Hillcrest High student leads through adversity, awarded scholarshipMar 08, 2023 04:25PM ● By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High student body and yearbook historian Toccara Dumas, taking photos at a wrestling meet, recently was awarded the Larry H. Miller Company Education Scholarship at the 39th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Hillcrest High senior Toccara Dumas has seen a few things in her life that a 17-year-old shouldn’t have to see.
As a biracial child, she’s experienced an unwelcoming feeling from both the Black and white communities. She wrote about her experiences and insight in an essay contest. She was awarded with the Larry H. Miller Company Education Scholarship that was presented to her at the 39th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon.
“I wrote the essay and had my mom and English teacher look at it, not so much to proofread, but more to see if I shared the message, ‘You’re never too Black or you’re never too white. It’s never going to be enough with being a mixed child,’” she said. “I’ve had to figure out who I am and learn to live within both communities. It’s about seeing what works best for you.”
“I am living proof that love between two different races is possible,” she wrote.
Although her parents divorced when Dumas was 1 year old, her stepfather, who is Black, stepped in to “bless me with a multicultural community.” While Dumas maintained a healthy relationship with her mom’s white side of the family, her exposure to Black culture was often limited to attending a mostly Black Baptist church.
“When I was younger, I didn’t really understand the racism. Kids would talk about my hair, and they’d throw paper balls or erasers is my hair. It was hard and made me insecure,” she said.
In her childhood, Dumas remembers a neighbor threw rocks at her bedroom window, called her derogatory slurs, egged her mother’s car, smeared animal feces on their property, and made death threats.
“Discrimination plays a different role for mixed children than it does for full Black people,” she said.
Dumas said that often insensitivity plays a role when people talk to her.
For example, she has been asked in history class if she sides with the north or the south during the Civil War. Since Dumas is biracial, she doesn’t neatly fit into either community and she even has faced prejudice as a female.
“I think people need to think and be careful in what they say and do; you never know when you’re just going to hurt somebody’s feelings,” she said.
Dumas has a 4-year-old sister, who she’d tell: “Do what you got to do you. People are not always going to like you and that’s OK. At the end of the day, you got you and that’s all you got. You got to stay strong to yourself.”
In her essay, she also addressed what needs to be done in the world.
“If we want to see change within our communities and people, we need to start caring for the home that we live in,” she wrote.
She said what is needed is more scientists, doctors and environmentalists to save planet Earth, which she wrote is dying. She said that underappreciated women and people of color can fill those roles, but more importantly, she pointed out that it’s not an issue of color, but about the roles that are needed as a community and human race to bring about change.
Her scholarship is earmarked for college where she hopes to make an impact and study animal science.
“I’m so grateful that this scholarship can help me with what I want to learn,” she said.
This year, she began studying about her passion of animals at Jordan (School District’s) Academy for Technology and Careers, commonly referred to as JATC.
“So far, I’ve only had experience with dogs, but this summer, I’m planning on taking a humanitarian trip to Tanzania and will get some experience with marine conservation and dolphin conservation,” she said.
Dumas, who played volleyball three years for Hillcrest, is a student body officer and yearbook historian who often is seen taking photos of student events.
“I’ve always really liked taking pictures when I was younger, so my mom got me a little camera. I’ve never had a professional camera until my teacher lent me a camera to take to a football game one night and I played with it a little bit to figure out how it works. I just started taking pictures and looking up and asking questions and I just got better and better,” she said. “It was my motivation for running for SBO. I just I wanted to be able to support everyone and be a positive part of everything.”
Her adviser, Shannon Hurst, has appreciated having Dumas as the student body historian.
“Everyone needs a Toccara in their life,” Hurst said. “She is one of the kindest, most loving and understanding people I’ve ever met. She is also a dependable leader with a creative mind. Toccara continuously serves the school in her capacity as the student body historian and does an amazing job.”