A Profile of the Inspiring Track and Field Student-Athlete, Diana Campbell ’22

Accomplished senior Diana Campbell gives us insight into her life and what led to her recent Division III track commitment, her creation of the Student Diversity Committee, and how she coped with the pandemic.


Alexander Thorp

Diana Campbell ’22 is a renowned and accomplished student-athlete at Bronx Science. She has committed to run Division III track at the University of Chicago, she established the Bronx Science Student Diversity Committee, has been part of Student Organization and Cabinet for a number of her years at Bronx Science, and is part of the SAP Board. She was also on the Bronx Science Girl’s Varsity Volleyball team, who defended their City championship for the first time in school history this past fall.

Sitting under an indoor tree in the popular Columbia University campus cafe, Dear Mama, Diana Campbell ’22 and I converse about the trajectory that each of our lives is taking. Our conversation goes up and down and in circles, both of us delving into tangents and occasionally forgetting what the question was – which may illustrate the actual lack of comprehension of where we are headed.

We hit a lull in the conversation when something of Diana’s falls on the ground. She picks it up and continues speaking where she left off, before stopping and furrowing her brow.

“What was I talking about?” she asks me. 

“Uh…” I say, stuttering. We burst out laughing, and I remark that she has asked that question four times throughout the course of our interview, to which she comments how bad it is that she cannot refrain from going off on tangents. 

Despite that struggle to remember what question she is answering, Diana Campbell has amassed a critical amount of accomplishments in her time at Bronx Science. Recently, she committed to running Division III track at her dream school, The University of Chicago. At the end of her sophomore year, she remotely founded the Student Diversity Committee at Bronx Science, and proceeded to lead virtual Town Halls and meetings with influential figures such as race educator Jane Elliot. Campbell is also part of the SAP board, completed two years of Mock Trial, and contributed to the SO Cabinet for two and a half years. Diana was also part of the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team for all of her years at Bronx Science, and contributed significantly to their second City Championship this past year.

Track and Field

Growing up, Campbell’s parents gave her many opportunities to dip her toes into the waters of different pursuits — whether that was sports, ballet, or academics. Despite her current prowess in track and field, Campbell had not run track until attending Bronx Science.

Diana began her acquaintance with track in middle school, finding the sport appealing but difficult to pursue, as her middle school did not have a track team. Upon attending Bronx Science, track was on her list of interests, but took a back seat to the volleyball team and adjusting to life at Bronx Science. When the season eventually coincided with her free time, she was less motivated to join, and that was when the sly suggestion of joining track for the gym opt-out came about. 

“I actually only joined track because my friend encouraged me to,” she admits, citing the proposed opt-out of gym class as a main contributor to her interest. Despite that unlikely beginning, Campbell has found strength and purpose in track, albeit with struggle. The shift from the team-oriented aspect of volleyball to the individual-oriented intensity of track was initially so difficult that Campbell actually wanted to quit during her ninth grade year. 

“To me, sports has always been synonymous with being connected to the people you play with, so track can feel very isolating because you don’t really have the same dynamic of people pushing you as in volleyball,” she explained. But once she grew accustomed to it, the solitude actually seemed to enhance her competitive mindset. “In track, you’re either chasing or being chased, always – and that kind of urgency really pushes you in ways that competing next to your teammates in volleyball might not, due to maybe a bit of altruism from when your group is physically together,” she said.

The transition between volleyball and track was difficult for Campbell, and she still admits she has not completely surmounted the hump of shock from the stark difference between the two sports. 

“Even now, as a senior and a captain, I still feel very isolated.” Despite this persistent feeling, she explains that she has gotten through by altering her perspective.

“I think you just have to see it differently: Even if I’m not training or competing with other girls on my team right now, what I am doing is still contributing in some way to my team. Nothing beats the feeling of winning your event, and it’s even more supported by knowing that it’s not just a win for yourself, but that the points you score individually still trickle down to benefit your team.”

