“People might say things, but go for what you believe in and stick with it, because you will accomplish a lot more doing something you actually love,” stated Diandra Matthews, an ambitious elementary-collaborative major and Head Athenian Ambassador at Athens State University. Diandra hopes to teach first or second grade after she graduates from Athens State in the fall of 2019. From a young age, Diandra felt a strong desire to teach children, and has chased that dream after realizing there was no room for anything else.
Diandra fell in love with the idea of teaching children when she herself was a child. Her mother was a teacher as she was growing up, which also inspired her. “It’s just always been part of my life. When I was younger, I had a little whiteboard, and when I would get home from school, I would pretty much reteach what I was taught in school to my dolls,” she said nostalgically. “Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to teach.” She hopes to have her own classroom shortly after she gets her degree and also find a way to help children outside of school. Diandra shared that starting a non-profit charity to help children was one of her future ambitions, saying, “It’s just always been in me to do that. I love kids.”
Originally from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, Diandra moved to the United States because of her parents’ mission work. Her status as an international student initially presented some problems when she began seeking a college to transfer to that was close to her new home in the Shoals. After visiting other local colleges and having to deal with lengthy, difficult acceptance processes, Diandra decided to give Athens State a try. Upon her first visit to the University, she not only got accepted on the spot, but got assistance in registering for all of her classes as well. “Everything that I was trying to do for DAYS at that other school, I was able to do in one day here. It was pretty great,” Diandra happily recalled.
Diandra is also a scholarship recipient, which has made an impact in her life. “My parents are mission workers, so they go back and forth from the United States to Saint Vincent a lot. Essentially, they’re taking care of two households: mine and theirs back in Saint Vincent. Receiving a scholarship helps them know that part of my tuition is getting covered and we don’t have to worry about where the money is coming from to pay for it. It just makes it easier on all of us.”
Diandra did not waste any time becoming active at her new school or in the community. She is currently a member of several Athens State University clubs and organizations including the Athenians, Phi Theta Kappa, Kappa Delta Phi, the Student Government Association, and the Multi-Cultural Club. “It’s brought me out of my shell. I’m more social and outgoing than I was, and I’m able to be active in different activities,” she reflected. Diandra also volunteered to help with the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run in Huntsville, where she met inspiring cancer survivors and was able to work alongside them. “I love being involved in different activities,” she shared, “I think it is very important.”
Even though Diandra has always known in her heart that she was meant to be a teacher, she went through a time where she contemplated whether or not she should actually try to fulfill those dreams. “Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. As I got older, people would ask me what I wanted to be, and I would say, ‘I want to be a teacher.’ Their response would be, ‘Teachers don’t make that much money.’ That kind of discouraged me.” This led Diandra to veer off of the path she originally wanted to take and pursue nursing. Shortly thereafter, she realized that she did not have the same passion for that profession as she did for teaching. “It was not what I wanted to do,” she said. Upon this realization, she decided that doing what she loved despite what others thought or said was much more important in the long run.
Diandra encourages others to always follow their dreams and passions just like she did. Her drive and love for children and teaching will surely push her forward towards a fulfilling career, as she continues to follow aspirations true to her heart.