Some people seek out ways to become a legend, but for others, the opportunity finds them.
“I actually got into the sport of cycling on accident,” says Brandon Valentine-Parris, founder of the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) cycling team. Surrounded by the rolling hills of Raleigh, North Carolina, St. Augustine’s University (SAU) serves as the birthplace of this pioneering cycling organization. Valentine-Parris inadvertently etched his name into the history books by assuming the role of coach for this pioneering group, an endeavor he had played a crucial role in founding.
Valentine-Parris , a track star who represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the 2016 Olympics, found cycling to be an unexpected outlet for speed and personal development, bringing with it a profound sense of liberation. “What I love about cycling is how free you are on two wheels. There’s no limitation once you are on a bicycle,” he said.
Dedication and ambition are traits that can lead to success anywhere, yet Valentine-Parris believes attending an HBCU was key. The tight knit community and unwavering support enabled him to help start and sustain this first-ever HBCU cycling team.
HBCUs have been invaluable to the pursuit of Black aspirations and wealth building, with over half of all African-American professionals having graduated from one of these distinguished institutions. For decades, Wells Fargo has been committed to serving the HBCU community through initiatives, contributions and tools for financial education.
Since the mid-2000s, Wells Fargo has provided more than $39 million to HBCUs and organizations that support them. Working with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Wells Fargo helped start the Empower Me Tour, a joint initiative that inspires HBCU students to take control of their futures while setting them on the path to accomplish their career goals. Wells Fargo also partners with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), which has awarded more than $300 million in scholarships and contributions to TMCFmember schools and outstanding students. To help prepare young people for the real world, their Beyond College: Webinar series equips students and recent graduates with financial tips from some of the country's most brilliant minds.
His dedication to his HBCU and competitive drive motivated Valentine-Parris to return after graduation to become SAU’s cycling coach. Under his direction, the team is now registered with USA Cycling.
“It’s a sport where not many people who look like us are at the forefront of this. I realized that I am actually the spearhead of change,” he said, “It wasn’t something I set out to do. I learned by just being out there, being present - representation matters.”
Representation and celebration of the HBCU spirit sparked Wells Fargo to create the HBCU Legends Collection, custom debit cards that pay tribute to an ever-growing number of beloved HBCUs across the nation, and St. Augustine’s University is one of them.
“I think it's pretty cool to have my school logo on a debit card. To see Wells Fargo support HBCUs in this type of way, allows us to have school pride in a unique way. It's just being able to represent.” said Valentine-Parris, “I think it's pretty dope.”
The young coach-athlete has already accomplished much in the realm of athletics and is currently training to compete in the upcoming Olympics. He attributes his achievements to an unwavering work ethic and determination to excel.
“I step to any table to be the best I can be, whatever forces might come my way. If people see I can, [they’ll believe] they can. I think that’s what my legacy’s going to be.”