Damaris Kunkler: Happy to be home in Humboldt


Local News

August 9, 2019 - 4:24 PM

Damaris Kunkler

Last spring, Damaris Kunkler wanted to visit with daughter Elysia, a crackerjack track performer for Iola High School, during a track  meet at Humboldt.

She walked across the infield and approached a covey of orange-and-black-clad kids.

“Then, I remembered: Elysia ran for Iola not Humboldt,” and, with a little egg on her face, retreated quickly.

Damaris graduated in 1990 from Humboldt High, where she was a cheerleader, athlete and involved “in just about every activity that came along.”

Four months ago “I was back home,” as she refers to Humboldt, to work as a community activist with A Bolder Humboldt. 

“I didn’t realize how much Humboldt meant to me until the first week I was working here,” Damaris said. “This is the right place at the right time for me.” For 10 years she had a similar role in Iola with Thrive Allen County.


DAMARIS and her family moved to Humboldt from Norman, Okla., when she was 13. 

“I remember walking into the school and saw the hall crowded with kids.” Anxious as any teen would be, she was delighted to see smiling faces and soon-to-be chatty friends.

Damaris became a cheerleader. “That was a way I could dance.” She also was homecoming queen her senior year. 

After high school, Allen Community College’s dance team beckoned. No arm-twisting was required.

Two years later she earned a spot on the Pittsburg State cheer squad, “but I didn’t end up in school. It didn’t match up with my financial world.”

Even so, she earned certification as a nurse assistant at PSU. Having worked with special ed students in Humboldt and a couple of kids with Down’s syndrome in Pittsburg, Damaris found helping others was her calling.

At age 23, Damaris’s life changed dramatically. By then she was living in Emporia and became pregnant, “knowing I was going to be a single mom. I was scared.”

She had a son, Arion.