Miracle Adebanjo weathered a challenging transition from his international upbringing moving from London to New Jersey and Minnesota that was punctuated with homelessness, culture clash, and lack of structure. But business, social work, and internship opportunities introduced Miracle to friends and mentors at Augsburg and beyond who ignited his passionate drive to build a better tomorrow through activism, community engagement, and entrepreneurship.
Miracle Adebanjo: I’ve had so many investments of love that I just feel obligated to give them back. I have no choice but to get them back. I’m really running over. My cup is full of love. I just want to do good. I just want to serve. That’s what I want to do.
Paul Pribbenow: Augsburg University educates students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. I’m Paul Pribbenow, the President of Augsburg University, and it’s my great privilege to present The Augsburg Podcast.
Catherine Day: I’m Catherine Reid Day, host of The Augsburg Podcast. Today we speak with Miracle Adebanjo, major in management and marketing, minor in international business and management information systems, class of 2020. He tells us his story of giving back, of having received gifts of generosity from many people in many ways, and his desire to share it back into the world. He celebrates the bright road ahead, but explains that things didn’t always feel quite so certain.
Miracle Adebanjo: My path to where I’m at currently to this day has not been an easy one, but I am very grateful. I started off born and raised in London, England. I was fortunate enough to have had a magnificent education from Saint Margaret’s Church of England School, to Diagon Park Church of England School, to moving to America, the land of opportunity, in 2012. And from there things took a turn. I spent some time homeless. I was living with Mary Jo Copeland in her shelter, Downtown Minneapolis, for about nine months, and that was a very interesting time in my life because I went from having everything to now having nothing, and I didn’t have a silver spoon. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have consistency. I was going through a lot of change. I was getting $2 every week, and I was sleeping on the train and doing the most I could to support our family, but still feeling that my efforts were not enough. Those humble beginnings helped me to be more grateful. It humbled me really to not take things for granted.
Catherine Day: Miracle’s path forward began to take shape in high school.
Miracle Adebanjo: My high school was South High School, Minneapolis. I was involved in a lot of things on campus, especially on my first year, due to the fact that I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the homeless shelter. I was a three season sport kind of kid. I was in track, basketball, and soccer. I was also involved in student council, and oftentimes you could catch me hanging out after school, talking to teachers. I would also spend some time talking to Sheri Harris, my social worker. She was always there to support me and give me advice, and just make me feel like I had a voice, and I had something worth sharing, something with listening to. And I just feel like when people empower you like that, it gives you hope. It makes you feel like you’re destined for greatness, like you can do a lot more than what you’re currently doing now.
Catherine Day: And the next step in Miracle’s destiny, as it turned out, was Augsburg.
Miracle Adebanjo: I know that college isn’t for everybody, but in my household, college was an expectation. Currently, I am one of two of the family members who are in college, but there was a period of time where I was the only one, despite being the youngest. During my high school experience, I was in the Upward Bound TRIO program, which is a college prep program to help underrepresented students find a way to get to college, and to prepare them and to help them get scholarships and to help them with being able to comfortably sit in the classroom, and feel like they belong in the classroom setting.
Miracle Adebanjo: So with me spending time at Upward Bound, that helped me to prepare for college. Even though it wasn’t always something I was interested in, now I am in that position. I’m so grateful for going through that program. Other individuals who helped me in the college application process and from getting from high school to college were my track coach, was my track coach, Emily Hackert. I ran track in high school my first year, quit my first year, came back my senior year after getting a pep talk from Katie McHalen. She was a friend of mine who told me that if you don’t use your talent, you lose your talent, and so I thought, “Why not? Why not do it my last year?” I did it my last year, and I got in contact with the track coach of Augsburg, Emily Hackert. She came to my meets, saw me run, saw me jump, and said, “I want you.”
Miracle Adebanjo: So that made me feel validated. That made me feel once again empowered and that I could really do anything, and that my hard work and my efforts were not going unnoticed, and that they weren’t offering nothing. I really do believe that everything in life happens for a reason, and I would say that was one of the reasons I was running track, to get from high school to college, and to really feel like a part of something, to feel like a part of a team.
