photo of diana goinsDiana Goins overcame many obstacles to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in critical studies. Once she finished college, she was determined to put those degrees to use in rural Appalachian Ohio, where she grew up.

“I didn’t want to be one of those people who finished a college degree and then took my knowledge somewhere else,” the Chesterhill native says. “I believe in helping my people thrive who are right here, using the resources we have to build and strengthen our communities.”

As Staff Accountant at Rural Action, she’s doing exactly that.

“When I started working at Rural Action I found my fit,” Diana says. “Everything I’d prepared for in my life led me to this role. The longer I’m here, the more it makes me feel like this is where I’m meant to be.”

Diana graduated from Morgan High School and earned her business administration degree with a minor in human resources management at Franklin University in Columbus. She had to drop out of college for a while to help her little brother finish his last two years of high school.

Diana earned a full scholarship to Ohio University to do her bachelor’s degree, but she had to drop out when her mother and father died within a year of each other. She returned to college, but all her scholarships were gone since she dropped out before successfully completing the first semester. Undaunted, she worked her way through school as an administrative assistant and substitute teacher during the day and a waitress in the evenings.

Shortly thereafter she became a mother, which prompted her to return to finish her degree. “I knew I wanted more for my daughter,” she says. “That’s what pushed me to finish my bachelor’s degree.” As a first-generation college student, Diana wanted to change the course of life for her daughter and prove that she could accomplish anything through hard work, determination, and perseverance. Her daughter is now attending Kent State University majoring in fashion & design.

After earning her undergraduate degree, Diana moved to South Carolina for about six months to help her sister-in-law with the children while her brother was deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Helping veterans is one of Diana’s passions. “There is a long line of military men in my family, and it makes me very proud and honored,” she says, noting her grandfather served in World War II and her father was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. She volunteers with the Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance and has a list of 40 vets she stays in touch with, writing them letters and sending them cards on holidays.

She emerged from OU with a master’s degree that focused on Appalachian identity. Her master’s capstone was titled, Appalachian Identity: Stereotypes and Educational Impacts.

“A lot of people stereotype us as uneducated hillbillies,” she says. “They don’t understand the lack of resources we have from the start. They don’t understand the resilience Appalachians have.”

“Don’t let everything you’ve been through be for nothing,” she says. “Don’t let that stop you from growing as a person. I want to let other people know that no matter what you’ve been through, just don’t give up.”

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