Dartinya Harris works to fulfill her mother’s dream

May 13, 2002

AUSTIN, Texas—When Dartinya Harris first stepped foot on campus at The University of Texas at Austin, she took to heart the advice from others to get involved in the campus community and start making her mark on the university.

Dartinya Harris
Photo by Marsha Miller

Dartinya Harris

Words of encouragement from mentors in the university's Office of the Dean of Students motivated her to work hard in school and succeed academically, her strongest motivator was her mother, DeLores Harris of Austin, who raised her as a single parent determined that her child would succeed in life.

Dartinya's focus the summer after having been graduated from high school was much like that of most incoming college freshmen — she was excited about meeting new friends and learning to live on her own on a college campus.

It became difficult to focus, however, when a week before starting her freshman semester she learned that her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"I was devastated," Dartinya said. "She was given only one year to live."

Dartinya said the news made it more difficult to concentrate on her studies but she realized the importance of honoring her mother's wishes that she stay in school and maintain good grades.

Over the next four years, Dartinya made the most of her college experience by getting involved in campus activities that kept her mind on being a student and left less time for worrying about the inevitable. She served as vice-president of the National Association of Black Journalists; secretary of Phi Beta Kinsolving, a dormitory service organization; chaplin and corresponding secretary of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; vice-president of Golden Key International Honor Society and became a member of the Texas Orange Jackets.

Dartinya said her mother lived longer than doctors had expected, but her fight with cancer ended on Aug. 28, 2001, a day before the beginning of Dartinya's senior year. The student said she realized the greatest tribute to her mother would be to complete the dream DeLores Harris had for her daughter — to make her mark on the university and the world either through words or song.

Dartinya, who sang at her mother's funeral, has been a member of Praise Tabernacle Outreach and Family Worship Center's choir, Voices of Praise, since 1996.

"I grew up listening to gospel music. It's part of my relationship with God," she said.

Dartinya said she continues to work toward her mother's dream. She has maintained a 3.96 grade point average as a journalism major in the College of Communication and plans to pursue a career in public relations or music as well as to continue her graduate studies in the future.

"I loved my time here at The University of Texas at Austin," Dartinya said. The lessons I learned at this university will help me to be successful both in work and social ventures in the future. Thanks, UT!"

For further information contact: Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs (512) 475-7847.