This collective mindset, alongside her own personal drive, has served her well. This past indoor track season, Campbell placed 1st in hurdles and 3rd in the 55-meter dash at the Bronx Borough Championships, qualified for City Championships and Nationals, and achieved a personal record at Nationals in the 60m dash! Now, she prepares for similar successes in outdoor track.

College Recruitment

Regarding the college recruitment process, Campbell revealed that the process felt relatively simple once she believed she could be recruited. Campbell initially believed there was a low chance of recruitment for her, because she had never run on an outside-of-school club team, unlike many student-athletes who are interested in being recruited. 

Additionally, she believed that Bronx Science’s academically rigorous environment did not leave room for athletics. “One of the biggest parts, maybe the biggest parts of my identity is being a student-athlete, and I hold both in very high regard. When you go to Bronx Science, it’s very easy because of who you’re around and the environment that you are in, to make your life about being a student and being academic. Because of that, I thought I couldn’t be a good athlete.”

Not to mention, the Northeast generally does not hold a strong reputation for college commits. With the focus more on academia – due to the close proximity of prestigious universities – athletics tends to take a back seat. College commitments are more prominent in suburban, Southern, and Midwestern schools, where athletics have a greater reputation, and training space is abundant, leading to more investment and greater reward. 

The emphasis on academic excellence in the Northeast is a self-defining aspect of the region’s culture. However, it does often lead to the discouragement of pursuits like athletics, as Campbell describes:

“I thought that being good at track couldn’t come at the expense of my academics, so I told myself that I couldn’t get better because academics come first, but I never sat and thought about what an equal balance of students and athletics meant for me.”

Campbell’s hastened and less traditional experience in track also discouraged her from college track, as she couldn’t afford to join a track club and felt that was a huge disadvantage. Not seeing athletes like herself, from a similar background, as she grew up, had a profound impact on her belief in herself to reach the next level.

“I think I didn’t have enough track athletes or athletes in general who came from the same background as me, showing me that it was possible. I think I needed a lot more mentorship and affirmation as a kid, because my only supporters were my parents, and they were always going to say good things about me. So I didn’t believe them when they said that I was a good athlete.”

It wasn’t until Campbell received her first recruitment letter from Worchester-Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts that she believed a future in college track was possible.

“I cried that whole day. A lot of how I move is motivated by affirmation, so hearing one person or group say that I was good enough, after feeling for years like I wasn’t, was really huge for me,” she said.

But Diana was not particularly interested in running for WPI. She wanted a school that was both academically and athletically strong, and although WPI satisfied that criteria, she had her sights set elsewhere. The University of Chicago had always been her dream school, and once she believed that running track in college was possible, she reached out to the school’s coach.

“Track is very quantitative, so the measure of how good you are is right there in the numbers online and a lot of recruiting coaches will just have a questionnaire on the school website.” she explained. “I sent my times to the University of Chicago, and it was pretty smooth sailing from there. I had always felt pretty connected to the University of Chicago, but I wouldn’t have even considered sending my times if it wasn’t for the first letter I had gotten.” Campbell’s heartfelt recruiting story speaks to the powerful influence that support can have on a student’s confidence in their pursuits, and motivation to create their own path. Campbell pushed against the voice that deemed athletics unsuitable for her future, the voice that had been cultivated by her years of school and life in the academically-focused Northeast. She used the continuous support and encouragement she received to cultivate a new belief in herself that fueled her passion for what could be in her future. And now, she is committed to continuing her life as a student-athlete at her dream school.

Student Diversity Committee

Campbell founded the Student Diversity Committee at Bronx Science as well, in the spring of her remote sophomore year. She was inspired by discussions with an English teacher, Ms. Wilhelm, about the need for a space in Bronx Science for mixed and minority students to engage in discourse and initiatives that would promote inclusivity and representation in the school  community.

