After graduating high school in 2011, Denzel Jenkins thought he found the right fit.
The Camden, Arkansas, native pursued a computer science degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with good career prospects. All seemed well for a couple of years until everything fell apart.
“I was pretty much lost in Fayetteville,” Jenkins said. “I had bad experiences there, so I took a semester off. I really connected with God, and he showed me my passion, which is film.”
Jenkins had a lifelong dream of working in filmmaking that he had previously ignored, but he got a second chance at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
“I always imagined doing film in my mind, but I never pursued it. When I came here, it provided me the opportunity to pursue it,” he said. “Now I love everything about film. It starts out as an idea, but in order to get to it, you have to create it. You have to have the will, the heart, and the drive to bring it to life.”
Jenkins is graduating with a double major in mass communication and Spanish. He was recently awarded the 2017 Cervantes Award for Outstanding Graduate in Spanish from the College of Arts, Letters and Sciences.
He studied Spanish with the hope of being an international filmmaker able to tell stories about other cultures.
“I wanted to do film in different countries, and that motivated me to learn Spanish and about other cultures,” Jenkins said. “I saw that Little Rock could offer me that.”
During fall 2016, Jenkins put his Spanish skills to use by studying abroad at Universidad Veritas in San Jose, Costa Rica, where he took classes in Spanish, acting, multimedia, and documentary production. Even though he did not know how he was going to pay for the trip, Jenkins bought a plane ticket six months in advance.
His faith paid off as Jenkins later received a $2,500 National Gilman Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and a $1,500 Trojans Travel Scholarship to help pay for his trip.
While at UA Little Rock, Jenkins gained film experience by creating videos for the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Campus Life. He also worked as a resident assistant and volunteered at the Little Rock Film Festival.
Jenkins created a documentary called, “The American Dream Today,” which won the Most Provocative Documentary Award at the 2016 UA Little Rock Film Festival.
“When I was in Fayetteville, I was a firm believer in the American Dream,” he said. “With me failing, it made me believe that the American Dream is not real. It motivated me to do a documentary to ask people what they think about the American Dream.”
Jenkins now views the idea of the American Dream as a concept that provides people with hope, but his desire to pursue his dreams now comes from a higher power.
“I see the American Dream as an idea and a concept that people hold on to,” he said. “What I hold on to is God. He led me here to pursue the dreams that he destined for me.”
After graduation, Jenkins is returning to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville to pursue a master’s degree and study documentary filmmaking. Jenkins hopes to get a second chance in Fayetteville just like he got in Little Rock.
“I feel like me going back there is providing me a second chance to meet the right people this time and to accomplish the right goals this time like I did at UA Little Rock,” he said.