March 8, 2007
When she runs on the track for the Rice Owls, all eyes are on sprinter Desarie Walwyn. But her eyes are almost always focused elsewhere. The junior speedster has a heart for helping others, and is more likely to be found doing community service than hanging out with her friends.
"My dad has always stressed the importance of helping others," Walwyn said. "When I was younger and wanted to hang out with my friends, sometimes he wouldn't let me." That early discipline has taken root, and Walwyn has spent countless hours assisting those less fortunate.
"I have been feeding the homeless of Houston for as long as I can remember," Walwyn said. "It started off with just my sister, my dad and me, and now it has turned into a full-scale operation. Normally we try to do it once or twice a month."
A mentor in the Families Under Urban and Social Attack (FUUSA) organization, she also serves as an organization coordinator for Homeless of Houston. Walwyn jumps at the chance to take part in other opportunities, too.
"If more people would think about the needs of others sometimes, it would help make our world a better place," Walwyn said. "We all get sad and down about situations in life, but when we realize that there are others worse off than we are, it helps put everything in perspective. That in turn helps you give back to your community."
Walwyn, who chose Rice because of its combination of academics and athletics, was active throughout her high school years. A member of the debate team, she also volunteered at the Food Bank and at local nursing homes. In addition to her work feeding the homeless, Walwyn was president of the National Honor Society at North Shore High School, which enabled her to encourage fellow students to take part in community service.
In making the transition to college life, Walwyn has remained steady in her beliefs, but she says the environment on campus has made her more open to different ideas. "I have forced myself to step out of the box and try new things that I may not have ordinarily tried," Walwyn said.
After she completes her degree, Walwyn would like to take a year off to counsel youth in Houston before going to California for law school. She plans on working in civil rights and discrimination law, and would also like to continue her motivational speaking career. "One of the most inspiring opportunities for me came in January 2005," Walwyn said. "I spoke to underprivileged girls at Isaacs Elementary School in the Fifth Ward about the importance of going to college."
With her heart for service and a strong will to help others, Desarie Walwyn is destined to be one of Tomorrow's Leaders.
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