior Director of College Prep at Buffalo Prep, an organization founded in 1989 to provide access and preparation for talented underrepresented youth to achieve success in education, Johnson provides direct counseling and support for students.

Johnson resides in Lockport with his wife, the former Bridgette Burke ’11, a 2011 inductee of the Daemen Athletics Hall of Fame. Together, the couple has two children, Bryce and Cameron.

Q: What can you tell us about your position at Buffalo Prep?

A: We are supporting scholars through their high school careers with academic support, college advisement, social and emotional support, and enrichment opportunities.

Our students work hard to position themselves to thrive academically, preparing them for college or any post-secondary track that they desire.

I’m a firm believer that we don’t define success for our students. We allow them to define what success looks like for them; we’ll support and nurture their goals.

Q: What is it about your college experience that drives you to prepare students for college?

A: I was a first generation student. College never was talked about in my household. Thanks to my coaches in high school, I realized I could use sports as a vehicle to access higher education.

During my time working in higher education in Daemen’s Admissions office, it was truly empowering. I used my personal experience to relate to students and help young people see the opportunities awaiting them.

Q: Athletics is often used as a metaphor for the game of life. Why do you think that is an apt comparison?

A: There’s many life lessons you learn through athletics; it starts early on with sportsmanship. Even through adversity – handling loss, commending your opponents on a job well done.

In life, many times you’re in competition with other people for jobs. It’s the preparation you do behind the scenes that readies you for “game day” … the education, preparation, and knowledge.

Quitting is easy, but whatever you start you have to finish. At the end of the day, you want to be able to say that you gave it your all.

Q: How did your time at Daemen prepare you for the role you’re in today?

A: Simply put, I would not be where I’m at today without Daemen for many reasons. The commitment faculty had to ensuring my success is something I will never forget.

I want to give Buffalo Prep scholars the opportunity to find their own supportive campus community. They deserve that.