Graduation marks another adventure for Demi Edwards
Looking out over the Grand Canyon into the vast, wide-open space, Demi Edwards felt at peace. The gorge that could humble any soul with its breathtaking expanse, wrapped her in comfort, making big problems seem small, and solutions within reach.
During a time of transition for her family, Edwards visited the national park. The 18-year-old found herself facing huge decisions.
Growing up in a military family, she was used to relocating. She was born in Hawaii, but a move from Wisconsin to Canton just before her senior year in high school took some adjusting. And, then, there was the big question: College?
“I knew it was time to let go and see where life would take me,” explained Edwards.
A volleyball standout, the 2014 Jackson High School graduate received scholarships to attend a private school near Cleveland. She went for one semester. “I didn’t really love it,” Edwards acknowledged.
Little did she know, purpose was waiting in her own backyard. Up the road from her grandmother’s longtime Jackson Township home, Kent State University at Stark was her option until she figured out what was next.
“I’m not going to lie. I fell in love with Kent State Stark the minute I stepped onto campus. This university became ‘my next,’ ” said the history major and Honors Program scholar.
On May 13, she graduated magna cum laude in the spring commencement class of 239 students.
A constant source of support, Edwards’ mother, Barb, encouraged her daughter to get involved. And, she did. Edwards became known as the student “who is everywhere” – leading campus tours as a Student Ambassador, helping peers as a Peer Advocate and rallying fellow academic minds as president of the History Club.
“There’s so much to take advantage of at Kent State Stark,” she said.
All the while Edwards diligently worked on her honors thesis detailing media bias in the 1912 election. That’s not to mention she also is graduating in three years.
A self-described go-getter, Edwards takes inspiration from a quote by sales-training guru Tom Hopkins. Her mother displayed the words prominently in Edwards’ childhood home:
“You stop being average the day you decide to become a champion, because the average person won’t make that decision.”
When days were sometimes long and decisions looming, her grandmother, Shirley Truax, reminded her, “You’ll get through this.”
Edwards also relied on support from her professors, who knew her by first name.
“Like any student, Demi has had her ups and her downs throughout her academic career, but she has taken each of those challenges and triumphs as learning experiences,” said Leslie Heaphy, Ph.D., associate professor of history and Honors Program coordinator. “Demi has grown tremendously, and it will be exciting to see where her journey takes her next.”
Edwards was among a group of students who traveled to Xi’an, China, with Heaphy over spring break. The trip opened doors for the soon-to-be graduating senior.
Today, the girl who once was unsure of her next step has lined up her future. It begins with a newly acquired full-time position teaching English at Xi’an International Studies University in China, one of Kent State Stark’s partner schools in its growing English as a Second Language (ESL) program.
“For me, graduation marks another transition in my life,” said Edwards, now 22. “You have this new set of skills. You’ve become a new person since high school.”
She expects the metamorphosis to continue as she plans to attend law school after her year abroad in China, armed with international experience and her Kent State University degree.
Walking across the stage at Canton’s Umstattd Hall on May 13 the future is wide open, and Edwards is ready for her next adventure.