Graduating senior Destini Manuel is fully dedicated to saving lives.
“I know it’s my purpose here on Earth,” the athletic training major and aspiring cardiothoracic surgeon said.
It is a notable pivot for the first-generation student and Toledo, Ohio, native, who had to concentrate on herself her senior year, including going out of state to finish her coursework.
COVID-19 limited practicum opportunities in the Washington, D.C., metro area, so Manuel, with the blessing of her program, relocated to New Orleans, where she is doing fieldwork connected to the University of New Orleans and Dillard University.
The detour, and the expenses she is bearing from her life savings, will not change Manuel’s graduation this month as a member of Mason’s Honors College and recipient of the Kyle Wilson Memorial Scholarship from the College of Education and Human Development for excellence in her major.
“I feel accomplished,” Manuel said. “I’ve done something no one in my family has been able to do.”
“I know she is going to break ceilings, so I have big expectations for her within the profession,” said Heather Murphy, an adjunct professor in Mason’s Athletic Training Education Program. “I saw her in the classroom, and she was a standout.”
Manuel attributes her perseverance to guidance from her grandmother, Patsy Bolden.
“My grandmother always told me, ‘learn as much as you can because knowledge is something no one can take away from you,’ ” Manuel said. “She said life is going to be hard, but as long as you know something you will make it through.”
Manuel discovered Mason the summer after her sophomore year in high school when she attended an Envision leadership conference in the Washington, D.C., area, which included a trip to Mason.
When applying to colleges, Manuel recalled her trip to Fairfax.
“It was time for me to be independent, grow up and mold myself,” she said, and added, “I love that Mason is very diverse and made me feel like home. You can be as different as you want and still find people that fit you.”
Manuel was vice president of the Mason Athletic Training Society, and participated in Women of Color in STEM, the Black Student Alliance, the Kinesiology Club and Catholic Campus Ministry. She was a member of the Alpha Lambda Honor Society, worked as a Mason Ambassador, and was a resident assistant for the upper-level Honors College Living Learning Community.
“I’ll be traveling and have on my Mason gear, and people are, like, ‘Oh, my son heard about Mason, tell me something about it,’ ” Manuel said. “And I’m, like, ‘Of course, where do I start?’ ”