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The TWU alum overcomes hardships on her trip to Austin

February 1, 2023 – DENTON – Dawna-Diamond Tyson’s life has been a bit of a roller coaster.

Abandoned by her natural mother. She adopted by loving parents at age 2. She said she was intellectually deficient in elementary school. She nurtured and supported in her post-secondary education.

“It was a very wild ride, to say the least,” Tyson said.

Now, with a master’s degree in political science from Texas Woman’s University in hand, Tyson is back in the saddle. A few months after graduation, Tyson is in Austin for the 88th regular session of the Texas Legislature as a political analyst for San Antonio state senator José Menéndez.

With adversity and triumph in his early life story, it’s no surprise that Tyson enters public service with his own agenda. No, he’s not trying to cure everything in the world. She is more pragmatic than that.

She wants to give hope to those facing the same kinds of challenges and doubts she has overcome.

“My heart really is in making sure kids don’t end up like me in the system,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have two parents who adopt me and help guide me to where I want to be. I’ve always had an interest in being on a path to change in some way.

“It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned the most about politics,” Tyson said. “President Barack Obama really opened my eyes. His whole thing was hope and change, and that’s what I’ve wanted to do from a very young age. More people were like, okay, we have an opportunity to do better. We can do better. We need more people to listen and try to do better. And so that’s really led me to listen and learn and try to absorb more about the political world. I’m still learning a lot.”

Some things have been learned firsthand, overcoming obstacles that most fail to comprehend. Tyson was one of those abandoned children in foster care, and after being adopted, she faced discrimination and rejection from a school system that tried to push her into special education because she didn’t learn as fast as other students. Other students, presumably, who haven’t been abandoned and placed in foster care.

His parents said no to the school’s recommendation, insisting that Tyson just needed a chance like everyone else.

“It was very difficult,” Tyson said. “They didn’t want my parents to put my brother and I in school. They said it was too full, and of course that wasn’t the case. It was very difficult being in a predominantly white institution which made it very clear that they really didn’t want any other black children there.” .

Barriers continued throughout middle and high school.

“I kind of just drifted into it,” he said. “It was still very hard. It shaped me a lot. I don’t talk a lot just about growing up and being educated because it was quite traumatizing, and I’ve only recently talked about it openly. But for me, I feel like I’ve been shaped every single year.” everywhere from school to just living and trying to figure out what my next move was.”

Encouraged by her parents’ support, Tyson went to college, first at Vernon College in Wichita Falls and then Collin College in McKinney. And that’s when things changed.

“It wasn’t until I got to college that I thought, okay, I don’t have anyone from my past to judge me and I can do better. This is a fresh start. That’s when things just took off for me. I didn’t I let nothing hold me back. I did my best and I did my best, and it paid off.”

College can take guides out of a life, in one breath support and in another demand accountability. In that environment, Tyson flourished.

“I got a chance to be myself,” she said.

In the second half of her undergraduate work, Tyson became involved in student government and campus life, and was motivated to be a part of the change on campus.

“Having people around me who felt the same way and who cheered me on was really amazing. It was transformative for my life.

“TWU was probably where I felt like I went up so much with my confidence,” he said. “TWU has so many organizations, so many ways you can get involved on and off campus.”

But she remained steadfast in the ultimate goal of her education.

“My parents told me from a very young age that I could be whoever I wanted to be,” Tyson said. “I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer.”

His first steps towards becoming a lawyer began with a degree from Collin College. She that school she didn’t offer political science, so she majored in criminal science. Midway through college, she was interned in the Collin County District Attorney’s office, which convinced her that she didn’t want to practice criminal law.

But her master’s degree in political science opened new doors, and in fall 2022, she was hired by Senator Menéndez. That hiring came with an early lesson in the fragility of job security: Menéndez was set for re-election in November 2022. Luckily for Tyson — and Menéndez — the senator won and returned to Austin this month to conduct state business.

So now comes another educational experience as Tyson dives into the deep end of public service.

“It was definitely a learning experience,” Tyson said. “It has been a huge learning curve because my Chief of Staff wants to make sure everyone is on board and ensure no one is left behind in the process. I have heard from people I know that it is very intense trying to learn and get training. I have just been trying to soak it all up like a sponge since I’ve been here. It’s hard, but the experience so far has been super easy for our office. It’s not a place to pressure someone to learn a little differently or at a pace different There are expectations that you need to get things done and this is a very fast paced environment but there is nothing they wouldn’t be able to help me with.

“I feel like there’s a lot about my position that you just have to experience,” she said. “You have to see it firsthand. And there are some things that even if you are taught, unless you experience them, I feel like you can’t really absorb what’s going on. A lot of the lessons have been really helpful in terms of the terminology and the inner workings of state and federal government. But there comes a point where experience is more useful than just reading and research.”

Coincidentally, that chief of staff, Pearl Cruz, is herself a former political analyst who went to law school.

“I mean, he’s 29, he’s a lawyer, and he’s had all this experience, and he said he wasn’t going to change it for the world,” Tyson said. “I hope to have a similar experience. I feel even more motivated to go to law school.”

“For me it’s all about the journey,” Tyson said. “I’m still trying to figure out some things. I’ve hoped and hoped and hoped for an opportunity like this. And then when I got here, it was immediately a question. It was like, how am I here? How am I going to do this? But everyone had to start somewhere. Everyone has a beginning. So I’m really looking forward to it, and I hope it’s a good ending.”

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