Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Dusti. We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.
This has been a challenging question for me to answer. As I reflect on where I am now, I can honestly say this was not the life path I expected for myself. However, I am so grateful to be where I am and to be living the life that I am now. I was born and raised in Arlington, Texas in a home where “serving others” was not only normalized but also required. I had the privilege of getting to serve in a variety of ways, in a number of places. From a very young age, I knew I was a “helper,” finding any opportunity I could to serve a person or community in need. Not necessarily physical needs but more emotional and mental needs – specifically love. My biological father struggled with substance abuse my entire life, ultimately leading to his death when I was 15. Even as a young child, I knew that he lacked the love and resources he needed to get out of that life. Taking it even further back, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder at age 7. I was fortunate to have several adults pouring into me, so I learned a lot about resilience at a very young age. When my dad passed away, I was a sophomore in high school. It was then that I decided I would take more ownership of my mental health and began learning all the things I could to manage myself. My capstone assignment in Pre-AP English was about ADHD because I believed it was my responsibility to not only learn as much as I could about myself but also help others understand what it meant. Even today, many people struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues do not have the insight or knowledge necessary to help themselves or the ones they love. For me, this stems from a lack of resources. Particularly, love from others and/or love for themselves. This is where I started to uncover what my life’s purpose is, although at that time I did not know it. I never saw myself as a mom living in the same community I was raised in, married to someone I have known since first grade. I never saw myself as a tutor either. But, here I am, living my best life, getting to serve others and pour into them. I never could have written my story for myself, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career?
I cannot attribute this to one specific thing but to several different factors. I was born and raised in Arlington, Texas in a Christian household. This meant we were actively pursuing our higher purpose in life as God the Father ordained it. I witnessed every family member on my mother’s side do this in a myriad of ways. This also meant daily reading from the Scriptures on how to live and how to seek God’s will for my life. This same side of the family also is full of mental illnesses, such as substance abuse and anxiety or depression. We are also all in some form of “helping” profession from teaching, the medical field, social work, and mental and behavioral health. As a faithful believer in Jesus Christ and God as Creator, I felt a calling at a young age to work with the “unloved,” or marginalized groups of people.
What is one thing you are most proud of achieving in your life?
When I was in second grade, I went to a week of Girl Scout camp where an Australian counselor left a lasting impression. When I saw my mom for the first time after the week away, I said, “someday I’m going to go to Australia.” Fast forward to my sophomore year in high school when another Australian counselor and I instantly bonded. We became pen pals after that for several years. Again, I made it known that I would one day make a trip to the Land Down Under. My Australian friend would return to the US to visit a few more times until it was finally my turn to take the trip across the Pond. In the Spring of 2008, I transferred universities and to my fortune, the new school had a Study Abroad program that would allow me to spend 6 months in Sydney, Australia. When I learned about this program, I immediately called my mom on the phone and said, “I’m going to Australia,” to which she replied, “I know.” I then said, “No, I mean in a few months,” and explained the next steps to my mom. I couldn’t believe it was unfolding for me to not only go to Australia but to be able to live there and call it “home” for 6 months.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would not be who or where I am today without the love and support of my parents, sister, and a handful of other relatives both living and gone from this Earth. More specifically, my maternal grandparents’ legacy. I am blessed to say my family of origin was full of strong familial bonds that spread far and wide. I have a large family and large community who all played a role in helping me get to where I am today.
My mother was a single mother for 8 years of my life. She was – and still is – a force to be reckoned with. I learned by watching her and she also taught me through my own life experiences how to go after what you desire and know to be true. A few examples come to mind. The first was when I was a Girl Scout from the ages of 5 – 18. I earned my “Gold Award,” which is the equivalent of an Eagle Scout. I was a Senior in high school at the time, and many days did not want to do the work required of me. My mom showed up with me and cheered me on. Before that, every Spring, aka “Cookie Season,” I had to sell enough cookies in order to earn free weeks at a summer camp. I would have to spend many of my Saturdays as a kid selling cookies. When I would get frustrated or want to quit, my mom would remind me why I started. This value has carried me through all of my ventures. Another time that comes to mind was when I wanted to go to Kenya as a missionary and work at a Deaf School and Children’s Home. She supported me as I raised the funds.
Like me, my mother also had an incredible example of grit and grace from her mother. My grandmother was the most valuable and precious person in my life. When my mom was on deployments throughout my childhood, my Grannie would come and stay with me and my sister. She was everything to me. My sister and I would also spend several weeks with my Grannie and Papa at their home in Dodge City, Kansas while my mom was away. My Papa taught me the love of learning and the importance of being a lifelong learner. He taught all of his children and other grandchildren to do the same. Growing up, my grandfather would write letters to me and my cousins requiring us to complete an assignment, usually in order to earn “commissions.” From a very young age until I was 14 when he passed away, he would write us biweekly and would require us to write him back as well. He had us memorize a variety of Bible-related things like the books of the Bible, the Fruits of the Spirit, the Armor of God, and a list of Scriptures, the Gettysburg Address, and the Preamble to the Constitution. He would send Sunday “Funnies,” or political cartoons, and would even ask us critical-thinking and thought-provoking questions that we had to answer. He also taught us the value of a dollar and made sure we understood our position. I owe much of who I am today to him. My grandparent’s legacy is what I attribute my success to, and I am very grateful to have been afforded the life that I have.
