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UC student finds passion in community building

DaManuel Montgomery wants to change the world. He can do that through UC’s School of Human Services.

DaManuel Montgomery thought he wanted to follow in the footsteps of family members when he entered the University of Cincinnati in 2017 on a pre-nursing track.  

“I wanted to live on this legacy,” said Montgomery, who enrolled as an exploratory studies major at UC Blue Ash College. “My big vision was to leave a small impact in helping bring a sick patient back to health.”

A young man poses for a photo holding a shovel

DaManuel Montgomery poses for a photo while digging a trench for a clean water line in Nicaragua. Photo provided

But as his freshman year progressed, Montgomery soon began to have his doubts. He found he wasn’t that strong in science, classes core to the major. And, he admits with a laugh, “It was just a little too much blood.”

But a mission trip to Nicaragua with his church followed by a chat with an academic adviser offered him a new opportunity to realize his vision of making his mark. 

In late 2017, Montgomery traveled to Chinandega, Nicaragua, with about 85 other members of the organization Amigos for Christ and organized through Cincinnati’s Crossroads Church. The group’s goal was to build a freshwater line to a filtered water tank for a community whose water supply had been contaminated by E. coli.  

For Montgomery, who’d never traveled internationally, the trip proved life changing.

If you want to leave an impact on the world, [the human development and community engagement] major will help you get there.

DaManuel Montgomery

“I didn’t realize I would be crying when I left,” he said. “I felt as if I left a small impact, but I could do something bigger.”

Shortly after his return, Montgomery met with a UC Blue Ash academic adviser who prompted him to consider his future career goals. 

“That was a big question for me,” admitted Montgomery. “Serving is a big thing I love to do, and I want to know how I can build up my community.” 

The adviser told Montgomery about a then-new major out of UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services called human development and community engagement. The four-year Bachelor of Science degree provides students with the skills necessary to act as agents of change for careers in public administration and education, government administration and advocacy, public health, community activism and children and family services, among other career fields. 

Three men and a child pose for a photo while digging a trench for a clean water line

DaManuel Montgomery says his missions trip to Nicaragua proved to be "life-changing" for him. Photo provided

The adviser put Montgomery in contact with faculty in UC’s School of Education, and after exploring the major further, Montgomery was convinced it was the right fit for him.

“It summed up all of the things that I thought my future after college would be looking like and what I wanted to strive for,” he said. “I could still do the serving part, but just do it in a different community-based side.”

A student holds a photo while standing in front of a hut in a forest

DaManuel Montgomery went back to Nicaragua for six weeks in the summer of 2018. He says his experiences there helped him realize his post-college career goals. Photo provided

In the summer of 2018, Montgomery traveled back to Nicaragua to spend six weeks helping the Chinandega community. And he officially changed his major that fall to human development and community engagement.

He now interns with Crossroads Church, where he assists a team working to best serve local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting area food pantries and front-line medical workers and making bags of essential items to distribute to students in Cincinnati Public Schools.

Montgomery says the major is a perfect fit for his passions and career goals, which are to work in urban planning to help support and build communities. 

“I’m glad that I’ve found a home in this major,” he said. “If you want to leave an impact on the world, this major will help you get there.”

Featured photo at top: The Amigos for Christ missions group DaManuel Montgomery traveled with to Nicaragua takes time off from building a freshwater line for a group photo while showing their UC spirit. Photo provided

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