Customer Service Team Leader
Ever since she was a child growing up in the Bronx, Nelly Duran has sought to find the best within herself—and to help others do the same. When a friend showed her how legal advocacy could help people in her community, she began sitting in the back of a courthouse in Seminole County, Florida —where she now lives with her husband and children — listening to victims of domestic violence plead for their lives. Duran soon realized that this was where she needed to be. Bilingual in English and Spanish, she began helping women write and file their petitions for protections.
Duran now serves on two volunteer community boards, the Central Florida Volunteer Leadership Group (CFVLG), and a business leadership group named Adelante. Both groups work to improve their communities—CFVLG partners with local charities to support such causes as child abuse awareness, habitat for humanity, the local pride parade, and many others — and Adelante, which translates to “moving forward," that help people in the community to progress in their careers.
She believes everyone should find their purpose: “I learn their why, what brings you here, day in, day out," she says. “I know you need to put gas in the car, but there's something else that drives you here."
What does success look like to you?
My purpose is helping others, bringing positivity and hope to all around me. Living in that purpose, for me, is the definition of success.
Since I was a very young kid, I've always had this deep desire. Every day, I'm very self-aware. I think, What am I bringing to the table? And then, at night, I recap how my day went, and how I can do better the next day.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My parents. They're both immigrants from the Dominican Republic, and they raised us in the Bronx. They became New York City cab drivers, and they both taught me important lessons. My mother taught me about selflessness—and about the need for self-care after I witnessed her burning out. My dad taught me about the need for positivity and optimism in the face of any struggle.
They're both American citizens now, but I learned hard work at a very early age. It didn't matter what would happen, my dad would always say, Oh, no worries! Everything's going to be okay. So I have that attitude of: Well, we're just going to fix it. We're just going to make it right.
What do you consider the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received and where did it come from?
My dad is what I call an old soul, and I connect with him on a very deep level. Some of the greatest advice I've ever received has come from him. Part of his advice has been about staying in the present. What we have is just today. Sometimes it's not taking it one day at a time, but even one minute at a time, one second at a time. Part of that is about choosing happiness. Happiness is a choice, and it's an inside job. It has to come from within you, and how you perceive things. That's your place of power.
What led you here?
I'd love to believe I have that much power, that I am the master orchestrator of all this, but I'm not. I don't make the sun rise, or the waves crash. For me, it's about staying humble in all of my experiences, all of the opportunities that have been extended to me. Getting out of my comfort zone to meet people. That's how opportunities unfolded for me. It's having the skill and courage to speak up, so that others can recognize me, and say: Hey, I want to hear what she has to say. I want to know a little bit more about her.
What is the biggest obstacle you've overcome in life?
Getting out of my own head, and pushing out self-doubt. Really reprogramming my way of thinking. When I have a self-doubting thought, challenging that thought. I'll think, Well, where did that come from? Is that coming from me? Maybe it's a cultural belief. Maybe it's something from when I was a kid. Maybe it's from someone else.
My biggest obstacle has been overcoming that self-doubt and pushing past the fear, having the courage to change thoughts and beliefs, and patterns. It is part of a daily maintenance. It goes hand in hand with brushing my teeth. Not just taking care of yourself. Not just feeding yourself. But, what are you feeding into your consciousness?
What are personal actions you've taken to get through the quarantine?
For me, it's been about pausing and checking in, with my team, with my leaders, with my family. You can't serve from an empty vessel. You have to balance it all. Just ask the simple question, How are you? And hold space for them when they say, “I'm not okay."
What brings you joy?
I love to connect with nature—it never ceases to amaze me. I always think the universe is communicating with me. If a butterfly flies passed me, or a bird goes by, I'm think, Aw, thank you! That was for me. I love to cook, and play host, and cater to others. I love to throw down in the kitchen. Music brings me great joy. I find it very healing. I love to sing and get lost in music.