Connections to people and to communities is something most people long for. Life was seemingly normal for Danielle Griffin, up until age 24 that is. Griffin, administrative associate at Springfield College, remembers her life being flipped upside down very quickly. In the raw moments of her last semester of college at Westfield State, Griffin dropped out of school to take care of her mother in her final days. While glancing at a small vintage polaroid of her Mother in her petite beige cubicle, tears dripped down her face.
Griffin credits her Mom as being a monumental force in shaping her development. “My Mom was like our caretaker. She always had jobs that were around our [Danielle and her sister] schedule. If we were in school then she would work and then she would always be there at night. She taught us hard work and sacrifice.”
Being a commuter at Westfield State hindered Griffin’s sense of community. Griffin softly noted, “my biggest regret was being a commuter. I lived in Springfield went to school 45 minutes away and I didn’t have the connection to people, events or clubs.”
Dropping out heavily derailed her path to becoming an educator. After losing her Mother and losing her education, her community crumbled around her.
In the midst of picking up the pieces of her life, Griffin got the opportunity to work at Springfield College. Fifteen years later, Griffin still works for Springfield College, as an administrative associate for Multicultural Affairs. Danielle’s face became blush pink when asked about her job.
“It’s not like a counselor position, but I am able to talk to students about everything really. Whether it be living with a challenging roommate, managing the coursework load, or just emotional battles throughout their college experiences.”
Felicia Lundquist, director of Multicultural Affairs, notes that Griffin has the opportunity to work with a multitude of students. “she has the ability to work more closely with students, faculty and staff through collaboration across campus and community. As a result, this position offers opportunities to build authentic and meaningful relationships across the campus and greater community while cultivating change through a framework of social change leadership.”
Marcel Diaz, one of the many students Danielle knows on a personal basis reflects on the impact she has brought to his life. “Danielle being the first person you see in the office, is always there to uplift my spirits and give me a hug. She knows when I am not myself and is always willing to listen to whatever issues are going on in my life. If it was not for Danielle, I do not know how I would have made it through these past two years at Springfield. Now a senior, she continues to be such a positive support for me and she is constantly encouraging me to be my most authentic self.”
Griffin sure doesn’t involve herself in this role because of the money. She does it for the inclusivity she feels by being a part of a community that helps her grow personally and allows her to help other people.
“I live in a two-bedroom house with three kids and a husband but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Everything that was meant to happen, has. And that’s why I wouldn’t trade it. Because I am where I am now, and I love my life.” Griffin reminds herself that as long as she has love to give, nothing can be that bad.
Love to give is especially up Griffin’s alley. She gave birth to a baby a few years ago and also fostered and eventually adopted two children from the Foster to Adopt program in Western Massachusetts just about ten years ago.
“What a great part of my life, to have a beautiful family. Everything truly happens for a reason. Because my first child was a still born, I was lacking a sense that everything happened for a reason. But being having children has been the most rewarding time of my life. Being a part of something again, that’s what keeps me going.”
Her still born baby girl was quite a difficult concept to grasp. Griffin remembers the day very clearly. “I can remember being in total and utter shock. It felt like everything meant nothing anymore. Like nothing actually mattered because I didn’t have my baby girl. But then I thought of my Mother, and I remembered I had to be strong.”
Griffin’s strength plays a huge role in her positive impact on Alden Street. She is a part of a family both at home and at Springfield College, something she desperately searched for after her 24th year on earth.
Marcel Diaz notes how Griffin’s sense of community has grown. “I definitely believe that Danielle is amongst one of many staff members at Springfield who understand what it means to be part of such a community. Every day, Danielle interacts with many students who have different social backgrounds, and with that each student in which she encounters always feels welcomed in the environment they are currently in. When it comes to building a stronger community, Danielle along with many others in the Office of Multicultural Affairs is always there to encourage students to use their strengths and passions to promote a more inclusive community.”
It is by no accident Griffin belongs at Springfield College. Through her deep seeded devotion to her family, her students, and her life at Springfield, she exemplifies what it means to be a beautiful person both inside and out. The connections she has built through the community have helped her grow through her struggles of losing her Mom and her child. A witty smile came into place when asked about her future.
“I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know I’m happy here. And happy is where I want to stay.”
Photo Courtesy Danielle Griffin