CTK Alumna embraces opportunity to forge her own dual career path combining sports psychology and athletic training.

Since leaving Christ the King as a 2020 graduate, Darshena Marion‘s personal journey has been both fulfilling and exciting, with a few twists and turns along the way. A first-generation college student, she originally attended HBCU Jackson State University (JSU) in Mississippi, enrolling in their Criminal Justice program, intent on becoming a lawyer. Her interest stemmed in part from her Corporate Work Study experience working at Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen during her four years at CTK. Over time, her academic and career focus has shifted from law to athletic training. After spending two and half years at JSU, she decided to head 1,200 miles west to the University of Colorado Boulder, where she is now a Psychology major, Sociology minor, and student athletic trainer. In her typical long days, she arrives at the training facility at 6:15 AM and works with athletes until 3 PM, and then focuses on her classes and homework for the rest of the afternoon/evening. A key factor in her move was the encouragement and support of former JSU and current Colorado Head Football Coach and mentor, Deion Sanders. Yes, sports fans, Coach Prime. 

The articulate and driven young woman shared some of her story in a recent interview below.

How did you first get involved with athletic training at Jackson State?

From my time at CTK, I was used to being busy all of the time with work, extra-curriculars and school. I found that I had too much free time at Jackson State. So, my second semester freshman year I signed up to volunteer (it eventually became a work study job) in athletic training with the football team. I ended up spending so much time in it, I needed to ask myself, is this something you are truly interested in? I had been an athlete at CTK, and I found that I missed being around sports. Athletic training gave me the same rush as playing sports and being part of a sports team. I only knew a little about athletic training at that point from our gym teacher at CTK, Mr. Joyner, who was also a trained athletic trainer. He implemented athletic training into our gym classes. I also learned more about it when I pulled my hamstring as a CTK cheerleader, so needed to work with Mr. Joyner in my recovery. Those experiences gave me a sense about athletic training, but I really starting learning about when I actually started working in it.

What was your role in athletic training at JSU?

I was a student intern, so I helped in the training room with recovery and rehabilitation programs mostly for the football team, assisting the athletic trainer, Lauren Askevold, with anything she needed help with. She would also teach me the different exercises to strengthen the athlete to get back on the field. She was the only certified trainer, so she needed to lean on the student trainers to learn more and do more. If someone came in with an injured ankle, I needed to know the protocols and exercises they needed to do, Or, if someone was cramping on the field, I needed to know what the cramp protocols were. Lauren even pushed us to take a CPR class. I became a student leader by my third year, and I was given more responsibility, since I was more experienced.

How did your decision to transfer to the University of Colorado come about?

At the beginning of the year, I sat down for a meeting with Coach Prime and I thanked him for all he had done for me personally. I told him he had a positive impact on me and I’m not even a player on the team. Later in the year, we had another meeting and he asked me what my ties were to Jackson State, and I told him he was my strongest tie to Jackson State. I was working hard, but Cach Prime made it enjoyable to spend time learning and growing. Coach saw my dedication and hard work, and talked about me going to Colorado, and the opportunity to have my tuition covered and to get paid for working as a student trainer there. I might have gone without that, but that was the icing on the cake for me. I applied and was accepted and arrived in Boulder on January 23, 2023.

What has your transition to Colorado been like for you?

To be honest, it’s a completely different atmosphere going from a smaller HBCU to Colorado. It helped to have another student trainer, Asia and the athletic trainer, Lauren, as well as some coaches and players from JSU go to Colorado, too. It was a big change for me, and you realize you’re going to face adversity all of the time. It’s given me an opportunity to learn more about myself. I am very independent, but I need to use the resources I have available to my best advantage to help me better my future. My future is my future and not everyone else’s. It’s up to me to determine, where I want to go in my life. You don’t necessarily need to lock in and buckle down on one career, Coach Prime told me in a conversation that the time of just pursuing one career path is over. That was his generation. He said, whatever you want to do, just do it. Which is why I want to pursue both sports psychology and athletic training – to treat the whole person. The physical and mental go hand and hand. With athletes, I see some of them struggling with things in their lives. They are more comfortable talking to a trainer, since it’s someone who has been through it all with them. I’ve seen them at their best and at their worst. I want to be able to help them with not only their bodies but their minds as well, to be able to treat them in the best most complete way possible.

What from your CTK experience has contributed to your success in college?

CTK prepared me for this. Everything I’m doing now was instilled in me while I was at CTK. I love my alma mater! The most important thing I learned there is balance. At CTK, you need to be able to balance your schoolwork, extra curriculars, and your internship. If I didn’t go through that in high school, I don’t know how I would have managed in college. At CTK, I also learned to navigate through things on my own, to be independent, and solve situations on my own. But the teachers and staff were always there to provide support and point us in the right direction if needed. They were dedicated to making sure students got to where they wanted to go I life. They also taught me to be able to communicate with my professors. It has been important for me to learn my teachers' teaching and testing styles. My experience working at Applegate helped me learn a lot about law and networking, but I also proved myself and built trust over time. I still keep in touch with Mary Nealy, Office Services Coordinator at Applegate who was always positive and instilled confidence in me. Lastly, I appreciated the opportunity to give back to my community in CTK service projects. I remember a woman speaking to us about how God can change your life overnight. That has stayed with me.

What advice would you share with current CTK students?

You don’t have to know what you want to do with your life in the moment. College is not just about school, but also about networking and getting to know people. You never know who you might meet in life. Always take the opportunity to learn about your environment and those around you. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes to your door, because today you may want to do one thing, but tomorrow it may change. I’ve found that things work out for the best when you’re open to new opportunities.

Darshena is a great example of a CTK grad who has embraced new opportunities and is working hard to achieve her life’s dreams. Go Darshena, CTK is cheering for you!