Orator inspires at virtual assembly


Motivational speaker and Walnut High School alumnus Dee Hankins spoke to Diamond Bar High School students in the year’s first virtual all-school assembly last Wednesday. 

Hankins, who graduated from Cal State Long Beach and earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, now aims to inspire others through his story as an African American adolescent raised through the foster care system. 

Hankins told students that he had to leave behind his family due to issues at home. 

“My mom became this certified drug addict,” Hankins said. “And I remember one day, she had this mental breakdown and my dad woke up and was like, ‘I didn’t ask for this.’ So he left her with a bunch of kids, mentally unstable, and my mom ended up losing all of her kids to foster care.”

Hankins explained that jumping from home to home was difficult because to Hankins, it seemed that every time he got adjusted and comfortable with his new family, he was moved to another foster home. In hopes of breaking this pattern, he decided he would stop telling his parents he loved them. 

Hankins explained that his troubles at home began to affect his attitude in school. However, a conversation with his vice principal helped him understand his situation and relieved some suppressed frustration and anger. 

“I look at my vice principal and say, ‘Why don’t you just send me home?’ My vice principal walks up to me. She gets down on my level, she looks me right into the eyes, and she says, ‘Because you have potential,’” Hankins said. “She did three amazing things. First one was, she got down at my level. Second thing is, she made eye contact with me. And last thing was this: I was always in her office, meaning she never sent me home, which showed me that she cared.”

Knowing that his vice principal not only believed in him, but also cared about him was enough to teach Hankins the importance of being resilient in life no matter the obstacles one may have to face. Despite having to deal with the transition from one foster home to another starting from a young age, Hankins said he managed to persevere due to his resilience. 

“Resilience: the ability to bounce back. Each and every one of you has this ability. Each and every one of you possesses resilience. As a matter of fact, you wouldn’t even be here right now if you didn’t display some type of resilience in your life,” he said. 

For some DBHS students, Hankins’ speech served as inspiration.

“I loved Mr. Hankin’s speech. I loved the energy he shared, all the stories he told, and I loved the lessons he taught,” freshman Nyansu Chen said. “Half the time, I was torn between laughing at all the jokes he was saying and tearing up at the emotional stories he was telling from his own personal experiences. I feel like the next time something difficult comes around for me, I will be reminded of his message and I will be able to tell myself, ‘I have to have resilience and I am going to bounce back from this.’”

Freshman Aayati Sangal said his words resonated with her.

“He helped exemplify the fact that it’s okay to be human and experience certain emotions and go through pain and experience life,” Sangal said via audio Messages. “His speech was one to be remembered and one that I hope will continue to inspire people all around the world.”

CORRECTION: In the virtual print edition of the newspaper, Aayati Sangal was mistakenly identified as a boy.