For Danny Cords, life’s not about the grade, it’s about continuing to learn and applying your knowledge in real-world settings. That’s one reason Cords appreciates the education he received at Antioch University Seattle. Rather than focusing on grades or transcripts, Cords says Antioch’s narrative evaluation system pushed him hard to learn more, do more, and be more.
“At Antioch, it was ‘you’re going to go through this experience; we’re going to push you harder than you’ve been pushed, and then we’re going to evaluate you and it’s about what you did well and where you can do better and how you can keep the journey going’,” Cords says. “And that’s so perfect because that’s mirroring the real world. Of course my manager’s not going to write a six-page narrative about me but I’m also not going to get a grade and move on. It’s all about ongoing development. I loved it.”
Cords’ journey to Antioch wasn’t easy. At age 14, he came out as gay to his family, who, he says, wasn’t ready to accept it or embrace it. Shortly after, believing they were doing what was best for him, his parents enrolled him in conversion therapy. Cords describes himself as a survivor of conversion therapy, somberly acknowledging that many LGBTQIA youth do not survive.
Things came to a head for Cords when, at 17, he left home and wasn’t able to finish high school. After years of feeling shame at not graduating from high school, Cords decided to go back to school. He received his high school diploma and an associate’s degree from a community college, where he learned about Antioch. It didn’t take him long to enroll in the bachelor degree completion program.
“Once I was in school, I was unstoppable,” he says. “I just love school.”
That passion for education led to Cords’ decision to get his Master’s of Arts in Education after finishing his bachelor degree. In that program, Cords encountered challenges, which he is now grateful for as they prepared him for the challenges of working in the real world after graduation.
In particular he recalls a difficult class that stretched him to his limits. “That was one of the most beneficial things I went through,” he says. “I grew a lot in that class. And it was not an easy class and was not an easy pass. And I am really thankful for that opportunity. Antioch definitely prepared me for the workforce better than the other institutions I had attended.”
Cords also appreciated that Antioch allowed him to create his own educational track. He knew he wanted to go into adult education in the corporate world. “Once I identified the path I wanted to take, I had the right people at Antioch to help me get there.” The faculty at Antioch connected him with people who worked in the field he was interested in. “If there wasn’t the right educational track already built, they let me create one. And that was incredibly valuable,” he says.
While he was at Antioch, Cords launched one of the first educational curricula for the Seattle Men’s Chorus. His educational curriculum was implemented in the public schools and at the college level. “I had resume experience and my own curriculum. So if Antioch didn’t have what I needed at the moment, they allowed me to create it with guidance. And that’s amazing. Where else can you do that?”
Cords was also strategic in finding a job that would allow him to use the things he’s learned at Antioch. After working at Starbucks as a barista for several years and growing to love and respect the company, Cords knew he wanted be an educator at the corporate level there. He networked consistently and ultimately made a connection that led to the job he has now as a teacher at Starbucks.
Among other duties, his role consists of educating and inspiring district managers and others who come to Seattle from all over the globe to make leadership connections. Cords loves his job and credits his time at Antioch for teaching him how to engage others and get them excited about their jobs.
Cords also emphasizes the importance of creative thinking in making educational and career decisions.
“The students at Antioch right now are some of the luckiest and most fortunate students because the opportunities are endless,” he says. “You see students leave and do amazing things. You just have to get yourself out of that box. You have to think creatively and Antioch is the place where you get to do that.”
He encourages students to get real-world experience while working toward their educational goals at Antioch. “Make your projects relevant so you can put them on your resume,” he says. “And then when you’re at Antioch, be at Antioch. If you do those things, you can do anything. You can be change agents for sure.”