An update on Diamond

Photo: Laura Yuen/MPR News.

Since Laura Yuen’s story about Diamond Syas aired last night, listeners have been sending messages with their willingness to help the 17-year-old, whose story about the difficulty of graduating from high school, pursuing a college degree and getting a job in computer engineering struck a nerve when it appeared her dream was going to end.

Yuen met with her today and sent this update to the story:

I met Diamond for lunch at Afro Deli, the only place I knew of in St. Paul that serves the two things she was hankering: burgers and sambusas.

If you heard the broadcast, you knew that Diamond stopped texting me for a while. Today, I learned why. She’s been depressed. And being the focus of a months-long reporting project didn’t always help. Our conversations about her life and hardships stirred up uneasy thoughts that lingered even after I left.

She’s doing better these days. She left the transitional living center and moved in with a friend because she felt bad taking up a space that she felt could go to someone else.

I let her read some of the several dozen emails I received from strangers asking how they could help. You offered money, emotional support, mentorship, rides, and spare bedrooms. Some even offered to take her in as their own child. “I’m too old for that,” she said with a laugh. But she’d be open to coming to your home for dinner — and becoming your friend.

Here’s what she needs: money for college, a car or a place of her own. She’s not even sure she wants to stay in Minnesota and notes that she has extended family, including her grandmother, in Illinois.

Diamond would also welcome any professional connections in computer networking or engineering.

Finally, she said she is not going to miss another day of school. There are only three more weeks to go. She says there’s no question — she will cross that stage in June. We hope to provide an update on her life.

Laura’s story about Diamond is part of an ongoing MPR News series on Minnesota’s “graduation gap,” which is often told with numbers.

It touched us because we were reminded that it’s not about numbers. It’s about kids like Jasmine, Shaneikque, Lamin, Xavier, Alyssa, and Startrease, who have been courageous enough to tell their stories to reporters.

Big problems become bigger problems when they feel too big to solve. The reaction to Yuen’s story was an uplifting reminder that we don’t need to have giant solutions to start solving big problems. We just need to care.

In response to many inquiries, we do not have any information on any funds that have been set up to help any students at this time.