EastBay Today

Posted June 14, 2017

Single Father Does It All

Student Danny Hanson-Hackett balances two sons, work and school

Senior Danny Hanson-Hackett has been working toward his degree while balancing fatherhood and full-time work — now, he's one year away from completing his bachelor's in communication.
Garvin Tso

At just 26 years old, Cal State East Bay senior and father of two Danny Hanson-Hackett knows a few things about balance. Some days, balance is missing class so he can work an extra shift; other days, it’s about saying no to friends to complete a homework assignment so he’ll have time to play with his children on the weekend.

But making those decisions hasn’t always been easy.

Born and raised by a young, single mother who was attending college herself during most of his childhood, Hanson-Hackett said as a single father who is going to school, he’s always inspired by his mother’s persistence.

But, in a roundabout way he’s also inspired by his father — who has been incarcerated for many years — especially now that Hanson-Hackett is a father himself.

“I needed to fill the void of not having my dad around and I decided to fill it with the opportunity I saw to have my own family,” he said. “It’s like covering up a wound — I can’t pull him out of jail, but I can break the cycle.”

For Hanson-Hackett that includes going to school, even if it means taking classes slowly or taking breaks to work full time, as he’s had to do on occasion to afford Bay Area rent for himself and his children. He’s hoping a degree will change that trajectory.

“I’ve just always tried to keep in school, no matter what,” he said. “I feel this drive to continue going because I know finishing college will mean a better paying job and a better life for me and my kids.”

Hanson-Hackett has another year left to earn his undergraduate degree in communications, which he wants to leverage into a radio career.

“I really want to motivate people on their way to work,” he said, adding that he loves Cal State East Bay’s communications program because it’s collaborative and hands-on. “In communications, it’s all about people sharing ideas to better themselves and the world — I love that.”

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Hanson-Hackett tried a number of colleges before settling at Cal State East Bay — San Francisco City College and Santa Rosa Junior College, among others. But ultimately, wanting to be close to his sons and their mother in Hayward, and a feeling of being accepted at the university won him over. He’s now a year away from graduating with an undergraduate degree in communications, which he hopes to leverage into a radio career.

But until that happens, Hanson-Hackett will continue to draw from the network of support he’s found at Cal State East Bay. He works on campus at Associated Students Inc., sees therapists in the health center for guidance, visits with Alex Baker, the campus’ social worker and sometimes, when things are particularly tight, picks up food for himself or his children at the Pioneers for HOPE food pantry.

Lil Brown-Parker, Associated Students Inc. business services manager and mentor to Hanson-Hackett, said his desire to succeed immediately stood out to her.

“Danny has an ability to overcome obstacles on his own, yet knows when to ask for help,” Brown-Parker said. “He is a kind and gentle soul, eager to share his acquired knowledge and skills with fellow students.”

Hanson-Hackett’s sons, Jacques (2) and Roderick (5) live primarily with their mother — whom he split with more than a year ago — but, he cares for them several times a week. On the weekends, the three spend their days drawing, going to the park or making breakfast.

“I enjoy seeing what they’re interested in and trying to support them in that,” Hanson-Hackett said. “We do things I don’t get to do with them every day and it feels really good to do simple stuff like make them breakfast in the morning, especially because I couldn’t do that with my dad.”

His love for his children and drive to give them a good life hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“While Danny became a father at a young age, he understands the need to never give up, to set the standards of work and follow-through at a level that will be impressionable and attainable for his two little boys,” Brown-Parker said. “Getting his degree can only enhance each of their lives now and in the future.”

It’s a fact Hanson-Hackett knows well and said drives him when he’s inevitably overwhelmed.

“There’s an infinite amount of room for me to make sure these children have the best experiences growing up,” Hanson-Hackett said. “You can be the one to break the cycle.”

And his advice for fellow parents trying to manage it all?

Expect the unexpected.

“Things are not going to go how you think they’re going to go,” Hanson-Hackett said. “For fellow fathers, I would say you have to have patience, and that’s true for your school work and with your kids.”