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Alumni Stories: Persevering in the Face of Hardship, Loss, and Chronic Illness

Husband. Father. Youth advocate. And an inspiration to anyone who has ever had a dream.

When Roderick Davenport made the choice to pursue a bachelor’s degree, he wasn’t just trying to figure out how to make time for lectures and assignments. He was also navigating tragedy, grief, and a life-changing diagnosis.

Davenport, now an American Public University alumnus, graduated in 2022 with his bachelor of science in sports management. His motivation: a lifelong passion for supporting disadvantaged youth.

“Passion takes you beyond the adversity that you meet on a day-to-day basis,” said Davenport.

Family Loss, a Rare Illness, and Enrolling in Classes—All at Once

In Davenport’s own words, this story begins when his life was “at an all-time low.”

While mourning back-to-back family losses, Davenport, who’d recently broken his leg, was diagnosed with a rare condition: complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Wheelchair-bound and in chronic pain, he found himself juggling fatherhood with an onslaught of doctors’ appointments.

Yet, Davenport’s dedication to low-income youth never once wavered; in fact, it’s the catalyst that led him back to the (virtual) classroom.

“You can only lead people based upon where you’ve gone yourself,” Davenport said. “I often would [tell] teenagers…‘Make sure you get a college degree,’ and that was a void in my life. I had an associate’s degree, but I didn’t have my bachelor’s degree, and so that alone was motivation for me to go back and…do something that would better help me to serve the youth.”

With 22 years of experience as a youth advocate, Davenport credits his education for enabling him “to be a more impactful coach, youth mentor, positive role model, and leader.” He sees his degree not just as a personal achievement, but as a representation of his enhanced capabilities to guide teens and young adults towards a better future.

Choosing APU was no mistake; this was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

Roderick Davenport

Having previously attended other institutions, Davenport said his time at American Public University was “over and beyond” his expectations. “The experience from APU was totally different—in a better way,” he says.

“I had been accepted by many other colleges,” Davenport recalled, adding, “But…when I filled out the application for APU, even the correspondence was different…[It] gave me a strong push to go and a strong belief that I could go.”

During his time at the University, Davenport was highly involved in student organizations. In addition to being a student ambassador, he was also an active member of the Sports Management and Sports Health Sciences Honor Society, as well as American Public University’s chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society.

Still, being an online student wasn’t without its challenges. Davenport was balancing a rigorous class schedule with ongoing treatments that saw him in and out of the hospital. He credits his faith, his family’s support, and encouragement from his faith-based community for guiding him to success.

Davenport would also maintain contact with Chaplain Kyle Sorys at the University.

“I was coming out of surgery, and I’d gotten a phone call from the Chaplain…He faithfully stayed with me through the process…” Davenport added, “Seeing the support from the faculty, the support from the professors…What I got was motivation. Encouragement. Inspiration that I can do it and that I had the support of them as well…not just words. I saw it in action.”

Making the Dean’s List, Graduating With Honors, and What’s Next For Davenport

Davenport, a shining example of academic excellence, is so much more than a college success story. He is an inspiration to all of us, and a reminder that there is no dream that cannot be realized through dedication and an unwillingness to give up.

“My educational journey is more than just moments of learning; it’s a life-changer and a push to others,” Davenport explained. “If you have the mindset to do it, eventually, you’re going to find the solution to get it done. And, there is a great solution by the name of APU that will help you to get it done…There are people who care about you at APU.”

Since graduating Summa Cum Laude, Davenport has only continued to set the bar high. Today, he continues his work as a youth advocate while making strides towards a new goal: becoming an NBA sports agent.

“If I can use my story to empower other people, it is something I will always [do], because, at the end of the day, we only have one life to live,” said Davenport.

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Noelle Hartt is a staff writer who has been with the University since September 2022. She writes primarily for digital media, writing long-form articles, website copy, landing pages, email campaigns and more.

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