There is a King named Dia Quan, known to most people as DQ.
He comes from the not-too-distant land of Chicago. But it is not the Chicago people think of – the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, the Cubs, the Sox, and Da Bears.
No, DQ King comes from the Chicago that includes the homeless, the drugs, the violence. If it were not for the people at the Chicago Jesuit Academy, DQ may never have heard of Culver Academies. For it was through those good people that he received a Daniel Murphy Scholarship to attend the Academies in 2009.
And King thrived. He enjoyed Culver. It became his home. He felt safe.
“It was the first time I ever felt I belonged somewhere,” DQ said. “The situation at home was not good. Too much violence. Too much hardship.”
It was the first time I ever felt I belonged somewhere. The situation at home was not good. Too much violence. Too much hardship.
During his second year at Culver, King roomed with Ethan Bennett in Battery C. Ethan, from Culver, would eventually leave school but his mother, Shaunna Bennett, who works as a custodian, and DQ remained close. He calls her “mamma Shaunna.”
There were times that King would have to travel back to Chicago for breaks and the summer. He did not call them vacations. In DQ’s case, they were far from that.
“I was always excited to come back,” he said. “This is where my friends were.”
DQ graduated in 2013. And while his scholarship covered many things, it did not cover the cost of a Culver class ring. He did not say how much he wished for one at the time, but he became determined to “eventually buy it for myself.”
After graduation, King returned to Chicago and he struggled. Life took him on a downward spiral. Still, there was hope. He applied for a special residential assistance program that would allow him to take specific classes and help him find work.
During a trip back to Culver to watch the Class of 2015 graduate, King told “mamma Shaunna” how he wished for a Culver ring. He described how he wanted to show off his pride in Culver and “that I had made it.” He had heard the stories about Culver graduates recognizing each other by simply spotting the ring and he wanted to become part of that conversation.
He told her that he was determined to accomplish that goal “before I was 30 – or 40,” he smiled.
As the summer of 2015 waned, Bennett mulled over DQ’s comments. Maybe he would not have to wait. Maybe the good people of Culver would help King receive his ring. So Shaunna and her daughter, Brianna, a 2011 graduate, set up an account on GoFundMe.com.
“I knew I couldn’t buy his ring alone,” Shaunna said. “But I thought we would just try it. I just wanted to raise enough to pay for the ring and cover the fees from GoFundMe. I never imagined it would happen so fast.”
With very little fanfare, the money started to trickle in. Then the surge started.
“GoFundMe sends you an email every time someone makes a contribution,” Bennett said. “But I started getting so many emails, they said ‘How about we just send you one every hour.’”
In less than 23 hours, 38 people had contributed $1,095, going over Bennett’s goal. No gift was greater than $75, but every comment confirmed King did – indeed – deserve his ring.
“I was at the doctor’s office, so I didn’t check my email for a while,” Bennett said. “When I did and saw that we had gone over our goal, it was like ‘Oh my gosh, I gotta stop this now.’”
During that same 23-hour period, DQ was receiving the official word that he had been accepted into the residential assistance program. He was also receiving random congratulatory messages on Facebook from his Culver friends.
“I didn’t know what they were talking about at first,” he said. “Then when I figured it out, I got the biggest smile on my face. It was the best day of my life.”
Earlier this fall, King came down and picked out his ring. And on Friday, Dec. 4, as tradition dictates an alumna – Brianna – ringed DQ. The hard part was finding the proper location. King has so many good memories, he had a difficult time deciding.
He finally chose Main Barrack, the place he had called home for four years.
DQ knows it is not a case of happily ever after. There has been a lot of stress transitioning into the residential program, he said. He is also working two part-time jobs and has a hospitality certificate so he can work catering jobs, too.
His goal is to break into acting. He would love to be accepted into Second City, the comedy troupe that has launched the careers of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for this generation and Dan Akroyd, Jim Belushi, and Bill Murray for those older folks. “I really enjoy doing improv,” he said.
But DQ is ready for the upcoming battles. He knows he belongs. For the King now has his ring.