Kesha Dunigan Extends the Opportunity

Kesha Dunigan found success through social enterprise. Her journey from an abusive relationship, into a shelter, and on to a job hasn’t been easy, but she knows the difference a job can make, and she’s experienced the impact of someone lending a hand on the ladder of success. We were so inspired by Kesha’s story, that we profiled her on our blog last year. Not surprisingly, her success continues. Today, Kesha is thriving as an Equal Opportunity Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration, where she is paying it forward by empowering individuals with disabilities to thrive in their employment.

Two years ago Kesha courageously fled an abusive relationship. She found the support she needed to get her life back on track at the Community Resource Center (CRC), a social enterprise funded by REDF that provides survivors of domestic abuse with shelter, support, and the job training and employment they need to achieve self-sufficiency.

Kesha soon found work in the CRC thrift store, and within months was back on her feet and working for Solutions for Change, a nonprofit that provides solutions to family homelessness, on a temporary assignment. Meanwhile, Kesha was sending out resumes, applying for work with the federal government, where she had previously been employed at the Department of Defense.

During this period, Kesha recalls her turning point being when she was invited by REDF to speak at its Social Enterprise Expo in 2014. There, standing on the stage in front of hundreds of people, Kesha realized that she had the strength, skills, and persistence to overcome the challenges she faced, including a disability she had hidden for so many years—her bi-lateral hearing loss. She stood there proudly and gave testimony to the power of social enterprise to transform lives.

“I had to ask myself, ‘Why? Why was I ashamed? Who told you, you weren’t capable?’ Having REDF listen, and then tell me I was an inspiring speaker—it made me ready. When you get caught up in your own hurt, you don’t see your own potential. It took me until I got up on that stage to realize, ‘Damn! What do you mean you’re not qualified?’”

That moment motivated Kesha to push ahead with her career goals. Just two weeks later, she got the call from the Federal Aviation Administration office of Equal Employment Opportunity. Today, Kesha is a specialist in the western division of the EEO office at the FAA, where she ensures that government employees with disabilities have the accommodations that they need to do their job successfully.

Having been diagnosed as a child with profound hearing loss, Kesha understands the barriers to employment people with disabilities face and is grateful to be doing such fulfilling work.

Kesha works on a team of EEO specialists that manages three regions from Alaska, Western Pacific and the northwest mountain states. After less than one year on the job, she was honored with the Consumers Choice Award from the San Diego branch of the CA Department of Rehabilitation. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, she was also recently profiled in the FAA’s newsletter. While she takes pride in the recognition, the opportunity to inspire others with her story is really what drives Kesha. That inspiration also flows to her daughter, Asha, who is working toward her BA at Cal State San Marcos. And Kesha is right alongside her, working toward her MBA at Liberty University.

Kesha is clearly thriving, but she hasn’t forgotten to give back. “Many are called, but few are chosen,” Kesha says, citing a bible verse. To which she adds her own credo, “And much is expected. I’ve experienced every one of those words,” Kesha says.

“Every step I’ve taken, there’s someone helping me. People believed in me. It would be an injustice for me not to extend my hand to others who need help,” Kesha says.

Recently Kesha contacted REDF with big news: her job now includes outreach efforts on behalf of the federal government “to find viable, qualified candidates that reflect our community.” In other words, as part of a diversity and inclusion effort, Kesha is now hiring.