The stress of coming back to college was enough to give Damiana King shingles. Then she asked herself, “If you don’t try something different and stick with doing the same old thing, how do you even know what’s out there?”
It was nothing a shingles shot couldn’t fix, Damiana said.
She was born the seventh child out of 10. Now a mother of three, Damiana has seized the opportunity to once again go to college; this time, she’s going with two of her daughters.
Danara and Darah King attend Western while their mother, Damiana, is creating her degree at Fairhaven College.
Her learning hasn’t ended yet, Damiana said. After graduating from Skagit Valley College last year and claiming an associate degree in early childhood development, Damiana decided to go for what she calls an “upside down” degree at Fairhaven College.
“I wanted to get more. An early childhood education was wonderful, but I had already raised a family,” Damiana said. “I have a passion for books and reading and I thought, ‘Let me give this a try.’”
The path wasn’t easy, however, and being back in college made Damiana feel like an imposter, she said. The technology advancements made it seem as though she was left to play catch up with the other students.
“I am learning how to work with instructors. I am learning technology and am learning how to find resources,” Damiana said. “There is just so much to learn.”
The three of them are constantly learning and teaching each other. Darah and Danara help their mother with technology and scheduling classes, Danara said. Damiana said she reciprocates by finding resources at Western and telling her daughters about them.
Damiana said she encourages her daughters to self-advocate and take all the opportunities they can.
“If one person doesn’t jump on your bandwagon, then go find another person that will,” Damiana said.
In order to teach her daughters, Damiana crafted a preschool out of her garage. She would teach the girls before sending them off to kindergarten later in the afternoon, Danara said.
Damiana has since remodeled the garage three times in order to give her daughters and other children a place to learn. Getting extra time to learn allowed Danara to get a head start in schooling as a child, Danara said.
“The only reason why I got into school so early was because of my mom,” Danara said.
Her passion for early education has lasted through the years. Following her graduation this June, Damiana hopes to use her bachelor’s degree in early childhood development to open a nonprofit community cultural center, she said.
The center would be a place to get the community and parents acquainted, as well as a way to become aware of the different cultures around them, she said.
In her time at Skagit Valley College, Damiana received a Woman of the Year award for her work study efforts in a kindergarten class with her daughter Darah. Since then, she has won two scholarships through the Fairhaven College, Damiana said.
Damiana isn’t the only one with significant accomplishments. Her oldest daughter, Danara, has been on Western’s honor roll for the past six quarters and has acquired an overall GPA of 3.86, she said.
In addition, she was awarded a scholarship for high-achieving women with a sociology major, Danara said.
Danara’s efforts are recognized by her professors. Western sociology professor Glenn Tsunokai has worked with Danara for over a year and said that she made quite the impression, Tsunokai said.
“I found her to be very intelligent, articulate and a very personable individual,” Tsunokai said in an email.
She owes all of her success to her mother, Danara said.
“My mom made the pathway for me to be the student that I am. She taught me how to be determined,” Danara said.
In the future, Danara hopes to further her education in graduate school, so she can find a career that allows her to be hands-on and able to help people that are less fortunate, she said.
Seeing her mom on campus is comforting, Darah said. On a day when she found herself looking for the right class and short on time, she hadn’t expected to run into her mother, Darah said.
“We silent screamed at each other, all we did was open our mouths and start hopping up and down. Like, ‘That’s my mom at school!’” Darah said.
Damiana isn’t just a mother to her two daughters at Western. Damiana’s classmates look up to her as a mother figure as her and Darah share a lot of the same friends around campus, Darah said.
Darah has shown her determination and intelligence since she was young, Damiana said. She is bilingual, and was writing and singing songs at a young age, Damiana said.
Darah isn’t sure what she wants to study just yet, but knows she wants to take after her mother in some way. She hopes that she can work with her mother through her preschool programs, Darah said.
“We want to make everything a step ahead for ethnic and cultural diversity,” Darah said.
Since they were born their mother instilled in them that giving up is never an option, Darah said.
“I never even realized that I would be at a university, and that’s what drives me. It’s that I never even had that possibility,” Damiana said.