UNO student chooses empowerment over pity


Will Patterson

Brandon McDermott, a KVNO reporter and a journalism student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, has forged a path from a childhood shrouded in conflict to a bright future.

“I’ve had a weird life,” McDermott said, “I’m very happy with where I am.”

His life began in a tumultuous family. Father and mother married when he was 3 years old and divorced when he was 5. Both parents never received education past the eighth grade.

McDermott’s childhood education took him to seven elementary schools, four junior high schools and a single high school— Benson. This constant moving was caused by a variety reasons, most involving his parent’s inability to stay out of trouble and hold custody.

These early years were marked by abuse. McDermott’s father was emotionally and physically abusive towards his wife and his children, which ultimately resulted in McDermott’s time in the foster care program, at age 8.

What McDermott describes as the worst days of his life came when he was 13 years old and began with witnessing his father physically assaulting his girlfriend, Kim. During a heated argument, his father pushed Kim down a flight of stairs causing her to sustain an injury to her head. This ultimately resulted in her death ten days later, leaving behind three young children.

When Kim had first been taken to the hospital McDermott’s father had lied to police, saying that she had slipped and fallen down the staircase. He also encouraged his son to participate in the lie.

McDermott kept up the lie for the majority of a 13-hour interrogation. When police presented him the reality of the evidence and implications of a criminal record he told the truth. This would contribute to his father’s arrest and eventual conviction.

In the time following his father’s arrest, McDermott was isolated in the foster care system for a second time. Court orders blocked him from attending school due to the risk of his father being released on bail and trying to abduct him. It was during these long days that he found his fondness of radio, compiling a list of 300 songs he enjoyed.

McDermott recalls thinking during this time, “I could use this for bad, use this to become a statistic. Or I could take this moment in my life and use this to be good and to be the best I can. To show him and the world I’m not my father.”

As many know, the Foster Care program can be difficult place. McDermott had a mixed experience, ranging from lifelong positive impacts to manipulating care-takers. His time in the program ended when his mother proved to the state that she had a home and could raise her children.

McDermott attributes many of the positive impacts in his life to those he met and who helped him at his high school, Benson. During his time in Omaha Public Schools, he was a part of a career program. In this program McDermott explored the career option of broadcast— an experience that would leave a lasting impact on his life.

“Benson made me who I am today,” McDermott said. “I made some of my best friends and met some of the best teachers there.”

Although he graduated on time, McDermott left high school with a 1.68 GPA. This axed most plans for higher education, but he still eventually found a job at Data Transmission Network. Here he climbed up until receiving a decent paying management position.

He left this life to return to the field of broadcasting, which he described as “his first love,” when the opportunity arose to get a position at KVNO. The following success and rise in KVNO spurred McDermott’s desire to obtain a degree, which he is currently in the process of earning.

Readers can hear McDermott’s stories airing on KVNO 90.7 FM during the morning newscats at 6, 7 and 8 a.m.

Brandon McDermott is not the collection of unfortunate things that have happened to him. He is the proof that one’s origin does not define their future.

“I deserved to be a statistic. I deserved to be one of those odds that don’t make it,” McDermott said. “I flew in the face of that and I’ve flown in the face of that my whole life.”