Returning Rattler Strikes Back: Finishing What I Started

Returning Rattler, Danielle Wilcox


Returning back to school is no easy task, but that didn’t stop Danielle Wilcox.  At 52-years-old, Wilcox returned back to “The Hill” to finish her education. Hailing from Jacksonville, and she first attended FAMU in the year of 1982-1988.  In her senior year, Wilcox had to put her schooling on halt because she had a child on the way.  Her family and friends were supportive and accepting of her decision to put school on hold as she raised her son, who is now an accomplished jazz trombone soloist in New York on “The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert.”

After she raised her son into the man he is today, Wilcox decided that she wanted to finish her education.

“I dedicated my life here (FAMU) and put in so much time and thought it was only appropriate to finish it.”  Wilcox jokingly stated that coming back to college was, “just as hard as having a baby.” She added “I had a very strong will to come back and do this again at age 52, but I like the challenge.”

Wilcox says the troubles she now faces as a student again is keeping up with the “new day-and-age.”

“It seems more of a challenge since everything is fast-paced and technology is everywhere.  I didn’t come to school with all of this technology and am trying to keep up with folks,” she said.

While she quickly bridged the age gap with her fellow students, her professors were another story.  “I feel the professors are challenged more because I’m older and I sense it, but I’m trying to humble myself to make them feel more comfortable.”

Now that she’s back, Wilcox is majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in music.  When she’s not nose deep in books, her hobbies consist of music education, giving private music lessons to current band members and performing for events. Wilcox’s perspective on FAMU then versus now is how much the university has progressed since first attending, “It has finally caught up with the times,” she said.

Speaking of progress, the Marching 100 has had major development since Wilcox was last on the scene. When Wilcox first attended FAMU in the 80s, the Marching Band was 217 members strong.  Yet, with so many band members, there were very few girls on the squad.  Out of the 217 members in 1982, there were only 13 girls, three of them upperclassmen and 10 freshmen, including Wilcox – who played the clarinet and piano.

Wilcox’s father pushed her to be a part of the Marching 100, and at first she thought her dad was crazy for even thinking she had a chance to be involved with the famed band.  Her biggest fear was of not being accepted since the field was male-dominated, but she forever thanks her dad for pushing her to join because if it wasn’t for him she wouldn’t have become one of the first 20 females to be a member of the Marching 100.  “I am happy to be a part of the change and see more women in the band.  Before we know it, we’ll have a female drum major.”  Wilcox soon joined Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority (currently off the yard) in the spring of 1983 and is a lifetime member.

“I hope Tau Beta come back soon to serve the band program to its fullest potential.”  Wilcox plans to graduate in the fall of 2017.

Narquinta Richardson, a student support specialist at FAMU, said Wilcox has plenty of company on campus.  She said that on a typical day she see several students who are re-admissions who are walk-ins and all of them are over 20-years-old.  Lucy Jackson, an admissions counselor who works alongside Richardson, reviews transfer and re-admission paperwork for students.

“Some key things I look for are their GPA, their hours, and the previous courses they’ve taken,” said Jackson.   

Ms. Jackson stated that there are many situations that depend on why a student will return or try to transfer over to FAMU, “There are a lot of different factors that play into the situation of transfer and re-admission students.  Some want to finish their education while others want to graduate.  Every situation is different from the others.”

After Wilcox walks across the stage with her diploma in the fall, she wants to open her own music business and provide instructions for students.

Another rattler returning to the scene is Tatyana Howard, who originally came to FAMU in 2014 and planned to graduate in the year 2020.  Due to financial restraints, Howard had to take a leave of absence, but she’s back now and ready to put her nose back on the grindstone and finish off in the year 2021.

Howard was a transient student last semester in Tennessee. She returned to the university because it provided an affordable education.  Howard’s original attitude on FAMU was that she did not think the university had anything to offer besides an education.

Her viewpoint changed after her first year attending, “Over the years I have met a lot of people and gained a greater understanding of different cultures and the different communities surrounding us.”

Howard majors in pre-professional pharmacy and when she is not studying she is working through her induction process for The National Society of Leadership and Success.

Unlike Danielle Wilcox, Howard is 20-years-old and didn’t have a hard time making friends since she is either the same age as her fellow classmates or just a few years younger.  Yet she still faces problems just like Wilcox, “One of my biggest troubles is Financial Aid and getting my loans to pay for half of my classes.