Housing Authority gives James ‘purpose and passion’
Destiny James has a passion, purpose and plan.
Growing up, James was raised by a single mother in the Carolyn Court apartments in the small town of Denmark, but she had big dreams. She turns 20 this week and is about to start her junior year in college.
“She said, ‘Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon,’” said Denmark-Olar High School (DOHS) Principal Mickey Pringle of his former student.
After graduating as the salutatorian of the DOHS Class of 2015, James began classes at the University of Miami to study biology with hopes of becoming a dentist. However, she soon discovered dentistry wasn’t her passion.
A family tragedy would soon inspire a new path, plan and purpose.
In 2015, James’ father, Gerald James, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died in 2016, which led Destiny James to switch her major to public health (health communications). She wants to work in disease prevention and cancer awareness. She starts her junior year at the University of Miami later this month.
The loss of her father inspired James to start the Live 2 Win Fighters group to raise money for cancer research, encourage healthy living and promote awareness of all cancers through health education.
“We work hard to empower those who have been affected by cancer, both directly and indirectly, and encourage them to live with a purpose and strive to be victorious in all of life’s battles,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
James organized the inaugural Live 2 Win 3K Run/Walk in 2016. This year they are expanding it to a 5K race on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 8 a.m. starting at the Denmark Gazebo (4767 Carolina Hwy., Denmark). Tickets can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com/e/2nd-annual-live-2-win-5k-runwalk-tickets-35631593054.
Internships at the S.C. Regional Housing Authority #3 over the past three summers have also helped James develop her purpose and passion. This was her first real job.
“It gave me a drive,” she said of working with talented people in a professional environment.
The opportunity for the internship came about the summer after she graduated from high school. Peggy Kirkland, a resident initiative coordinator for the housing authority, knew James and her mother, Sherron Washington. Kirkland saw the potential in James through her academic success and involvement in various activities, such as cheerleading. She also knew several colleges and universities were looking at James, including Harvard University.
Robert Thomas, executive director of the housing authority, agreed to offer James an internship. He said her success is a true testament to overcoming obstacles and making the right decisions. “If you have character and motivation, you can succeed,” he said.
The first summer James worked under Southeastern Housing Foundation writing grants, which taught her to be “super persuasive” when writing. The next summer she worked with Section 8 vouchers and then this summer she served as an administrative assistant for public housing.
Working with adults, rather than the college students she works with at her two college jobs, has been a great influence and made her more mature. “I appreciate the work everyone does,” she said.
“Destiny has a love for life. She’s going to be a true asset wherever she goes,” said Beth Overton, the housing authority’s deputy director.
Janie Robinson, who works in the housing choice voucher program, said, “What I love most about her is her positive spirit.”
While she doesn’t plan to work in public housing, the skills she’s learned the past three summers can be applied to any job.
Pringle said he is not surprised by his former student’s accomplishments because James “was always a high flyer academically and a leader in school.”
He said James has taken ownership of her life, something not all students do.