By Dorany Pineda
Damien Benson, a student studying child development at East Los Angeles College, died of a heart attack due to undiagnosed coronary heart disease in his home the night of March 19.
Raeanna Gleason, assistant English professor, remembers her fall semester’s class as one of the best she’s ever taught, and it was largely because of Benson.
“[Damien] was a wonderful, amazing student,” Gleason said. “He always brought up many deep and important questions, was very humble and hardworking. He was very positive and always deeply engaged in class.”
There was one moment that semester that really stood out to Gleason and spoke volumes about the kind of person Benson was.
The day after the election, people on campus were scared, Gleason recalled. An undocumented student walked into class that day crying, worried about the promises the new administration had made about deporting people without legal status.
Benson, who hardly knew her, hugged and thanked her for being brave. That is how Deanna Ductoc, Benson’s girlfriend of one and-a-half years, remembers him too: as a positive and caring person.
“[Damien] was a super loving person. He was always smiling, always had a genuine smile on his face no matter what he was going through. He worked for everything he had, and always made sure he challenged himself and others,” Ductoc said.
Whether it was physically, academically or emotionally, Benson strived everyday to be the best version of himself, ELAC student Billy Torbey said.
“On the court is where his true passion came out,” Torbey wrote in a text. “He would always talk about being the ‘goat’ or the greatest of all time in basketball, and there is no doubt in my mind that he was.”
Benson worked at an elementary school as a physical education assistant, a job Ductoc said he enjoyed immensely.
He dreamed of being a speech pathologist. When talking to his friends, they all expressed how amazing Benson was and the grand scale of his heart and soul.
Always looking to inspire others, Benson started a YouTube channel about a year ago called Dame Zero where he posted creative, thought-provoking, insightful and motivational videos.
Celeste Sanchez, an ELAC student and friend of Benson’s, said that he had very unique perspectives about the world.
“Damien just had one of the purest souls. He wanted everyone to be better than what they could be,” Sanchez said.
His charisma and open mindedness always caught the attention of others, Sanchez said. He always brought attention to himself without even trying.
“Damien was really well-loved, very intelligent, thoughtful and pleasant. I think it’s a big loss for our campus. He will be dearly missed,” Gleason said.
Born Nov. 15, 1990 in Sacramento, California, Benson is survived by four siblings: Joey, Adrianna and Julian Limon, and Kahlia Williams.