Prevailing through hardship; City College student draws motivation from tragic past

Diashaun Singleton, 20, is a full-time student at City College and also works full-time. Singleton uses the grief he's suffered to motivate him and others towards a better future Jan 26. | Photo by Amari Smith | Staff Reporter |

Leslie Parada
Guest Writer

Everyday struggles rarely reach the evening news, but it still takes courage to face them, especially following a tragedy.

City College student Diashaun Singleton, 20, exemplifies someone who is willing to overcome all odds and work through adversity to stay in school.

“Let’s get this over with,” says Singleton, as he gets ready for another busy day, working a full-time job at Target while also being a full-time student.

Singleton, like many other community college students, struggles to juggle his ever-expanding list of responsibilities. He works about 40 hours a week and takes around 16 units a semester as he looks to earn a degree in political science. However, his past gives him the motivation he needs to secure a better future.

As a child, Singleton saw firsthand what it was like to struggle. He came from a low-income family, without a computer to do homework, without warm water, and at times, without hope. It was difficult to focus on school, but it was, honestly, the least of his worries.

At the age of 7, Singleton hit his lowest point. During the winter of 2004, he lost four of his family members in a fatal car accident. The incident, while tragic, motivated Singleton to make the most of life and brought him closer to his cousin, Justus Brown. Brown, though older than Singleton, looks up to his cousin, as many of his friends and family do.

“He just works all the time,” says Brown of his cousin. “Work, school, work, school. I don’t know how he does it. Makes me want to get my life together.”

Singleton’s motivation is contagious. He inspires his close friends to do better by setting an example that he feels he needed more of. He says that many of the friends and people he admired stopped going to school and just kept working at the jobs they’d had since high school.

Singleton, though, is never complacent, which isn’t to say he’s perfect either. This is his third year at City College, and he’s the first to admit that he’s made many mistakes along the way. In fact, he considered not going to college altogether.

“Yeah, my first year was terrible. I probably dropped like six classes,” Singleton says with a reminiscent chuckle. “I almost dropped out. When you’re always busy, your life can seem so small. Like it just revolves around stacking boxes at work and writing paper after paper. I can see the appeal of quitting a job or dropping out. Seems peaceful.”

Longtime friend Alberto Romero didn’t believe for a second that Singleton would drop out.

“Singleton’s known what he’s wanted to be in life since he was like 4,” says Romero. “He’s one of those people. Sure he screws up all the time, who doesn’t? But he’s different from the rest of us. He’s a go-getter. He doesn’t let little things stop him.”

Singleton’s work ethic has paved the way for numerous opportunities. He’s worked many jobs, taken classes in various fields, from basketball to history, and has also found time to volunteer for local political organizations and campaigns. He’s worked on Ami Bera’s congressional campaign and for the California Democratic Party.

There are days when he doesn’t have time for a meal, and nights where he doesn’t get any sleep. Singleton recognizes, however, that many other college students face the same struggle.

“I know that I’m not alone in this,” he says. “There are probably kids out there that work way harder than I do, 10 times as hard. I know it doesn’t seem that bad, just going to school and working retail, but sometimes, man, it’s a lot.”

Like many college students, Singleton has big dreams. He wants to become a high school government teacher and help at-risk youth. He believes that teaching kids about their rights and about how they can get involved in their community can change their lives for the better, the same way it did for him.

“I just want to show these kids that it’s possible,” he says.

It is possible. And Singleton is the proof.