Lyon’s Leftwich advances from ‘shy kid’ to college mentor

Senior Dimir Leftwich defined himself as an athlete in high school, but he wanted to be more than that in college.

Young man wearing a football jersey
Lyon College senior Dimir Leftwich

“When I was in high school all I did was play football and run track,” he said. “I was a really shy kid. I didn’t like talking to people unless you were my teammate.”

During his time at Lyon, he has not only grown out of his shyness but has also grown into his role as a leader.

Leftwich, of Philadelphia, Penn., realized that if he wanted to achieve his goal of being a football coach then he would have to learn how to connect with people.

“You can’t really be a shy coach,” he said, laughing. “How are you going to get the best out of your team?”

He knew the first step to getting out of his comfort zone would be getting more involved on campus. When Dana Bennett, Coordinator of the Lyon Experience, sent students an email about Enrollment Services’ student ambassador program, Leftwich seized the opportunity.

“The student ambassador program forced me to talk to people,” he said, “because I’m talking to three to four kids who are thinking about coming to Lyon every day.”

Leftwich continued, “Joining the organization has forced me to take that leap of faith where you’re going to break out of your shell whether you want to or not.”

While he initially wanted to become a coach because of his love of football, the student ambassador program helped him discover a new aspect of his dream: the chance to positively impact young athletes’ lives.

“I used to think I wanted to coach in the National Football League if I could,” Leftwich said. “I’ve gotten to a point where I’d be perfectly content if I could coach college ball and stay around college students.”

He continued, “I love seeing people grow further and further to be the best version of themselves they can be.”

Over time, Leftwich became even more involved on campus. He is an officer in the Black Students Association, a resident assistant, a Diversity Recognizes Everyone’s Actions in the Movement (DREAM) Scholar, a member of the Diversity Council and a member of Motivational Monday Meetings (M3).

The goal of M3, he said, is to motivate everyone in the group to be the best they can as students, as athletes and as people on campus and in the community as a whole. Most of the members are football players and try to motivate each other on and off the field.

“We try to motivate each other mental health-wise, too,” he said. “College is exhausting. Add on being an athlete to that, and it’s even more tiring.”

The DREAM Scholar program has similar goals. A group of about 12 students from diverse backgrounds live together on the first floor of Young House, he said, and push each other to do the best they can within their classes.

Both groups are meeting virtually this fall while Lyon continues remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being on the football team has helped Leftwich learn how to spot when students in the M3 and DREAM Scholar programs are struggling and motivate them.

“You can tell when someone is discouraged. You can see it on their face,” he said. “What I personally like to do is sit down and have a conversation with them about what isn’t clicking, whether it’s about succeeding on the field or in the classroom.”

As a double major in business and English, Leftwich has also learned valuable time management skills in his courses that help him balance his many commitments in the Lyon community.

“There’s a lot of time in one week for you to do the things you need to get done.”

He continued, “It’s all just a time management thing. You have to know what you can take on as an individual. I like being busy. It’s a grind that I embrace.”

Leftwich encourages other Lyon students interested in being more involved not to be scared.

“I know if I had been scared, I would still be one of those students who goes to class, goes to practice and goes home.”

He concluded, “I feel like it’s the students who take that leap that get the most out of college because they’re taking advantage of everything they can.”