What do you enjoy most about teaching/tutoring?
Just like my grandfather empowered me to be a lifelong learner, I love that I get to inspire the next generation to do the same. As someone who has a passion for helping others, I see tutoring as an opportunity to give back and empower others to achieve whatever it is they have in mind. I believe that learning happens both in and outside of the classroom. We are always learning whether we recognize this at the time or not. The same could then be said about teaching. I believe that teaching is not limited to academics either. For me, tutoring allows me to go beyond the scores and help the student become an empowered individual with a desire to always be learning and growing.
Tell about an amazing trip you took. Where did you go and what did you enjoy most?
I have been fortunate enough to have traveled a lot in my life. It is honestly very difficult to pick just one so I’m going to name a few things I have done that I enjoyed. While studying abroad in Australia, I was able to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef and pet a Sea Turtle. I sky-dived onto the beach. I slept under the stars at Uluru in Alice Springs. At the end of my missionary stay in Kenya, I went on a safari on the Masai Mara where I spent 4 days and 3 nights in the wild. I was within 100 yards of elephants and giraffes, along with many other beautiful “beasts.” I was married at Sapphire Point Overlook in Dillon, Colorado. For our honeymoon, we zip-lined in the rainforest of Costa Rica and swam in a hot spring heated by the Arenal Volcano. In high school, I visited Times Square a few times, saw Wicked on Broadway, Hairspray off-Broadway, and saw Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera House. In college, we went to the Space Needle and White Water rafting when in Seattle. In San Francisco, I visited the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Haight and Ashbury, the Painted Ladies, and Lombard Street. I have been to Stonehenge, Westminster, London Tower, and Buckingham Palace. Last but not least, in the summer of my freshman year of high school, when my mom was stationed in Germany, we were able to visit her for a week. When we were there, we went to Neuschwanstein Castle, drove on the Autobahn, and walked through the Black Forest.
Is there something exciting you are working on now? What is it and why did you choose to start it?
I am in a workshop with other entrepreneur women called “Make Your Mark.” This is where we get to do some discovery work, unpack limiting beliefs, and clear our energies so we can make room for what is next – ultimately so we can leave our mark. For me, I’m getting to meet and network with other women working on nonprofits who can help me get ready for my children’s home. I am in the process of unpacking things and getting a plan in place for the next steps. I chose to do this because I needed to get clarity on which “great idea” I was going to work on next and get the help I needed to just get started. It is hard to see the forest through the trees and for someone like me who has a lot of “great ideas,” but struggles to get started, this was what I needed for such a time as this. I am gaining more tools for my toolbox, like understanding Toxic Positivity and what Limiting Beliefs we are taught, which in turn will help me serve the people I get to work with.
The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Oh boy. “Success”‘ is a funny concept to me. What success looks like to me, may not be what success looks like to someone else. For me, success would be to one day have a children’s home, fulfilling my calling of loving the unloved. It also means raising my children to know, love, and follow Christ. So, for any person who would want to follow in those footsteps, I would tell them to establish, build, and foster a relationship with God, read the Scriptures, pray and meditate on what the looks like for them and their life, and to not go at it alone. We were built for community. Not a single truly successful person would say they got there by themselves, so I would encourage them to find their people who can support them in the ways that they need. This is going to take a lot of effort and self-awareness from the individual; but if they remember why they started, then the success desired, whatever that may look like to the individual, can be achieved.
What are you most passionate about? Can you share a story?
A recurring theme thus far – loving the unloved. In James 1:27 it says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I grew up hearing certain scriptures, but this one was one that showed up regularly for me in my studies over the years. I have been serving people and communities in need since a young age. It was put in my heart long ago that I have so much love to give and with so many people living without love, I have been called to a life of loving the unloved. I am passionate about making sure that at least a portion of those daily living without anyone loving them, someday will get the love they deserve. For example, one of my favorite roles was working as a Case Manager at a Staff-Secure Youth Facility for boys in Colorado. I was assigned to 9 young men who were adjudicated by the court to serve a sentence. Most had served their time at a locked facility but were coming to the end of their sentence and had shown “good behavior,” so they were moved to a lower level of security. I worked with them in a trauma-informed care setting. I was able to pour into those young men who, often, never had anyone making them a priority or showing them love.