This story hits close to home for WKMS. We’ve been somewhat of a second home to a Murray State Student for the past two years who’s overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her daily life. She had just one more hurdle before graduation.
Darlene Raye Jackson loves Murray State and radio.
When I first met Darlene Raye, shortly after she started at Murray State, she talked about her dream of becoming a country radio DJ. And while we don’t play much country music at WKMS, we thought we could help her with the radio part. So, I connected her with Kala Dunn who, at the time, was producing the music show, Rick’s Kitchen Sink.
“She is so smart. The way that she works, she comes up with ways to makes things work when there’s a challenge presented to her,” said Dunn.
The challenges presented to Darlene Raye involve her Cerebral Palsy. There are a myriad of challenges she faces on a daily basis, but it doesn’t prevent her from chasing her dreams. She’s able to navigate most of life’s daily tasks from her motorized scooter. That’s what her dad, Ray calls her.
“When she was little, she was skinny as a skeleton and she could crawl down the hallway faster than most people could walk. Just wide open on her hands and knees. And we just called her “Scooter” because she could move so fast,” said Ray.
Darlene Raye has scooted her way through her time at Murray State, and has been
referring to her last semester before graduation as the “Grand Finale” on social media. This was going to be a huge milestone. But things took a bad turn on November 28th. On her way home from a Murray State Basketball Game, crossing a street, she was struck by a car.
“It was the worst call you could imagine, we had just laid down to go to bed,” said Ray.
On the phone was a Murray Police Officer, explaining what had happened.
Darlene was hurt pretty bad, and her scooter was demolished. She’s been in the hospital and now in rehab ever since the accident.
Her cerebral palsy extends what would otherwise be a fairly simple recovery. So, she was going to miss the one thing she had been looking forward to for many months….
Or, so she thought.
Just a few short hours after more than 800 Murray Students Graduated at the CFSB Center, a professor’s iPhone plays Pomp and Circumstance in a gathering place in the Murray Calloway County Hospital. That professor was joined by a veritable stage party of the who’s who among Murray State University leadership, dressed in their academic regalia.
Professor Bob Valentine announced “Darlene Raye Jackson Magna Cum Laude,” as she wheeled down the hallway. It was a total surprise. She was met with a crowd of friends, family and an obviously emotional President, Dr. Bob Davies.
I asked Davies, what he was thinking during that moment.
“Darlene is just a special person on our Campus, she’s the type of person that brings out the best of everyone in everyone around her,” said Davies
This ceremony not only came as a surprise to Darlene Raye but also her parents.
“She knew that she wouldn’t be able to go across that stage with everybody else. And so, for them to come up here and do this for her meant the world to her and to me,” said Darlene Raye's mom Sharon.
Now, that Darlene is officially graduated, her plans are to recover and get back on track with her goals which include getting a job, just like every other graduate. And she says this will all of her racer gear on.
“My heart now is with the alumni of Murray State,” said Darlene Raye.