“It was absolutely the work of a mentor that I had that the SDC exists. Ms. Wilhelm and I were just talking – not even teacher to student but person to person, and I think more importantly Black woman to young Black woman, about how we felt. I think a lot of the most important and lasting work is motivated by feelings and emotions. We are feeling entities, humans, feeling all the time,” she disclosed.

But Campbell did not desire for the committee to become usurped into the Bronx Science administration and marketed to new students as “just another check on the box.” In other words, she did not want her initiative to be performative. She sees it as more important that the SDC is existing and providing that safe space, than rolling out new events left and right for the school community – especially as scheduling and organizing have become difficult due to the return to in-person learning.

“I think allowing it to be something living is important. We have to remember that this is a group of students of color that are going to be facilitating these initiatives, and putting the responsibility on them to continue something that is supposed to address diversity concerns at our school is unfair. It should not be entirely our responsibility,” she acknowledges. Campbell wrestles with her personal high expectations for the SDC, the practicality of being able to put in what she can, and the commitment to making SDC simply a player in a greater cultural change at Bronx Science that she hopes to see. 

“I think what the culture shift should be is that we have the SDC, a group of students that have put their time, energy, thoughts, and creativity into this Committee. How can we – as the broader Bronx Science community, even though we are not all students of color or even students – support them?”

Due to Campbell’s initial desire for ultimate autonomy, the SDC began unchartered with the school, which gave students ultimate control over its functioning and meeting frequency. It remains unchartered due to complications that the act of chartering would imply, but she recognizes that the group’s intentions often require the funding, leverage, and support of the administration. Whether the committee becomes chartered in the future or not,  they hope to continue their student-driven approach. Already, they have developed a website and newsletter. Recently, they have made headway for facilitating SHSAT tutoring for middle schools in the Bronx, which aims to tackle the low accessibility of SHSAT prep and knowledge about the SHSAT that students of color disproportionately experience. This past Black History Month (February 2022) the SDC posted a series of Instagram posts highlighting different important – but overlooked – Black individuals on their Instagram, @bxsci.diversity. And last year, during the pandemic, they held Zoom webinars with renowned guest speakers, such as Assistant Professor of Education at Seton Hall University, faculty fellow at The Institute for Urban and Multicultural Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and author of #HipHopEd: The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education Volume 1, Dr. Edmund Adjapong, and award-winning associate professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz.

As A Person

Campbell has traversed many internal and external battles with confidence, achievement, time management, idealism, and execution throughout her many pursuits and at home on her own. During remote school, she struggled with stress due to isolation at home. Fortunately, she was able to develop habits to mediate her stress, like taking a walk before school in the morning. With so much more control over her time and life, Campbell felt she had reached a level of maturity and autonomy that gave her a sense of peace. As September of 2021 approached, the concept of in-person school felt daunting at first, because, as she describes it, “I was worried that coming back to school would reverse all the progress that I had made over quarantine.” This sentiment is common among people who felt that the alone time had given them clarity of mind. But Campbell quickly countered the stress that came with returning to school with reluctant acceptance: “Being back in school reminded me that I am not the 25-year old minded woman I think I am. I am a teenager, and I have to go to school,” she said sheepishly.

Like most teenagers, the shift back into in-person school has been bumpy for Campbell, but she is giving herself grace and taking it one day at a time, trying to focus on the bigger goals – like recruitment and the SDC – rather than perfection and trying to exercise ultimate control. She works against the conscience that demands more from her when she knows she is fatigued, welcoming the power of relaxation and restoration. Campbell is an inspiring student-athlete who has accomplished much at Bronx Science. Hopefully, her story can provide the sort of encouragement to other students that she felt she needed at their age, to achieve pursuits that may seem far from the ordinary.

Diana Campbell ’22 has traversed many internal and external battles with confidence, achievement, time management, idealism, and execution throughout her many pursuits and at home on her own.