GNA Success Stories – Desiree Cushman

Get to know Desiree Cushman

“I think it’s crucial for people of all ages, but especially our youth, to know that you are the one who can change your life. You are the only one who can change it. You aren’t what has happened to you, and you can make something more of yourself.  It’s all about how you react to what has happened.  After growing up without family, I never really knew where I’d end up.  I never saw myself as having a decent job or going to college. Then when I actually said to myself maybe I can be better than what I came from and actually applied myself, amazing things started to happen.

I had a really terrible childhood growing up.  I was molested by my father, put into foster care, raped by my foster brother, and really had no family.  Somehow, I was able to get emancipated by the courts at 16-years-old, and raise myself.

I believe I’m a benefit to society by doing the job I do. I work at a medium/maximum security state prison.  I run a Level 4 housing unit, and manage community assignments (hospital duty/outside doctor trips) and transports.  I help train my fellow staff members. I respond to all kinds of emergencies (attempted suicides, medical emergencies, fights, staff assaults, fires, etc). I keep people criminals who are unfit for society locked up to make our communities a little bit safer.  I’m also trained in CPR/BFA and help out if I observe an accident in my travels. I’ve spoken at Ruth’s Place about my story and try to help others realize that even though life has dealt you a crappy hand, you can always work to change your cards.

I want today’s youth to know that their future really is up to them and only them. They have the power to make life what they want and they can quite literally do anything they put their minds to. I’d also like them to know you don’t have to have what most people consider “good” jobs to be successful.  All jobs are important in their own way; all jobs are necessary jobs. We need garbage men—most people would say that’s not a “good” job, but it is a necessary one.  Even fast food workers are necessary jobs.  In the height of COVID, we were mandated left and right and I did 16 hour shift after 16 hour shift. I had no time to cook because then I’d be missing out on valuable sleep.  So fast food was a lifesaver for me! We’re all needed and important in some way. Find yours.”

Desiree Cushman, 2009

State Correctional Officer