Life is full of titles – Valedictorian, DECA Officer, Dr. MLK Oratorical Contest Regional or State Champion, Prom King or Queen – but if we don’t make a difference in the world around us, then all those titles will mean nothing."
~ Da’Quan Knuckles
Da’Quan Knuckles believes in making a difference. “I just want to give back to my community and to the people who helped me. Without my community and family, I wouldn't be here,” he stated. This past January, Da’Quan was honored for his community work with the “Youth: Capturing the Vision of Dr. King” award presented at the 30th Annual Commemorative Celebration sponsored by the Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission. The annual award is given to someone who exemplifies leadership and shows a commitment to excellence and interracial cooperation.
And Da’Quan is committed to excellence. He is involved in I Am Making A Difference, a non-profit organization that provides mentoring and tutoring assistance to encourage life-long learning. The organization also holds an annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. oratorical contest, with Da’Quan winning the regional contests in 2012 and 2013. For 22 weeks, students attend weekly classes on speech writing. They research their topic, write their speech – on either Dr. King or someone else who has made a difference in their community – and practice in front of audiences. Twice a week, Da’Quan met with the contestants, making suggestions on the delivery of their speeches and encouraging them.
Since his freshman year of high school, Da’Quan has also been involved in the YMCA Young Achievers, a national program that encourages high educational goals. Through monthly workshops, college visits, mentoring and career clusters, students learn about college, the professional world, and the opportunities available to them. “It helped me to mature and told me about college. It's a great program for the young people in my city,” he said, and when he wasn’t keeping stats for his high school wrestling team, Da’Quan also volunteered to help at their meetings.
A transfer student from The Ohio State University-Lima who clearly understands the value of support and encouragement, Da’Quan was pleased to find that when he transferred to Columbus, he would have the support of the Office and Diversity’s Campus Change Program. The program, which works to help students have a seamless transition to the Columbus campus, was instrumental in assisting Da’Quan even before he arrived on campus. “The campus seems huge, and you think you will get lost. ODI's program helped me tremendously by showing me around campus before I started school,” and, he continued, “ODI has a great staff, and they told me some things that I wouldn't have known if I wasn't in ODI.”
Da’Quan plans to graduate in 2017 with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in African American Studies. “I picked English as a major because I want to be a poet and motivational speaker.” Da’Quan started writing poetry after his grandfather died, and in 8th grade, he got the Class Poet award:“Although it was only a piece of paper it still means a lot to me.” When writing poetry, his goal, Da’Quan says, is to inspire. “The best thing in the world is being able to help others, and in my case, help others by speaking. There are many people who just need someone to talk to them and make them realize that someone’s there for them.” Through his poetry, Da’Quan can let others know that he has had struggles just like them and lived to overcome them. “We will not be remembered unless we make a difference in this world, and we all have the opportunity to make a difference.”