In 2002, Dana Duran was living in Denver, a new graduate of Regis University, facing the most important decision of her life.
Duran, a Fruita native, had a degree in math and biology, but found herself working at the Cheesecake Factory.
She served as student body president in her senior year at Regis, but once out of school, she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life.
“I was a big fish in a small pond at (Regis), and then I graduated and I was nobody,” she said. “I was a server at Cheesecake Factory and I hit rock bottom and didn’t know what to do.
“When you graduate with a teaching degree, you are a teacher ...
When you graduate with a math degree you are a math major.”
All her life, Duran said she wanted to be a doctor. But, with degrees in hand, she wasn’t so sure.
“Coming from a small rural community not much different than Craig, I saw four doors,” she said. “You were either a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer or a nurse. I didn’t want to do any of those other things and I didn’t know until I got to college that there are millions of doors.”
No matter how much she enjoyed classes in her undergrad years, Duran said she had doubts.
“I thought I was going to be a doctor,” she said. “It had been my childhood dream since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I got into those classes and loved them, but really I didn’t want to go to school forever and get that much more in debt and I was ready to work and get involved.”
And so Duran began working at Regis as an admissions counselor and the most important decision she had to make was what to go back to school for.
What would make her happy?
The decision, ultimately, came by chance.
“A friend in the office was flipping through a course book and randomly pointed to (nonprofit management),” she said. “I said 'OK, let’s do it.'
“I don’t know how I missed all the signs along the way, but that is where I belonged.”
A new challenge
In May 2007, Duran became executive director at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig. She earned her master’s degree in 2008.
Duran had her first nonprofit experience working with the Lonnie Porter Leadership Academy at Regis.
Lonnie Porter is the men’s basketball coach at the school and used his organization to teach leadership qualities to low-income youth in the area.
The organization is now called the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy after NBA star Chauncey Billups joined the cause in 2006.
“I taught three summers in the leadership academy, working with the high school kids on getting to college, writing resumes and applying for scholarships, and I loved it,” she said. “I spent weeks preparing, but I blew it the first day and they ate me for lunch. So I came in the next day and tried again. I learned the tenacity there, the ‘never say die’ spirit.”
The day of her interview in Craig, Duran said she knew almost immediately leading the local Boys & Girls Club was the job for her.
“I came the day I interviewed and sat in the back of the room and watched the kids and the level of excitement and energy, and I will never forget it,” she said. “I wanted a new challenge and to try something different. I wanted to be in a leadership position in an area of service that I could give back to something bigger than myself.”
Since she started in 2007, the Boys & Girls Club of Craig and the club in Steamboat Springs have combined, making Duran executive director of both locations.
She said her day-to-day responsibilities range from “making sure the toilets flush to asking folks for donations.”
“Most of my responsibilities lie in fundraising, relationship development and supervising staff,” she said. “I don’t get to play with the kids as much, and I miss that, but we have grown and serve about 50 percent of the elementary and middle school kids here in Craig and Steamboat.”
Duran’s husband, Ryan, was her original reason for coming to Craig.
Ryan was raised in Craig and the two met at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction while they were working summer jobs there.
Duran, 32, said she enjoyed her time in Denver for school, but she prefers life in a smaller community.
“I am so happy and honored to be here and a member of this community,” she said. “I love the community, the people, and the amount of giving that happens is unbelievable. I want to raise (our family) here just the same way Ryan was raised.”
The couple had their first child, Haley, in 2008, and Duran gave birth to the newest addition, Carter, this month.
Duran said she wasn’t sure she wanted a family until she met Ryan, who owns and operates Eastside Liquor.
“I didn’t want to have a family until I met Ryan,” she said. “Knowing we have a supportive relationship and a family structure, I wanted to make sure I had that.
“But, we don’t plan on having more after (Carter). We want man-to-man defense.”
Ryan often officiates basketball games, but when the parents aren’t working, the family likes to be outside.
“We love the outdoors and being a part of the greater sense of Craig,” she said. “We cross-country ski, bike, hike and walk. We just love to do those things and spending the time as a family.”
Kim Maneotis, who works alongside Duran at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig as unit director, said the Duran family is special.
“They are a very close family,” she said. “I think they are what people want to see when they think of a supportive family. They like to spend time doing family activities and it is always family first with them.”
When it comes to her own children, Duran said she hopes they can enjoy the benefits of the Boys & Girls Club.
If that happened, Duran said she would be combining her two favorite things in life — family and work.
“I love to work and I love to be home with my family,” she said. “If I’m not doing one of those two things, then I am sleeping.”
The path correctly chosen
Maneotis said it would be hard to imagine anyone else doing the job Duran does at the Boys & Girls Club.
Duran has every trait an executive director needs, she said.
“Passion encompasses everything about (Duran),” Maneotis said. “She is determined, driven and dedicated to not just the kids, but the families in Moffat County.
“She is driven to keeping the doors of this club open to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the kids.”
Duran said she wouldn’t get the same satisfaction she gets working with kids if she were behind a desk at a normal 9-to-5.
“There is the lightbulb moment where a kid has been working on something or struggling personally, and they have that moment where they get it,” she said. “I don’t know you can get that working behind a desk every day and I get to see it all the time.”
Besides the children, Duran said the staff she gets to work with is outstanding.
And, she said the best part is everyone working or volunteering has the same goal — helping kids anyway they can.
“I get to work with such an incredible staff, I don’t know how I got so lucky,” Duran said. “We have caring adults with a supportive relationship with a little bit of fun. We don’t play video games or sit down and watch TV. We are up and active and doing things.”
Looking back today, Duran said she made the right decision when her and a friend picked a major out of a course booklet.
While becoming a doctor may be the right path for some, Duran said it wasn’t for her, a fact many Northwest Colorado children and parents are thankful for.
“I never would have made it (as a doctor),” Duran said. “It is not who I am and not living my best life or being my best self.”
Click here to have the print version of the Craig Daily Press delivered to your home.