Destini Pimental grew up believing it was her responsibility to help those in need. Her mother cleaned on her hands and knees to earn enough money to get her nursing license, yet came home every day to cook dinner for her children. When she took Pimental to nursing homes to visit the residents, it was understood that each resident was just as valuable as she was. The question “How do I help this person?” was the first thing the Pimental kids were instructed to ask.
“It was ingrained early in my childhood that you care for those around you,” Pimental said, thinking back.
When Pimental was born, doctors insisted that she wouldn’t survive. But her mom was determined that her baby girl was going to make it. The same passion has driven Pimental forward every day since.
As soon as she reached high school, Pimental applied to Culver Academy, a college preparatory boarding school. She prepared for the school devotedly, determined to prove that she belonged. “I was not the smartest kid when I applied to Culver,” Pimental said. “But I told the admissions counselor, ‘If you let me into this school, I will take off running.’ I had my family’s support, but many other kids don’t have that. If someone else has paved the way for me, I’m going to pave the way for whoever needs it next,” she said.
Pimental graduated high school and received a full-ride scholarship to a private university in Indiana. Unfortunately, her scholarship fell through and she was forced to drop out of the program.
“Those who know me know that school is my thing,” Pimental said. “But I decided that if I couldn’t do school, I would be the best worker that I could be. So I worked endlessly until I received an email from Grace College.”
After Pimental applied and was accepted, she started commuting two hours to Grace and two hours back almost every day. At first, Pimental was nervous that she wouldn’t make friends because she was older than most of her classmates pursuing the political science and pre-law program. But when she joined the mediation team led by Dr. Norris, she met some of her best friends, including Fortee Williams.
“Destini invited everyone on the mediation to a team dinner. Ever since that night, we’ve been friends,” Williams said. “She’s the type of person who’s not afraid to speak up for anyone. She gives people a voice and a chance to be heard. She has one of the biggest hearts at Grace College. She influences people to keep going, even when things get hard.”
Pimental made a difference from day one on Grace’s campus. But Grace was also making a difference in her.
“Grace doesn’t treat me like a ‘student of color.’ They treat me as a student who, because of my color, may experience challenges, but they don’t treat me like I’m just here to fill a seat. They nurture passion. They allow me to fight my battles and they don’t try to make me less bold. I will never lose the communal support I’ve found here.”
On top of her long commute and studies, Pimental was taking care of her parents who were in their seventies. As a result, she struggled to turn homework in on time. She was beginning to feel discouraged by the weight of the world’s pressure, as well as her financial struggle at the time. She began to doubt that she would ever live up to her higher purpose and decided that she wouldn’t be able to come back for the second session of the spring semester.
Despite the hardship, she impressed her pre-law professors and was chosen to go on Grace’s Civil Rights Bus Tour in the spring of 2020. She went into the trip thinking it would be her last Grace experience before she dropped out.
During the civil rights trip, she had the opportunity to meet Lisa McNair, sister of Denise McNair (one of the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing) and a civil rights activist and public speaker. After her presentation, McNair pulled Destini aside and told her, “You’re going to be the one to change the world. Promise me that you’re going to do everything you can to give your people a better chance at life.” Pimental gave McNair her word, and from that day forward, Pimental has held true to her promise. After McNair’s encouragement, Pimental knew she couldn’t let her chance at Grace College slip away.
“God knew it wasn’t the end for me,” said Pimental.
Although she didn’t know how she would be able to come back to Grace in the fall and continue her pre-law program, she finished the spring semester. She then told God that if her return to campus was what he wanted for her, she trusted that he would make a way.
And he did.
Several of her faculty mentors at Grace reached out to her and implored her to return because of the spirit they saw in her. And by the grace of God, she returned to campus this past fall.
“Every day since coming back, I’ve done everything I can to ensure that the next girl, the next Black woman, the next student of color, never has to wonder if they belong or worry about financial resources. Every single thing that I do is targeted toward the next generation. I want to uplift those coming behind me.”
Pimental is now the president of the Mediation Team and is also involved in the Relics Club and the new bowling club at Grace. Whatever circle she finds herself in, she strives to give to others — whether that’s buying them coffee, helping them with homework when they’re struggling, or offering an encouraging word.
Pimental also works as a resident care associate in Warsaw. She visits residents in their homes to help with everyday tasks, keep them company, and sometimes even make them baked goods. Her assistance has been especially crucial in the wake of COVID-19. Pimental has been a source of comfort and companionship to elderly patients as they experience the loneliness that comes with quarantine and isolation.
“A lot of people forget about the elderly and leave them behind, but that’s where our wisdom comes from,” she mused. “To be that surrogate granddaughter and friend that motivates them to get excited about something brings me a special kind of joy.”
Eventually, Pimental has aspirations to use her political science major and pre-law minor to run for office.
“I love who God is shaping me to be,” she said. “I don’t know how my story is going to end, but I know that God has brought me through every challenge I’ve faced. I can’t take credit for my story. I’m just living by the divine power of God.” – from grace.edu