We are sharing the stories of several of University of Detroit Mercy’s newest alumni to mark the graduation of the Class of 2021.
Bonanza Cummings’ favorite memory from his time at University of Detroit Mercy is one Michiganders may take for granted: The first time he saw snow.
Growing up in the tropical climate of Jamaica, Cummings’ only exposure to snow was through a screen. He watched people having fun and playing in it on television and couldn’t wait to experience that feeling as well.
“The first moment I saw snow, as soon as I went outside, I ran back in because it was so cold,” Cummings said. “But that’s something that I’ll never forget.”
In 2017, Cummings left Jamaica, the only home he had ever known, to attend Detroit Mercy in pursuit of a better future. The move to Michigan, he said, was bittersweet, but “more sweet than bitter.”
“Bitter in the sense that I was leaving that environment, that cultural aspect. But the sweet aspect of it was I got an opportunity to move away from it and be a better person,” he said.
Cummings came to Detroit Mercy to grow academically, spiritually and athletically as a sprinter for the Titans’ men’s track and field team. He graduates this May with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and minor in Leadership.
“It’s been a hard journey when you look at it,” Cummings said. “Home is where I’d rather be, but it’s not the best place for me. If I was back home, God knows what I’d be doing. I would not have certain opportunities that I have here currently.”
Running has been the centerpiece in Cummings’ life since he was very young. Track and field competitions soon followed. Before starting his collegiate career, he earned spots on a pair of Jamaican national teams.
“Everything I’ve been doing since I was 7 years old led to me being where I’m at today,” Cummings said. “It’s the discipline and the consistency.”
Cummings has competed in several events for Detroit Mercy’s men’s track and field team, including the 60-, 100- and 200-meter races and the 4×100-meter relay. The COVID-19 pandemic prematurely ended his junior season, but Cummings has rebounded nicely this spring. He recently broke the University’s men’s 100-meter dash record with a time of 10.6 seconds.
Being able to wear the Titans uniform and represent the University athletically has been a “privilege,” Cummings said.
“Though I have not accomplished all my big goals and dreams that I wanted to accomplish, I must say that it has molded me in such a way that I know my value and I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons through track and field here,” Cummings said. “I see where it changed me for the better. Even though I may not achieve them on the track as I wanted to, at the end of the day, I got something better, which are life lessons, principles and values that I can apply as I continue to go throughout my life.”
These lessons and principles Cummings attained through track and field include knowing that things won’t always go as planned, that it’s OK to alter traditions and that the sport is just a small part of life.
That’s especially true for his experience at Detroit Mercy, where he was involved in much more than athletics. Cummings was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, served as a presidential ambassador and volunteered with Ford Community Corps and Residence Life. He also worked as an office assistant for Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture and a culinary worker for Metz Culinary Management.
Being heavily involved at the University allowed Cummings to meet a variety of people on the McNichols Campus.
“Everybody that I come into contact with, I have a relationship with,” he said. “Every single person, whether that be the people dealing with the grounds work, the janitors, my coaches, every single person that I meet, we are all connected.”
Cummings cherishes these relationships, as they have helped him develop as a person.
“I build myself around a limitless mentality,” he said. “I know that as I build these relationships, it just facilitates a lot of growth and expansion. There’s never a limiting factor in valuable relationships and valuable connections, because at the end of the day, it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. It also makes you understand that you are not in this alone.”
Cummings originally had hoped to study something sports-based at Detroit Mercy. The decision to shift to Business Administration, however, was quite easy.
“Everything revolves around business,” Cummings said. “There is nothing in this life that is not a business. I saw business as my calling.”
Similar to his performance on the track, Cummings has performed well in the classroom. He is a four-time Detroit Mercy Athletic Director’s Honor Roll member (GPA of at least 3.0), and has earned multiple spots on the Horizon League’s Academic Honor Roll (GPA of at least 3.2).
Despite uncertainty with his future career plans — Cummings says he approaches life with flexibility while living in the present — he hopes to one day develop a business initiative that can have a positive impact on people. Cummings plans on returning to Detroit Mercy in the fall to earn a master’s degree.
Cummings isn’t shy when reflecting on his time at Detroit Mercy. He’s met a lot of people who have had a positive impact on him. He feels that the University produces leaders, and that its Jesuit and Mercy values and service-learning opportunities have been transformational. He’s confident his experience at the University will help his career.
And it all started four years ago with a leap of faith.
“Leaving Jamaica for Michigan shifted the dynamics of my life. I cannot really find the word to actually describe that feeling,” he said. “Even though you may look at it and say, ‘Oh, he’s leaving there. He must miss home.’ When I am here, I feel a home away from home, because I am establishing something bigger for myself.”
— Ricky Lindsay