Darline Desil, ’15: Learning to Make a Difference for At-Risk Students
As a teacher’s aide in St. Louis, Darlene Desil worked with underprivileged kids, some of the most challenging in the classroom. When those students needed help, she went beyond her job description to devise a program to help them succeed. When her lack of a college degree prevented her from implementing that program on a larger scale, she quit – but didn’t give up.
Today, through Westminster, she is seeking her bachelor’s degree in education to make a difference in the lives of children too often overlooked.
Some Westminster students find their calling later in life. Darline was one of those people that fate drew to Westminster.
She grew up in Haiti until her mother fled with her to America out of fear her employer and the entire household would be killed by political assassins. They settled in Miami until a friend of Darline’s drew her to St. Louis with the expectations of a new job. When that job did not work out, Desil found employment at several venues such as Wal-Mart, Bath & Body Works, St. Louis Community College, and an early childhood education center, until she settled as a library aide at an inner city elementary school filled with underprivileged and at-risk students.
Compassionate by nature, Darline was drawn to the students with the most challenges. After only a brief time at the school, she perceived the more challenging children were basically left on their own so efforts and resources could focus on the students who made high scores on the state mandated competency tests.
Wanting to help these students from being left behind, Darline devised her own approach to individualized writing, reaching the students at their skill level and working to improve them. In some cases, the writing exercises would be as basic as having the students draw a picture and then, prompted by some guiding questions from her, write about their picture.
Seeing firsthand that she was making a difference with some of these students who had been difficult and were now responsive and experiencing success inspired her to want to be in a position where she could have a voice that mattered on instruction in the educational community.
Once she decided to become a teacher, Darline had no idea where she wanted to go. She called up schools that had education majors in the area, and Westminster was the first one she found. She liked what she saw and read on the website and after paying a visit to campus, she felt she had made the right choice.
Meeting the challenge of college-level academic standards and achieving herself has given Darline, Class of 2015, a renewed appreciation for the struggles her former students faced every day. The Westminster experience has reinforced Darline’s commitment to return to St. Louis upon graduation and put her education to work, helping underprivileged and at-risk students.