Finding purpose: alum uses past struggles to lift up others

Early in her life, McKenzie Kay Darling struggled to find reasons to continue living. Now, she’s finding them every day and sharing them with the world.

When she was 16 years old, Darling battled with thoughts of suicide and self-harm. She cut her wrists, her hips, and even considered ending her life. Eventually, she had to be institutionalized for 40 days.

But through those struggles, Darling knew her life was worth more. She had a deeper purpose.

Darling, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UND, started a Facebook campaign called “100 Reasons I Choose to Stay.” She helps spread awareness of depression and mental health issues by sharing her personal struggles and telling others why she chooses to live.

“If I can, in any way, keep someone else from taking their life, then I’m going to do that, and right now sharing my story is showing people how to have hope for their lives,” she said.

McKenzie working on her calendar

McKenzie Kay Darling keeps a busy schedule teaching, working at church and giving speeches around the region.

McKenzie in downtown Grand Forks

Darling works as a children’s pastor and is a kindergarten teacher.

And Darling’s campaign doesn’t end there. She also shares her story at schools, churches and special events. She was chosen as a featured speaker for the Altru Health System Foundation Gala in Grand Forks.

Darling credits her UND education with giving her the tools to speak — and speak effectively — to so many different types of people. Darling earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a master’s degree in elementary education.

“It’s allowed me to realize that I can connect to students who are 5 years old, 7 years old, 8 years old, high school and adult-level,” she said. “That is something that I couldn’t learn without getting my master’s degree in elementary education.”

Early Childhood Education
Elementary Education
Langdon, N.D.