Campus News

Medgar Made: Diana Richardson’s lifelong journey spurred by Medgar Evers College

Diana Richardson was a member of the Head Start program.
Diana Richardson was a member of the Head Start program.

By David Gil de Rubio  |

Diana Richardson might be Crown Heights born and raised, but you can easily make the argument that Medgar Evers College played a significant role in her evolution as a public servant plugged into her community and alma mater. 

In addition to being a MEC legacy (her mother Hyacinth Richardson was the 1991 Associate Degree Scholar, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business in 1994), the future New York State Assemblywoman graduated with a Bachelor’s in Public Administration has MEC roots that date back to childhood.

“My real introduction to Medgar Evers College was by way of my mom being a woman in the community,” recalled Richardson, a member of the Class of 2008. 

“She was a single mom with three daughters who needed childcare. The Head Start Center for Child Care was at Medgar Evers College in the ‘80s. My mom had no intentions of attending Medgar Evers College, but someone who saw my mom dropping us off at Head Start here at Medgar Evers College suggested she enroll in school.

“She was a night student coming after work and taking classes on the weekends that were in the various lounges. My community experience with Medgar Evers College also included a lot of social programs. We did summer camp there through NYSP [National Youth Sports Program].”

Diana Richardson is a member of the Class of 2008
Diana Richardson is a member of the Class of 2008.

And while Diana Richardson’s future found her being a New York Assemblywoman and Brooklyn’s Deputy Borough President, the Edward R. Murrow High School alum didn’t have much interest in college. She became a high school dropout (later earning her G.E.D.), with homelessness, domestic abuse and single motherhood following in short order. 

A period of rootlessness followed where Richardson briefly left her home state, only to return to Crown Heights and realize she had to make a change to make way for a better life. Medgar Evers College provided that gateway to security for mother and child. 

“At that point and time in my life, I recognized that the life of my son depended on the quality of what I do with my life,” she said. “I had to push and strive to do better and furthering my education was the way I did that.”

If it takes a village to raise a child, consider Medgar Evers College a community that rallied around a single mom with a G.E.D. to ensure she got a degree that would provide her with the opportunity to ensure financial and career opportunities going forward. Among those Richardson is quick to cite for helping at such a crucial time are Dr. Vincent Banrey, the-then Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Zulema Blair, Dr. Gregorio Mayers and Dr. Cory Brown, who was Richardson’s Freshman Seminar 101 professor. 

“They understood what I was trying to do and they were meeting me where I’m at as a student given my circumstances and situation [as a single mom],” Richardson said. “They were doing what they do from their end to create space for me to excel. And that was done for me in so many ways.”

Student club participation also shaped the direction Richardson was headed, particularly when she was convinced to run for recording secretary in the 2007 Student Government Association election. The daughter of a community activist who was involved in everything from the local church and PTA to her building’s board, Richardson found SGA involvement germinated that dormant seed of public service. 

“I found my passion and love for people in service at that time,” she said. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t know I’d love service to those in the student body so much. We were fighting for students. You see all those computer labs that are on the second floor of the Bedford building? Those are there because of us and the fact that they even have Mac laptops? Those are there because of us. The weight room in the C building? We got so much done and were so active. During this time, I truly and honestly found my passion for service.”

Hyacinth Richardson at Commencement in 1991
Hyacinth Richardson at Commencement in 1991.

It was during this time, Richardson landed on the idea of declaring Public Administration to be her major. In addition, she became involved with the CUNY Caucus Scholars, an internship program for students interested in community service and the State Legislature. It all fueled her appetite for public service and the idea of earning her Master of Public Administration from Baruch College. But for this child of Aruban immigrants, the foundation was and continues to be all Richardson took away from attending Medgar Evers College.

“I think the importance of coming to Medgar Evers College was having a culturally and competent education and enjoying a sense of community and belonging,” she said. “It was also getting a real understanding of who we are as a people and a community and to understand what the real fight is. I can say that because I’ve been educated at other institutions and it’s just not the same. I really do feel like a lot of people that come to Medgar Evers College to teach are choosing to bring that of themselves there. I’m actually very grateful to have been on the receiving end of that.”

Currently the director of Statewide Engagement for the Office of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Richardson is humbled and proud of being able to say she is Medgar Made. It is a designation she feels has many multi-faceted and important meanings.

“I think to be Medgar Made is to walk in your fullness and bring all parts of you to the moment,” Richardson said. “To be Medgar Made is to move in love, move in courage, and to move in excellence. To be Medgar Made is to be forward-thinking, resilient and to have perseverance. To be Medgar Made is to be selfless and to stand in service to others, even in the smallest of ways. 

“To be Medgar Made is to be intentional and to continue to bestow pride unto this institution and the spirit of Medgar Evers and his family overall. That is that it is to be Medgar Made. It is a very distinguished title.”