MCCC Alumnus Brad Butler II '09 Speaks Truth at Educational Opportunity Fund Summer Enrichment Academy

Story by Brandon Johnson

West Windsor, N.J. - Brad Butler II stared into his webcam as calm as ever. His black, flat-brim cap, emblazoned with his signature “double B” logo, cast a shadow over his eyes as the rest of his face was cloaked by a black hoodie. But when he opened his mouth and his began to speak, he cast an unmissable light all around.

Butler is a 2009 graduate of Mercer County Community College (MCCC) and current motivational speaker. Unlike many of Mercer’s students, Butler isn’t a Trenton native. However, he still shares an often familiar story of fighting adversity.

“My mother and father were heroin addicts and drug dealers,” Butler said candidly to a group of students who were once in his position. “Dealing with the ups and downs of that was crazy.”

Recognizing that environment was a hindrance, Butler was sent to live with his grandparents and father in the East Windsor suburbs. He was away from the drugs and crime of Jersey City, but faced a new adversary: the school system.

Though he has always viewed himself as intelligent, Butler was placed in special education courses. He desperately tried to escape the restrictive grasp of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) but was continually met with setbacks.

“I always felt I was smarter than the IEP logs said I was,” Butler said. “I believed that if my mom and dad were able to beat a heroin addiction, I could beat the school system.”

At his final IEP meeting in high school, Butler was confronted with a question about his future.

“They asked me, ‘What are you going to do?’ They tried to deter me from going to college,” Butler recounted.

Despite the estimation imprinted on him through high school, Butler continued to press toward his larger educational goals. In 2006, he graduated and enrolled at Mercer County Community College, taking part in the college’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Summer Enrichment Academy. He did so without his IEP logs being reported to MCCC.

“I was the only person who knew I took remedial classes,” Butler said. “I didn’t want any help. No special accommodations. In college, I wanted to do this on my own.”

But Butler wasn’t alone. At MCCC, he met staff such as Al-Lateef Farmer and professors like Kathi Paluscio and Alvin Haywood, the latter of which was the first person to give him a paid public speaking gig. For the first time in his educational life, Butler found a support system of adults pushing him to succeed.

Finding success at Mercer still wasn’t easy. Butler remembers attending classes between working two full-time jobs.

“I was sleeping in the back of my car in the parking lot. I’d be at school all day when I wasn’t working,” Butler said, adding that he would quell the hunger pangs with visits to the water fountain. “But I realized if I could get through that adversity, I can get through a test or a quiz.”

Exhausting as school and work were, Butler still made time to get involved on campus. He fondly remembers playing football in the quad every chance he’d get.

“[The school administrators] told us we couldn’t play on the quad, so we went to the fields out back,” Butler said. These impromptu football games turned into local affairs. Mercer’s facilities staff painted lines on the field, and Butler and his friends started playing every Tuesday and Thursday.

Eventually, scouts from the Town Buff organization offered Butler’s football team to play in their league. Mercer’s team performed so well, they helped raise the profile of the league, which has since been rebranded as the American 7s Football League, a semi-pro conglomerate that plays throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

In 2009, Butler graduated from MCCC with a degree in Fine Arts. Six years later, after taking some time off school, he graduated from Kean University with a bachelors degree in Business Management.

“I actually went to Kean to walk on to the football team,” Butler said. “I took the highlights from my time at Mercer and turned them into a tape I sent to the coach to get a tryout.”

Playing football didn’t distract Butler from his educational goals. He entered Kean’s business program focused on fighting a problem that has long afflicted his family: money.

“Money has always been a struggle in my family. So, I wanted to learn how to create a business, product and services to keep me afloat,” Butler said.

Kean became his haven. Having guaranteed room and board meant for the first time in his life he didn’t have to worry about where his next meal would come from.

Now, years removed from grinding his way toward his degrees, Butler is imparting the wisdom he picked up from his mentors to current and future students. Employed as an author, public speaker, and youth development specialist, Butler uses his stories to empower those who came from similar struggles. He’s earned six awards from the state of New Jersey for his speaking, and has delivered addresses at three Fortune 500 companies and two professional sports teams. Butler is also certified by both the Dominance Influence Steadiness Conscientiousness Personality and Kendall Ficklin’s Business of Speaking and Coaching programs.

In November 2018, Butler published his first book Pain, Passion, Purpose. Part autobiography, part motivational text, it describes the promises he made to himself and his family to pursue excellence.

In keeping with fulfilling his purpose, on Monday, June 29, he spoke at the same EOF Summer Enrichment Camp that was so pivotal in shaping his post-secondary education.

“I fully understand the position you are in right now, trying to take on college while still trying to get through a pandemic,” Butler said to a group of incoming MCCC Vikings. “When I was in school it was never an easy or smooth path. You are going to face all forms of adversity.”

Though pain is inescapable, Butler advised that finding the right support system and using all the resources the college has to offer will help students stay focused on their goals.

“I asked for help in areas that I was weak. When I came to Mercer, I wanted to prove everybody wrong. All those names I had been called, I wanted to throw back in their faces,” Butler said.

“You have a uniqueness and specialness about you. But the road to success never looks the way you want it to look. Never. The road to getting there is going to look like something that you never imagined possible.”

To learn more about Brad Butler II, visit his website,, or check out his Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube pages. Or to contact him directly, email

Established in 1966, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) is a publicly supported comprehensive educational institution that provides opportunities for higher education through an open-door admission polic
MCCC is home to 70 associate degree programs and numerous credit and noncredit certificate programs. The college also offers many educational experiences, leadership opportunities and the chance to interact with other students and faculty/staff members in an informal setting.

More than 40 clubs offer students the opportunity to explore special interests. Many of these clubs are directly affiliated with fields of study and augment classroom experiences.

In addition, art exhibits, dance productions, dramatic presentations, musical productions, and performances by guest artists are sponsored throughout the year. Music organizations include the college chorus, jazz band, symphonic band, dance ensemble, and stage band.

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Brad Butler II graduated from Mercer in 2009 with a degree in Fine Arts.

jess bookholdt

He continued to earn a Business Management degree from Kean University in 2015, and has since become an author and motivational speaker.

pain passion purpose

His first book, Pain, Passion, Purpose, released in Nov. 2018.