Catherine Day: And he would, in fact, have many opportunities to be part of meaningful teams. A chance encounter with a bank teller propelled him toward his first real job and crystallized his desire to give back to the community.
Miracle Adebanjo: After the summer of my freshman year was my first real job, I would say. First real job where I was able to apply what I had learned in the classroom. I worked at TCF Bank on Lake Street, and the Cub Foods, a very popular location in Minneapolis. I was a relationship banker. I was depositing my tax returns, and I was with Onyx Santa Maria. She was my bank teller, and we started talking, as I do with everybody I meet, and she said, “What school do you go to?” I told her I go to Augsburg. She said, “I am an Augsburg student too. What do you have planned for the summer?” I told her I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, and she said, “I think that you would make a magnificent relationship banker here at TCF.”
Miracle Adebanjo: And I laughed. I told her, “Are you sure? I’m still only …” How old was I? 18 at the time, and I didn’t feel like I was ready to take on such an important position. I had always seen people who dealt with your money to be people who were responsible and mature, and they had something special about them that maybe I didn’t have, but she laughed at me and told me that I could do it. She told me that I could be a bank teller at TCF. My time at TCF Bank was quite a blast. I was getting paid to sit down, count money, and talk to people. What a privilege. I loved making new connections. I had many people offering me jobs while I was sitting there, and I had many people come in with problems that I felt honored to help them fix and resolve.
Catherine Day: After concluding his time at TCF, Miracle continued to make new connections with important mentors.
Jodie Pritchard: I was out minding my own business with several of my favorite neighbors during National Night Out.
Catherine Day: This is Jodie Pritchard, a social work unit supervisor with Hennepin County.
Jodie Pritchard: Miracle and a bunch of other Augsburg students were canvassing for someone running for City Council, and I just started engaging with him and told them I was a social worker, and he said, “Oh, I’m interested in exploring that.” And I said, “Let’s meet for coffee,” and we did. We spent about two hours chatting.
Miracle Adebanjo: We ended up meeting up at a local Caribou and just talked. It was an absolute joy to get to know somebody where there was such a high power distance, but for them to sit down at my level and just hear me out, and to just share some of their insight. It was empowering.
Jodie Pritchard: It was a far-ranging conversation. We started talking about food and cooking and Miracle said he didn’t know how to cook, and I’m like, “That’s crazy. You need to learn how to cook. Come over to my house and I’ll teach you.” And he invited another friend, and it was just the start of this great relationship.
Miracle Adebanjo: I wanted to be a social worker. That was our intention in the meeting. That was what was on the agenda. She told me, “I think you would make a magnificent social worker. However, I think that you would be better in business.”
Jodie Pritchard: He started to explore other avenues in business, and I think he’ll be great there too, because we need compassionate people and thoughtful people in business, who think about the larger world and the impact that corporations and business have in the world, because they’re a huge part of our ecosystem, so to speak. So I was actually pretty happy to hear that he was moving in that direction.
Miracle Adebanjo: She told me, “Let me connect you with my really successful friend Jeff.”
Jodie Pritchard: I just love connecting people and saying, “Hey, this would be a good person for you to know.”
Jeff Aguy: At the time it was like, “Hey, you have to meet this kid. He’s brilliant,” and all those things. And so I invited Miracle over to my house. At the time I was living in Downtown Minneapolis.
Jodie Pritchard: This is Jeff Aguy, Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Investment at NCXT.
Jeff Aguy: He was telling me his story, and not that I’ve faced displacement or any of those things, but I had a number of challenges myself growing up, and so he was talking about how much he wanted to change the world, how much he wanted to help people. And at the time he was really thinking about social work, and I had been in activism helping and all those things, and I asked him, “Have you considered business as a route to change the world?”
Jeff Aguy: Because ultimately from my experience, what I learned was you can volunteer as much as you would like, and you’re doing a lot of work, but a lot of times those changes aren’t long-term, they’re not systemic. And I learned that some of the best ways that you could change is having the opportunity to gain wealth and to share that with people, whether that’s funding a program, or funding a service, or someone who’s late on their bills, and because you’re able to do that, because you can afford it, you’re able to do those things. And so he’s always been someone who service was the most important thing to him, and I know I asked him, “Have you considered business as an option?”
