RICHMOND, Virginia –
When Derrhyl Duncan walks into a classroom at the Bettye Ackerman-Cobb Child Development Center at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, it’s immediately clear he’s a favorite amongst the youngsters. They chant his name and slap high fives with him. They gather around him and giggle with delight as he sits down, pulls out a book and begins reading to them. “When I was younger, I always had teachers who encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be. If I can provide that same guidance for these children then my job is accomplished,” said Duncan.
Duncan goes about that task everyday as an associate teacher at the CDC where he’s worked for the past two months. A 2012 graduate of Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Duncan and his girlfriend recently moved to Richmond from Philadelphia so she can complete work on her five- year, doctoral program at Virginia Commonwealth University. “I really wanted to work with the kids at the CDC, rather than another center, because I thought it would be a nice challenge for me.” “They are the future. Everything that we are, they’ll be that and greater at some point in time,” he said.
Duncan is also set to embark on his own personal challenge competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a member of the United States track team. “I have competed against people at every level. I’ve competed against Olympians and Olympic medalists, so I do know what it takes,” he said.
Duncan was a 400-meter track star at Temple and still holds a couple of school records. He’s medaled at the Penn Relays in his hometown of Philadelphia and the Millrose Games in New York City. Duncan says he has been training for the 2016 games since he graduated from college. “It’s very intriguing to see how I can challenge myself to become better in every way that I’m working towards,” said Duncan.
Between now and the June Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, Duncan says he will continue to train hard and compete in both indoor and outdoor meets. This means he will be spending a great deal of time away from the CDC over the next eight months and maybe longer if he makes the team. “They’ve given me nothing but support the entire time,” said Duncan.
Center Director Case Chapman says she isn’t dwelling on the time Duncan is going to miss in pursuing his dream. She chooses to know that when he is there, the children are the big winners. “To be able to have someone like him who is doing all these wonderful things, is such an influence on the kids and can get out there and do all those physical activities with them. It’s just fantastic.”