Single alum takes family life seriously
“Building stable family values is the key to curing society’s ills,” says Darren Washington, a 1992 graduate who is director of external affairs for SBC in northwest Indiana.
Washington “talks the talk” as a sought-after public speaker on topics such as character building, self-improvement, substance abuse and abstinence. He “walks the walk” by putting his life on display as a single, black male who chooses abstinence, has a prominent job and is president of the school board in his hometown of Gary, Ind.
Although Washington earned a political science degree from Millikin and holds a master’s degree in public affairs from Indiana University Northwest, he believes family values should not be a political issue. “I have to practice what I preach in order to be believed by the people I’m trying to reach,” says Washington, who founded Abstinence for Singles and speaks to youth and adults about healthy, safe life choices and respecting themselves and others. “I have to use my life to show young people, especially young men, that they need to focus on education and not sex.”
Washington says his ideas and goals for his life were formed in college, and he credits his Millikin years for giving him a career focus. “I didn’t take education seriously at first,” he says, explaining that his priorities were playing basketball and having fun. “I ended up on academic probation, so I changed my focus to getting an education and being involved on campus.”
Campus activities gave Washington his first taste of organized democracy, and he knew it was a good fit. After graduating, Washington interned at the United Way of Central Indiana, where he developed the first youth leadership program and served as an Indiana State Senate intern. Next, he served as the executive director of the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males, working with state and local elected officials to create city and county commissions before moving to corporate America as an area mall manager in Lafayette, Ind., and Toledo, Ohio, with the Simon Property Group.
In 2001, he joined SBC and returned to his hometown, hoping to make a difference in this economically depressed area. As part of his commitment to the Gary school system, Washington spends Friday mornings reading to kindergarten and first grade students at a nearby elementary school. “It is a great joy for me,” he says. “I was used to working with junior high and high school students, but now I realize even more how important it is to start teaching children good morals and the value of an education at a young age.” As board president, he also holds office hours, speaking with parents, teachers and others to share ideas for improving the school district, where more than 60 percent of the students come from low-income families.
Washington, who is also a certified HIV/AIDS counselor, hopes to someday get married and have a family, but realizes his focus will need to change when that happens. “I’ll still promote my lifestyle messages, but I hope to train other young people to give the presentations,” he says. For now, Washington is busy writing his first book on abstinence and looking at options for becoming more politically active.
“God has blessed me and I believe we are all on this Earth to help future generations avoid the same potholes.”
The complete article appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of Millikin Quarterly magazine.