If there’s one thing in life that Osher Scholar Angela Dimond wanted, it was the chance to start over. Her mother, Joyce, left soon after her birth. She was raised by her grandparents. Joyce always promised to visit, but by age 13, Dimond says she could count on one hand the number of times she’d seen her mother. Yet when Joyce began writing and calling regularly to check in, Dimond hoped to rekindle the relationship. “By this time, I knew my mom had been making progress,” Dimond says. “She’d been in rehab and told me that she wanted a relationship with me. I’d always wanted to know her, so when she invited me to California to live with her, I jumped at the chance.” Dimond says her mother soon realized that having a teenager in the house was more than she could handle.
One morning, the house was unusually quiet when Dimond woke up. She slid out of bed to locate Joyce. “Mom?” she called. No answer. “Mom?” she called again as she headed into the living room, but again no answer. She headed back toward the bedroom hallway and pushed the door to her mother’s room open. She expected to find Joyce in bed, but an empty room met her gaze instead. All that remained was a crumpled piece of paper on the bed’s mattress and hangers in the closet.
The letter was short. I’m moving to Wisconsin with my ex. Rent is paid up until the end of the month. Have a nice life. “It had only been four months, so at that point in the relationship I wasn’t surprised,” Dimond says. “Instead, I started thinking ‘How am I going to survive? Take care of myself?’”
Returning to Dallas to live with her grandparents was out of the question, as her grandfather was sick and in and out of the hospital. With no other family to turn to, Dimond dropped out of school and followed her boyfriend to Washington state. The relationship lasted only five months, and afterward Dimond found herself “couch hopping” at friends’ apartments back in California or sleeping on the beach while working a telemarketing job by day.
Weeks before turning 17, Dimond was arrested for violating probation and spent two weeks in juvenile hall. She’d been caught at 15 stealing a bottle of vodka. Still a minor after her release, Child Services placed her into foster care for the next year. Dimond was wed two months later at age 18. Dimond says she went from “street rat to Suzy Homemaker” in a matter of weeks. The marriage, however, was short-lived. During the separation, Dimond began dating her friend and now fiancé, Tommy. The couple learned they were pregnant and moved to the Kansas City area to be closer to his family. After her son was born, Dimond says her priorities changed.
“I was holding my three-month-old son, and I began to wonder how he sees me,” she says. “And all I could think of was that he’s going to see me as a complete mess. Although I’d gotten my GED, I never thought college would happen for someone like me. But then I said to myself, ‘Why are you just settling? You can make yourself who you want to be.’” She registered for classes at Maple Woods Community College the next day.
“I still remember coming home from kindergarten saying, ‘I want to be a paleontologist,’” she says. “Some advisers tried to persuade me from taking geology as my first class, but I took it anyway and quickly realized that it was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Makes sense I guess. I was the only girl I knew who had a rock collection.”
Dimond received the Osher Scholarship and began studies at the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences last fall after graduating with her associate’s degree from Maple Woods in 2008. Dimond says her favorite geology teacher at Maple Woods, who is also a UMKC alumna, recommended UMKC’s geology program. She hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree by 2011, but says graduation may be pushed back with a new baby at home. “Thanks to the scholarship, I’m able to go to school and be a mother at the same time,” she says. “I’m able to work harder in my classes, because I’m not having to work a part-time job. My life hasn’t been predictable, but it’s turned out pretty well.”