We had the good fortune of connecting with Patrice Dunn and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Patrice, what do you want your legacy to be?
My legacy will be that I believed in people, knew that change was possible, valued education and hard work, and that I would show up for people in need. My legacy will be evident in my family, children and grandchildren, the thousands of clients I have inspired, and my friends that have become family. I will be remembered as national speaker that assisted adolescents and individuals deal with the hand that the life had dealt. I will be known as an expert on African American women and girls’ issues attending predominately White enclaves.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am not sure about being set apart from others, but I do know that I continue to work on my craft and run my practice in excellence. As a professional counselor I work on creating an environment that is inviting, comfortable, and safe. I understand the difference between what my clients want and what they need but they can always count on me giving them the truth.  My sense of humor allows me to have tough conversations without the intensity that comes with the truth. Due to the fact that nothing I have ever done has been easy I can relate to clients that are in tough spots, made poor choices, or struggling with relationships. I have perfected the skill of being just transparent enough to help them understand that I will not judge them.

I use the same approach on stage when speaking to various audiences. I use humor to quickly put the audience at ease. I can then discuss topic such as cultural competency and racism, parenting skills, and toxic relationships and the participants leave feeling like they obtained new skills and strategies, are prepared to deal with life’s challenges, and had a good time.  Participants report that the presentations are informative, entertaining, and the best they have ever attended. For me I think, mission accepted, mission accomplished.

Daily, I am planting seeds into students, clients, or participants however, I am not always present to see what grows. The thing that I am most proud is hearing from former students about how something I said or did has stay with them all these years. Clients and participants often reach out to let me know how they implemented the parenting tips or strategies I suggested and how it changed their life. It is a blessing that my work has helped someone.

I get excited when I think about finishing my PHD in Counseling Education and Supervision from Texas Tech. The motivation behind seeking this goal was so that I could use my new level of expertise to reach a bigger audience and help more people.

Again, my journey has not been easy. My mother was a Social worker so you could say the helping profession in my blood. I come for a long line of educators and administrators. I had great mentors to encourage me and remind me that I was born to do exactly what I am doing. The late Dr. Peter Benson believed that children need three long lasting caring relationships other than their mother and father to develop well. I had that growing up. They told me to never give up throughout my undergraduate years. In my master’s program I had a teacher that talked to me after I got frustrated with the program and told me that school is a means to an end. Like a big brother he gave me no choice but to finish the program and then I would be free to decide my own unique counseling style.

Overcoming the challenges in my life was never presented to me as an option. When I was a single parent with my two boys’ people would ask me how I did it and I would reply, “I did not know I had a choice.” I was working full-time and going to school full-time, because there was no choice. I have never been afraid of hard work but be clear it was hard work. One lesson that I learned was that successful people are resourceful people. I was not required to have all the answers, but I needed to know how to access those that did.  To keep my focus I tell myself, “Live life with few regrets and no excuses.” I had to learn to live with my life choices, good and bad, and have a positive attitude. I had to learn to forgive and embrace the hurt I experienced as a necessary part of my story. Another take away on this journey has been that I can’t help everyone. So instead, I focus on those I can help. Finally, I recognize that every day is a new day to live, learn, and grow.

Like the song from the television show Cheers,” Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” I want my name to be known or associated with the good I did and left in the world. I want to be known for making people smile and helping them live their best life. I am my brand, what you see is what you get. That means that I show up every day being the best version of myself. I promise to meet my clients where they are on their journey. I will shoot it straight and help you live your truth. My story keeps me pushing, keeps me pressing, and keeps me persevering as I fulfill my purpose.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would jokingly say that everything is bigger in Texas. We would eat Texas style. We would go to Hard Eight and Hutchins BBQ, Perry’s and DJ’s Steakhouse. We would shop until we dropped. The Galleria, Willow Bend, Stonebriar and Big T Bizarre, Nebraska Furniture Mart and Scheel’s sporting goods. Texas is beautiful so we would be outside enjoying nature. We would also eat in the kitchen gumbo, seafood, Wagu beef burgers and salmon. We would visit history in Texas the Alamo, Southfork Ranch, the bank depository AKA “the grassy knoll,” and NASA. I also enjoy slowing down and nurturing my relationships so I would protect time to talk to my friend and catch up.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Julie Cuff. She was a parent in the school district when I served as the Parental Support Coordinator. She has been a source of encouragement and support spiritually, financially, physically. She was there on the days that I wanted to give up and she reminded me that the world needs what I had to give.

Other than my mother, Lisa Vernon has been my biggest cheerleader.  Knowing that she looks up to me not only motivates me but keeps me moving. She is a life-size commercial for me and my brand.  I would not want to do the work I do without doing it alongside of Lisa. 

Finally, Phyllis Cooke.  Phyllis was a dear friend of my mother and a fellow Social Worker.  I must have been about 10 years old and I overheard her saying that she converted her garage to a home office.  I knew that day that I wanted to work from home.  You have to understand in 1974 I did not have the luxury of seeing women that looked like me do things like this.  Thirty years later I was able to make that dream come true.  Phyllis never knew how much I looked up to her, but she absolutely influenced my life.  You never know who is watching or listening.

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