Against all odds, Darriell Beaumonte will graduate today from Eastern Washington University.
He will be that one out of 50 – just 2 percent – of foster children from the Northwest who will earn a bachelor’s degree.
Taken away at the age of 10 months from his mother, a diagnosed schizophrenic, he and his brothers lived with their grandmother’s extended family in Seattle, then in Portland. At 13, still a ward of the state of Washington, he was removed from family in Portland and placed in various foster homes in Tacoma.
“Bouncing around,” he recalled in a story about his life, published in The Spokesman-Review in the fall of 2010.
Since then, he’s stayed on track, and the payoff comes today.
The system left its mark, all right, but so did four women, and their names are tattooed near Beaumonte’s heart. His “four queens,” he calls them: mother Nadine, grandmother Carrie, foster mom Zena Sturgis and an aunt, Jacqie. They got him through, and they still do.
And the fifth woman? That would be Tasha Landram, his counselor at Clover Park High in Tacoma, who helped Beaumonte find his way to Eastern even after he struggled with his entrance exams and was denied admission to the university. Her job done, Landram went farther, driving to Cheney for Beaumonte’s football games.
Today, the 23-year-old Beaumonte can look back on a memorable four years in Cheney, including becoming a model student-athlete and a key member of Eastern Washington’s national championship football team in 2010.
That year, the former walk-on played in every game but one and was named first-team All Big Sky Conference on special teams. He also saw significant playing time at running back, scoring two touchdowns in a season that “still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Beaumonte said Friday afternoon.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
The next spring he won the team’s “Iron Eagle” award for his offseason academic and athletic achievements.
But as a nagging knee injury forced him on the sidelines last year, football too moved to the periphery.
“Football has always been my passion,” Beaumonte said, “but now I’m seeing the bigger picture.”
That includes a 5-month-old son, Maurice, who lives in Tacoma but is a big part of Beaumonte’s future. So is employment.
“I’m applying to different places,” said Beaumonte, who while pursuing a communications major, has also spent the last two years as play-by-play and color commentator for Eastern women’s basketball Internet broadcasts.
“I’m taking it one step at a time.”
Until recently, that didn’t include stepping up to receive his diploma.
“I didn’t want to walk for graduation, since I figured it was just a piece of paper,” Beaumonte said. “But I was talking to my family and they told me it’s all about the moment.
“I’ve looked back at all my new friends, and a new life that’s just more open to things.”
The odds were long, but shortened by the long arms of those who reached out to help.