The Light I Needed
"Coming into HCC, I was nervous. I still wasn't really sure of myself. During my first year I wondered, can I really do this? But I learned to rise above the circumstances through a lot of support at HCC." – Diamond Smith
Diamond Smith is a 22-year-old liberal arts major from Easthampton, Mass. The following first-person profile is based on remarks she recently delivered to the HCC Board of Trustees at the invitation of President Christina Royal for a segment called "Black Students Lives Matter."
come from immigrants. My parents are from Jamaica, and education has been so important in my family. My grandmother did not have access to schooling, so she always pushed her children to get their educations, and that was passed down to me.
This is my sophomore year at HCC. I've been studying liberal arts, which has been a pleasure. And I've been taking a lot of Learning Community courses. I've also been doing a lot of stuff having to do with my career field. I want to be a journalist, and I've been doing a lot of interviews.
For me, being at HCC has been a very beautiful process of finding my identity as well as learning to develop my student voice, and that has always been a struggle. When I was 17, my mom got sick. I was in high school during that time and I shut down on myself. It was so difficult to concentrate, to learn. I became very isolated as a student. My mom really wanted me to push through that obstacle, because she didn't want to get in the way of my learning.
Coming into HCC, I was nervous. I still wasn't really sure of myself. During my first year I wondered, can I really do this? But I learned to rise above the circumstances through a lot of support at HCC. There were a lot of times when teachers saw my nervousness and spoke to me and supported me, even though they didn't know what was going on at home. Diamond, they told me, you got this.
They helped me feel that I mattered. That experience was so powerful to me. It was the light I really needed, and we all need that.
I have had various roles at HCC: I'm president of the Black Student Alliance. I am on Student Senate and part of the Student Advisory Council, and I write for Apex, HCC's online student publication.
I am interested in freelance journalism, and I have done some freelance writing. I like to interview people about their lives and the things that they went through, and see how they got to be where they are now and how they became successful. I want to help people and raise awareness.
HCC helped me find my voice. My professors and advisors encouraged me to join clubs and to create a community within the college. They encouraged me to speak to different groups. I participated in various poetry slams, and I read poems, and I met students who had similar interests. I started to feel my confidence growing more and more.
As far as classes go, I've had a lot of favorites. I really enjoyed my philosophy class with Jonathan McCabe, Critical Thinking and Reasoning. We read Socrates and studied existentialism and morality and the philosophy behind why people make choices and do what they do, which is really interesting.
I've loved my Learning Community classes, in particular "She Persisted: Exploring Women's Lives," a combined women's history and theater class taught by Diane Beers and Pat Sandoval.
What I like so much about LCs is that because of the smaller class sizes and nature of the discussions, you get know your classmates and professors on a deeper level. We share a bond. It's like a family, and the material is phenomenal. Every LC is like that.
I would say my communications class with Dawn Lovegrove really inspired my interest in journalism. We studied a lot of American journalists, including Tim Wise, who writes about racism and the racial divide in America.
One of my most meaningful moments at HCC so far was a Zoom event I helped organize as president of BSA in celebration of Juneteenth. It was about two hours of discussion. We reflected on discrimination in America, honored George Floyd, and talked about what we can do to be advocates for each other and stand up against racism. It was really powerful and people were getting really emotional. We had a huge turnout. I loved it so much. It was really a blessing. I'm writing an article based on it for Apex, and I'm really excited about that.
I'm hoping to graduate in the spring – fingers crossed – and then transfer to a four-year institution. I'm still looking at some colleges right now and seeing what's the best fit, given what's going on with the pandemic. I plan to study journalism.
Overall, my experience at HCC has been very powerful and impactful. Going to HCC is a growth process. You start trying stuff, and that opens you up to different things you can do that you didn't know you could do. I think that's something that every student goes through. I'd say I'm well prepared for what comes next. HCC built me up to get to that point."
PHOTO by CHRIS YURKO: Diamond Smith