Patrick Bentley never gives up. Many students would have been inclined to drop out, but Bentley, 28, was determined to graduate.
Which he will do this weekend. But the St. Petersburg native did not have an easy journey.
Unlike the rest of his family members who have served in the military or jumped right into the workforce, Bentley knew that he did not want to follow in those footsteps. He created a different path – and he will be the first in his family to attend and graduate from college.
He graduated high school in 2008 and started off going to St. Petersburg College, where for the first year and a half he mismanaged his financial aid.
That resulted in him losing his financial aid for three years. However, within the three years, he still wanted to pursue his college career, so he paid for classes at his own expense while pursuing his certified nursing assistant (CNA) license. Knowing that being a CNA was not his passion, he explored going to barber school where he learned that he was eligible again for financial aid.
Barber school was placed on the back burner and he went back to college. Still not sure what he wanted for a career, he changed his major five times, then eventually received his associate of arts still with no clue of where to go next.
In 2015, he enrolled at FAMU as a music student. Besides minor issues here and there, he pledged Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity in spring of 2016 and Phi Beta in fall of 2016.
Right when things seemed to be going great for him, summer 2017 came and he was ineligible for financial aid again; this time around because students are only eligible for financial aid for up to six years. At this time, he only had a year and a half left to earn his degree. So, he worked three different jobs, while enrolled as a full-time student to make ends meet and to pay for his classes.
He walked to and from work because he didn’t have the money for taxis or he clocked out so late at night that he wasn’t able to catch the bus home.
Fast forward to fall of 2018, and Bentley is graduating with an Interdisciplinary studies degree with an emphasis on performing and visual fine arts. Bentley is also a part of the FAMU Gospel Choir, FAMU Concert Choir, MEISA Live, and FAMU Connection.
When asked why he never gave up, Bentley said: “I had too many people waiting for me to either fail or to succeed, but I knew I had to finish in order to live the life that I’ve always dreamed of. I did it for my mom who passed away when I was really young as well as for my grandma, who always dreamt of being a nurse but due to her starting a family young, she had to put her family first and put her dreams on the back burner.”
His fraternity brother, Damon Arnold, says Bentley personifies persistence.
“He never thought he had the willpower to finish and most people I know who encounter tribulations would give up, but he didn’t,” Arnold said.
Jathan Martin, another fraternity brother, echoed Arnold’s observation.
“Patrick has to be the funniest person I know. His humor lights up every dark situation. He will definitely have your back and be the greatest sense of support. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his incredible musical gift- his voice. Captivating and authentic are two words that sum him up,” Martin said.
Even though Bentley hated being the oldest in the room and tried to rush the process, he realized that “It isn’t how long thou run the race; just as long as you finish."