A man of TRIUMPH

Ava Pollock, Staff Writer

Erik Enders is ECC’s student life coordinator for student equity. (In this February 2020 photo, Enders is being interviewed for an Observer podcast that was never published due to the pandemic.) (Observer staff)

If you attended the Student Government meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 16, you may remember the guest speaker who gave a presentation on the Transforming and Impacting Undergraduate Men Pursuing Higher Education (TRIUMPH) and the Black History Month events at Elgin Community College. When you hear him speak, it’s clear that his passion shines through his words. This man is Erik Enders.

Erik Enders was born on May 30 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He primarily grew up with his mother and father. He has two older brothers, but since they were in college when he was growing up, he only got to see them when they came home from college. Growing up, he had a great group of friends in his neighborhood.

“I had four friends that I’ve been friends with spanning over thirty-five years to twenty-five years,” Enders said. “We’ve been friends for a really long time. They’ve really helped me become a better person.”

Between the ages of 12 and 13, Enders got into youth programs that trained them in video production. His church had a television ministry, so Enders would get involved in it as much as he could.

“I fell in love with it,” Enders said. “I volunteered, I ran camera, I directed, script, I did everything as a part of that team.”

After he graduated high school, he went to the University of Indianapolis. While he was a student, Enders played for their football team known as the Indianapolis Greyhounds. He then graduated with a degree in communications and electronic media.

Enders got married and moved to Florida in 2004 and lived there for ten years. While he lived in Florida, he chose to go back to education. During that period of time, Enders freelanced in video production. He also worked with different ministries and mentored young and old men. 

While they lived in Florida, their four kids were born. After they were born, Enders and his wife came to the conclusion that they wanted to move to where they’d be closer to their families. They also wanted their children to have the opportunity to spend time with their grandparents, so the couple decided to move back to the Midwest. In 2014, they moved to Illinois within the Chicago area.

“My wife is from central Illinois and I’m from Indianapolis,” Enders said. “So we figured that the Chicago area would be a great midpoint.”

Enders worked for a ministry for a few years, contributing to it by utilizing his passions in video production. He was set on achieving a lifelong career in production and did not even consider education as a career path.

However, that would all change. One day, his wife encouraged him to take a job offer at ECC after seeing a flyer. Enders was initially unsure about taking the job because he wasn’t sure if it was for him. Eventually, he agreed to apply for the position.

“When I looked at the job posting, all of the requirements for the position I had except for having formerly worked in an educational setting,” Enders said. “So, I decided to apply for the job.”

The interview went smoothly, and Enders got the job in ECC ‘s Student Life department a month after the interview in the fall of 2019. Since then, he has been working on the ECC Black History Month committee and runs TRIUMPH. 

Dr. Mia Hardy, an assistant professor here at ECC, was there to help Enders understand the culture of ECC. The two of them had met through an outside organization.

“When he applied for the job at ECC, I was so excited because I knew what he would bring to the table,” Hardy said.

Since he was hired, Enders has truly made a positive impact on his co-workers with his creative ideas and his collaborative mindset.

“I would describe him as conscientious, focused, creative, and analytical,” Hardy said. “It is nice to have all that rolled up into one person because when he is part of a group or leading a group he brings so much energy and excellence to the task at hand.”

Dr. Yolanda Barnes, the Associate Dean of Stability, Business, and Career Tech who works with Enders quite frequently, also has a similar opinion. She describes Enders as a man of character.

“Some relationships on campus or any job that you get take a lot of effort sometimes,” Barnes said. “Not just to make that relationship work, but just the working environment can sometimes be a little bit challenging, just because of our jobs. With Mr. Enders, it’s always been extremely easy. He’s very pleasant to work with. He is that nice guy.”

In Student Life, his specific position is to run a program known as TRIUMPH. This program is a mentorship program dedicated to assisting young men of color with graduating college. According to ECC’s official website, TRIUMPH seeks to cultivate skills such as conflict resolution, emotional management, financial literacy, and public speaking.

When he first was hired, he worked a part-time position. Initially, he was only responsible for the TRIUMPH program. However, when a full-time position opened up in Student Life, Enders then applied for that job. Now, he advises Black student achievers as well as leading the Black History Month planning. He also executes African American Fall-Spring connections, which supports Black student success and connection to the community.

“It is always nice working with Erik because he is super organized and really passionate about doing things well,” Hardy said. “I think he brings out the best in people and encourages them to optimize their gifts on projects.”

Barnes describes Enders as someone who tends to look at the bigger picture when planning for things.

“But that’s what Erik brings to the table as a colleague,” Barnes said. “He thinks outside of the box. That’s Erik.”

Every year, there’s a theme for Black History Month celebrations at ECC. This year, the theme was Black health and wellness. The theme is used as a catalyst to plan the events. Each and every featured presentations, discussions, and interactive events not only celebrated Black achievements, but also talked about Black health. For instance, the event “Lifting the Veil: Demystifying Black Mental Health” that took place on Thursday, Feb. 24th focused on black mental health. 

Enders, as well as other members of the Black History Month planning committee, agree that learning about Black History shouldn’t be delegated to a single month. Now that we are back in person, there are plans to go through with that mantra.

“We are always striving to highlight Black achievement and Black voices beyond Black History Month,” Enders said. “This year, I’m going to be partnering with Juan in the art gallery where we’re going to [potentially do] an art display of Black artists. And then, we’ve been discussing some other events. We’re still trying to figure some things out.” 

Hardy had a similar idea on the matter.

“In that same vein, since we are an institution that strives for equity, diversity, and inclusion, we considered trying to promote or encourage more EDI focused themes on doors and spaces around campus,” Hardy said. “Additionally, working with faculty groups, such as TIDE, to develop more avenues for Black voices, scholars, issues, history, contributions, etc. to be infused into the curriculum was also discussed.”

As well as the events, there are also displays around ECC’s campus featuring the accomplishments of many Black Americans in each building. It is all separated by field. For instance, Building A’s display featured the accomplishments of Black workers in healthcare.

“The focus of the displays that were up during Black History Month was to introduce people that have made an impact that you may not have ever heard of,” Enders said.

While many people have heard of influential Black figures in history such as Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass, there are so many influential Black Americans that not many people know about. For instance, the three-position traffic signal was invented by Garrett Morgan, a Black man. His contribution to society allowed roads to become safer, but only a few people know about his story. That is an example of what Enders strives to change.

“The goal of our Black history makers around campus was to shine a light on their contributions and for people to say, ‘Oh, wow, I didn’t realize!’,” Enders said. “So that is really the focus. And just awareness and appreciation.”