Johanna Avila

“Who is that tall white, old man who always comes to see you?” That is the question I receive every time Duane comes to visit me at my workplace.

When Duane asked me if I would contribute to his blog, I was thrilled; yet had no clue how to get started.  I didn’t know where to start regarding Duane’s impact on my life; there is so much that I can say about him. 


I met Duane in 2015 at a small jewelry store where I worked as a manager. I had heard about him through my sister, who also worked there, and she always had good things to say about him. As soon as we met, he asked me what was I doing by working at that store. The store was independently owned by a horrible man who thought he could run a business with the single objective of making sales. I worked intermittently between 2011-2017 because I had a moral conflict with the way the owner ran the store, including his treatment of the employees.

Although my employment at the store was intermittent, I learned a lot about retail and running a business. I had so much knowledge about the jewelry store that every time I returned, the owner would make me the manager. I had comfort knowing that if I didn’t like another job, I could always return to the jewelry store.

This was my mindset until Duane came along. He pointed out everything wrong with that job — things I already knew but had brushed them off simply because it was a job. Duane kept pushing me to think about my future and find something about which I was passionate. He saw something in me that I had never seen in myself.  He made me realize that I am much smarter and much more capable than I thought.

I still haven’t found what I want to do in life, but I know I want to work with people and make them happy. I have enrolled in community college for the upcoming semester, and I plan to take a couple of interesting classes related to travel and interior design. We will see where this leads me.

Another way Duane has changed my life was by teaching me something new about my daughter Miranda;  He pointed out that he suspected that she had Asperger’s.  He explained what it was and some of the traits.  That explained why my daughter was so shy yet so bold in some aspects. Since my daughter was a baby, she has always been shy.  She always had a hard time with strangers, but behind closed doors, she is this smart, crazy, goofy kid.

Learning about children with Asperger’s helped me help her with her homework, since its not always so simple because she learns and does things differently. Thanks to Duane, Miranda was able to enter her school’s speech meet last year while in the third grade. He helped her work on her speech as well as to prepare and present it. During her speech meet, she took his advise and earned superior in her category. It was the highest placing, and she was so proud of herself as was I. She is now in the fourth grade, and she can’t wait for her next speech meet.

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