“If there is no struggle,” Frederick Douglass once observed, “there is no progress.”
Even nature documents the transformative power of adversity. A common piece of coal, kept under tons of pressure for millions of years, becomes an exquisite diamond.
Diamond Richards, a first-generation college student from Lexington, shared the difficult, yet revolutionary journey she underwent during her college career when she addressed fellow graduates of the College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University on Dec. 15.
“After my first semester, I thought, ‘What in the world am I getting myself into?’” Nevertheless, she persisted, and divulged the secrets to her success. “When I felt like giving up, or lost faith in myself, three things never failed to uplift me.”
The first is the oft-quoted Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11. “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declared the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Richards said she prospered greatly from her time at EKU, including friends, she added, placed in her life by God. Her friends have become her motivation, support system and family.
“Most importantly, I’ve gained an exceptional collegiate education,” Richards continued. “If I must say so myself, the department is pretty awesome!” Her professors stood out as an extraordinary element of her educational experience. “We have a very well established, experienced and distinguished array of faculty and staff,” she remarked. “All caring, kind and wanting to see the best in each of us. The networking opportunities go beyond the department.”
The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, where Richards served as liaison officer, also became a special place to her. She spent most of her time there, and made many friends and memories. “The office and center were always there, and I appreciated that.”
In addition to her position at the office, Richards was also lead guru at the Student Success Center, an orientation leader, a summer bridge lab assistant, president and secretary of the Black Student Union, new members chair of Minority Collegiate Connections, student adviser for Eastern Open Mic, a University Diversity Office scholar, sergeant of arms with the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and a mentor and ambassador for the Freshman Academy for Diverse Students.
The second motivator Richards cited was the dying wish of a beloved family member. “In August of 2015, my grandmother passed away from a heart attack,” she shared. “At her death bed, I held her hand and promised her that I’d finish college, no matter how hard it got.” On top of her graduation cap sat a small heart-shaped vessel containing some of the ashes of her dear “Grammie.” She wore it as a reminder of the touching promise she made.
Richards hopes to do her Grammie one better. Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, she plans to pursue a master’s of public administration degree here at EKU.
While Richards relishes in the completion of her promise, she knows that she must be her own final motivator. “Above all, we had to do this for ourselves. Not for our moms, or our dads, or our siblings,” she declared. “Regardless of who did or did not, we had to believe in ourselves. If we did not want this for ourselves, we would not be here.
“Class of 2017, let’s change the world!” she concluded. “Eastern prepared us to do so. Make no little plans!”
-- by Madison Harris, Student Writer, EKU Communications and Brand Management