On the move most of his childhood, Brandon Wolliston chose to enroll at Hope College, in part, because it appeared to be a place he happily could plant his feet for a few years, rather than just a few months.
Hope College has provided the anchor for his life and foundation for his future he
The junior sprinter, who came to Holland after living for three years in Remus, Michigan and five other states before that, is pursuing a major in social work and a minor in sociology.
Wolliston also is excelling as a record-setter for the indoor track & field track & field team. He also is one of the top runners on the outdoor track & field team.
“Hope is my home,” Wolliston said.
Wolliston is a two-time member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Honor Roll, earning the honor as a freshman and a sophomore.
In February, after two injury-plagued seasons, he broke the school record in the indoor 400 meters several times - the last of which came with a runner-up effort of 49.45 seconds at the MIAA Indoor Championship at Calvin College.
Wolliston also ran a leg in the MIAA- and school-record distance medley relay. He teamed with senior Cameron Jones of Holland, Michigan (Black River), junior Peter Timperman of Lafayette, Indiana (Faith Christian) and junior Ben Pederson of Mount Prospect, Illinois (Mount Prospect) for a winning performance of 10:28.24.
It is a breakthrough season several years in the making.
Wolliston has persevered through many challenges, beginning with not being able to compete in youth sports growing up as he and his family, including his younger brother, Daniel, and younger sister, Daysha, were regularly moving. His single mother, Kim, was a salesperson who had jobs in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New York, and Texas.
“My mom said she goes where the money is. I did that my whole life,” Wolliston said. “When I was younger, I wanted to help take care of my brother and sister (and) sacrificed for that.”
But after his mother remarried, issues developed at home, and Wolliston was forced to leave. Old family friends offered to take him in, so he settled in a small town in central Michigan instead of being sent to military school as his then-stepfather wanted.
With a new start and a second chance, he coose to make the best of the situation and focused at excelling in school so that he could create a bright future for himself. He took part in extracurricular activities at school and found that he could use competitive running as an emotional release from all the emotions he held in.
Joining a team also gave him the satisfying feeling of belonging to something bigger than himself.
Despite the positive change in his life, Wolliston faced adversity after he enrolled at Chippewa Hills High School. Foot and femur injuries cost him two seasons of competition. He was able to participate as a senior but wasn’t a heralded prospect because he only had just one healthy season.
He found Hope after casting a wide search for colleges in Michigan. He said he preferred a small school where he could get to know his professors, wasn’t treated as just another number, and to grow in his faith.
He said he didn’t decide on Hope until a school ceremony at Chippewa Hills.
“I never visited Hope. I applied to all small private schools, some big ones as well,” Wolliston said. “It was Senior Day. We were going up on stage and taking a picture with the flag of the school you were going to. They called my name. In my mind, Hope was the first to pop up and it just felt right to me. When I got to my senior year, I really needed hope in my life and it seemed as though Hope was calling me. I went and put in my deposit that very night. Here I am three years later and it is still one of the best decisions I have made.”
It was a life-changing decision.
Not only is Wolliston enjoying a productive junior season of track and field while managing foot and knee pain, he is preparing himself to follow his other passion: caring for others.
While Wolliston is working on discovering where his major in social work and minor in sociology will take on, he knows he is on the right path.
“In my life growing up, I I've had to go through some pretty difficult situations that I wouldn't want to wish on my own worst enemy. I always had to deal with social workers because of my sporadic moving. I remember going from school to school, and having to talk to the school social worker. The longest I’ve been in one state is Michigan the past six years,” Wolliston said. “Being in Michigan, I live away from my family. My only relative in the state is my grandmother in Grand Haven. Now going through the process as an independent student, having to do basically everything on my own, overcoming many obstacles, and having to deal with the system, I have an appreciation for the social work profession and everything they do!”
“In my life, I’ve always had a big heart for helping others and getting to know their story — what they’re really about. I wanted to do something in the helping profession. For me, I want to help people with their problems. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but I have a huge passion for people and making sure that they know they're not alone.”
Wolliston is thankful for everything he has discovered at Hope College, whether it be in the classroom, the athletic arena or other student activities.
He considers being a student-athlete here a high honor and privilege.
“Hope is a prestigious college, strong liberal arts, well known. It’s hard to get into sometimes,” Wolliston said. “I feel honored to be a student here, then being an athlete here is a whole another story. I’ve just had the best time here with the professors, faculty, staff, athletic trainers, coaches. Everybody, I’ve made connections and grown with them. They opened a lot of doors for me with things that I needed help with and I will forever be grateful.”
“I’m still learning. I’m a first-generation student. I don’t know what I’m doing to this day but that's OK. Hope has helped me grow and has gotten me this far. All I can do now is repay the favor and open as many doors as I can for those who need help.”