Miracle Adebanjo: Jeff is very innovative. And so just seeing a young individual who wasn’t too much older than me living a successful life, I saw something that I hadn’t really seen before. I saw a future image of me. I wanted to be successful. I was fortunate for that encounter with Jeff, and that made me switch from social work to business.
Jeff Aggie: One of the things about Miracle too, is he didn’t think about himself a lot. And that’s one of the things we talked about too, is a part of being healthy is not only caring about your community, and helping community grow, but if you’re not able to sustain yourself, then it becomes much more difficult to do that. So little did I know that first conversation would be transformative for him.
Catherine Day: And it was here that Miracle discovered that a career in business was his path to making change.
Miracle Adebanjo: I want to end homelessness. It’s something I’m very passionate about. I want to help reduce poverty and hunger, and I want to help provide education for individuals who couldn’t afford it, like my brother, but these things take money, and so that is what drives my passion in the world of business. Not the cost of money itself, but the concept of giving back to the community, the community that took me in with open arms and helped nurture me and make me into the man I am today. There’s a saying that you’re a product of your environment, and I have been fortunate enough to not have been at all times in the negative parts of our environment, but to be surrounded and immersed in love in the community.
Jeff Aguy: There’s very few people who I know that come from the kind of background that I come from that are in the same positions that I’m in today.
Catherine Day: Jeff Aguy again.
Jeff Aguy: We live in a world that is under-resourced, specifically for people of color, specifically for African Americans, specifically for black people anywhere. And so we know that the environment is so important for growth, but I was one of those kids who the environment was never ripe for growth and creativity. I’ve always had to make a way. Of course I’ve had positive people in my life, but I’ve always had to make a way. And so with Miracle, it’s the same thing with him, but at a much different level. When you learn about his story, about how he was homeless, not only homeless but living with different church people, living in hotels, and a student athlete, and being in school and doing all those things at the same time.
Jeff Aguy: Like, yeah, I had it tough, but his is way tougher than mine. And so he really continued to strengthen the idea about how important the mindset is. While we’re changing government policy and changing all these environmental aspects that do need to be changed, that are systemically unjust and systemically unfair, it’s also important to understand that although the reality of our situation seems insurmountable, having a mindset that refuses to quit, there’s something special about the human spirit. And so he continued not only to teach me the idea about having mindset as a key aspect of how you grow as a person, and how you grow as a company, but that it’s possible.
Jodie Pritchard: He just gives me hope that there are people out there who are willing to be engaged in the world and giving and doing it in a really smart, thoughtful way.
Catherine Day: Jodie Pritchard, again.
Jodie Pritchard: I just love being around him. He’s also very peaceful, but we also have a lot of fun, and a lot of laughs, and boy, the days back when we were cooking, we had just a lot of laughter and good times in the kitchen, and then sitting down and sharing a meal. And I so appreciate his openness and showing me, yeah, it’s worth starting those conversations with people and making new friends.
Miracle Adebanjo: I want to leave this campus better than the way I found it. And I think to do that you have to really show love. Augsburg to me means home. It means community. It means family. It means responsible. It means leader. It means steward. To me Augsburg is an institution that is more than just an institution located in the heart of Minneapolis. It’s something special. It is a place to learn beyond just academics, but also every little thing about life. For my graduation, there will be about 100 tickets that I can use. I think I want to use all 100 of them. There will be a lot of people that will be there and I want them all to see that all of the investments of love that they’ve put into me have paid off. This is where I’m at now. Thank you for helping me get here, and I can’t wait until you see what’s in store.
Catherine Day: Today we’ve heard from Miracle Adebanjo, major in management and marketing, minor in international business and management information systems, class of 2020. We’ve also heard from Jodie Pritchard, social work unit supervisor with Hennepin County, and Jeff Aguy, vice president of strategy and corporate investment at NCXT. I’m Catherine Reid Day, and this is The Augsburg Podcast.
Paul Pribbenow: Thanks for listening to The Augsburg Podcast. I’m President Paul Pribbenow. For more information, please visit augsburg.edu.