Cory Brodnax: PAII College Coordinator

“Hi, Mom,” Cory Brodnax said as he answered his cellphone.

Except it wasn’t his actual birth mother, but one of his many “moms” – his students’ moms.

This particular mom had questions about her son’s upcoming college visit. Mr. Brodnax patiently talked her through the details.

Brodnax—the College Coordinator at PAII—fields such calls daily. Sometimes he functions as an ad hoc doctor, always available to students and their parents to prescribe answers to questions or a dose of reassurance when they’re stressed. Sometimes he functions as an ad hoc therapist always available to share calming words and remind everyone to maintain trust and perspective throughout the process.

Those two roles aptly capture. Brodnax himself—a pragmatic person, comfortable managing many moving parts; and a spiritual person, who believes certain actions yield certain outcomes and that hard, honest work always wins in the end. He has a knack for keeping an eye on the minutiae and the big picture—an indispensable skill for leading students through the highs and lows of applications.

“It’s the yin and the yang,” Brodnax says. “I always tell my students: there will be wins, there will be losses. So long as you do your part, work hard, and trust the process, you will end up at the college best for you and at the best price.”

When students have inevitable moments of panic, he says to them, “Look at my face. If I’m not panicking, you don’t need to panic.” Brodnax reminds his students to be patient and present – and always take a deep breath.

Brodnax credits his mother for his unflappability. “She’s really supportive, calm and balanced. She’s also super smart, so her advice is always good.”

Raised in Indianapolis, Cory Brodnax earned a B.A. in history from the University of Florida and a master’s in Africana studies from the University of Indiana. Where many well-intentioned people pushed him to pursue more practical degrees, his mom always encouraged him to pursue his passions – advice he gives to his students today.

Brodnax was a substitute teacher before moving to Oakland to work in community activism. He loved the work and California culture, but he missed students. His sister, who worked at Harlem Children’s Zone, let him know of a position at HCZ. Some interviews later, Brodnax was set to become a New Yorker. Fast forward ten years, and he’s in the role he seems born to have at PAII, after supporting students at HCZ’s Salem Community Center and Center for Higher Education and Career Support.

In the past two years,  Brodnax has had the great joy of helping the first Promise Academy students get into Ivy Leagues. “I absolutely love this job and my students. I feel blessed to be in this position.”

Years after they’ve graduated, many reach out to him, seeking his telltale wisdom. Of all the wisdom he’s dispensed over the years, he hopes his students will hold onto the belief that guides him: if you are a good person of character and always have a strong work ethic, trust that you will have a good life—and make the moms proud.