Meet Daquisha “DQ” Durrah!
I catch DQ right after she finishes up her string art class and, I’m sure, right before rolling into her next task. After working with DQ for a number of months you learn quickly that she is rarely sitting down or in her office. She is a ball of energy from the moment she walks into the office, tending to every single resident need that comes up. Whether she is in the community room, the garden, rooftop, or knocking on resident doors, you can be sure that serving others is DQ’s number one priority day in and day out.
“How did you find your way into the social services realm?” I asked.
“I’ve always wanted to help others, it was just a matter of finding the right outlet. In college, I began narrowing my focus when I switched from Sociology to Psychology. I was interested in learning about people individually, I think because that’s how I wanted to help. Psychology is more on a person-to-person basis, rather than studying large group effects in Sociology.”
DQ tells me that towards the end of her studies she began trying out different work-study programs through her school and finding jobs independently to help her figure out the best outlet for her passion to help others.
“I worked in the court system in Denver for a while; I worked in halfway houses, even the jails. I had a wide variety of job experience but I was finding that I didn’t really want to work on the criminal justice side. Working in the halfway house really sparked my interest in working in housing.”
“What was it that was different about that job for you?” I asked.
“There’s just something about housing,” she begins, “For starters, you really get to see a little bit of everything. Housing is the foundation that everything else builds on, so when you work in the field you get to be a part of the ‘building of everything else.’ But it also gives you the sense that the work you do is so important because it’s so essential.
DQ found herself working for Mercy Housing in her career pursuit. She started their first-ever after-school program.
“I was working entirely with kids, which got to be pretty hard. I had my first experience with true social work, and it can be draining. It’s a whole different thing to see some of the ugliness of the world taking place in the lives of children. I worked on cases dealing with human trafficking and all sorts of horrific situations.
“Long term, it was difficult for me to stay in that job position. I started looking to see if there were other job positions open that were in the same field but in different roles. I just so happened to find the Supportive Services Coordinator role with Archway in my search and it sounded like everything I was looking for.”
DQ now works at 40 West Residences, which has a large veteran and formerly homeless population. The residents love her energy and positivity. DQ is the type of person that lights up a room when she walks in. In her own words, her goal is ‘not just to meet the energy of the room but exceed it.’
“I like keeping motivational quotes around the building and providing fun outlets for residents to get together and learn something new.” It is similar to her general approach to life. She is committed to creating opportunities for positive influence and reflecting on the good.
“I’m the Self-Care Queen,” she says in response to the question of how to balance the stress and emotional strain of her workload. “It’s important to remind myself of my value and the good around me. It helps me to reset.”
I ask what she likes to do in her free time, aside from posting her motivational quotes in her environment. She laughs, “well, I do have a daughter who is 10 years old now. And we are always together. We love to adventure and explore. I like to encourage that creative side in her because it’s something that is important to me. I love to cook and paint and see new places. Being curious and having a sense of discovery are at the heart of our time together.”
She tells me about a recent trip to the Garden of the Gods, a place her daughter has always wanted to visit. “It was a dream come true for her; she was just beside herself all day!” DQ said.
After talking about other places on the bucket list for the summer we transition to food.
“So, aside from all of the barbeques you host for residents over the summer,” I begin to ask, “what are some of your favorite things you’ve cooked?”
“Oh yeah, the residents beg for barbeques all summer!” she begins, “They always want me to cook. But I would say the most interesting thing I’ve cooked is crab-stuffed shrimp. I definitely didn’t think it was going to work out but it came out great! Plus it’s actually pretty easy to prepare.” We resolve to set up a taste testing day for her stuffed shrimp at 40 West if she can find time between the art classes and barbeques!