Destini Potter
Destini Potter

Destini Potter always had an interest in a medical career.

After her 56-year-old mother died of a sudden heart attack when Potter was 18, she knew she wanted to be a cardiologist. 

True to her name, nothing was going to get in the way of that goal.

“There’s always a million reasons not to do something, but there’s always a million reasons to do something,” Potter said with a smile. “If you’re going through a tough time, you deserve to make a better life for yourself, no matter what. … Don’t give up.”

On Dec. 15, Potter will join hundreds of other summer and fall degree candidates at the KFC Yum! Center for commencement exercises. Cheering her on from the stands as she celebrates her biology undergraduate degree will be her three brothers and two sisters. 

“I want to make my Mom proud because she always believed in me,” she said.

After her mother died, Potter’s father turned to drugs to cope. His addictions led her to sever her ties with him. 

Potter, 24, who lives with one of her sisters in Taylorsville and commutes to UofL, said she was determined to get her college degree “no matter what,” even though it meant she would have to  put herself through school. To help lessen the financial burden, the first-generation student began her college career at Jefferson Community & Technical College (JCTC) in Carrollton after graduating from Trimble County High School in 2017. She transferred to UofL two years later, and she works part-time as a certified nursing assistant in Taylorsville.

“I don’t want other people to go through what I did, so I want to do the best that I can to help people protect their health so that other people won’t have their parents pass away when they are young,” Potter said.

Her close-knit siblings have been a strong support system for her. “We support each other and count on each other,” she said. 

Potter presenting her undergraduate research.

She also found a home at UofL, where she conducted field research on insects and developed lasting friendships, including finding fellow Dungeons & Dragons players. Among her favorite faculty members are Mark Running, professor of biology, Sachin Handa, associate professor of organic chemistry, and Steve Yanoviak, who gave her a research position in his entomology lab. 

She readily admits to having trouble focusing sometimes, and found favorite study areas on the quiet third floor of Ekstrom Library as well as in the Miller IT Center. She was not fond of the all-online class formats that were forced to replace in-person classes during the pandemic.

“I prefer an in-class setting,” she said. “When I’m in class I put my phone away and I try not to get distracted.”

But she said she had to learn to adapt because UofL’s many online class offerings have been particularly helpful with her busy schedule of working, studying and commuting. 

After graduation, she plans to take a gap year while she works and studies for her MCATs. 

Onward, toward her destiny.

Commencement exercises for UofL’s summer and fall 2023 candidates is Dec. 15, 7 p.m., at the KFC Yum! Center. For more information, visit the commencement webpage.

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