LaQuesa Gaillard ’06, an Atlanta-based public relations professional, is passionate about exploring nature and different cultures, and she credits Durham Academy with showing her “how amazing adventures in nature can be.”
Q — What have you been up to since graduating from DA?
A — I graduated from UNC in 2010 with my heart set on becoming a television producer. I stayed in the RDU area and worked in a few different places. At some point, I became underwhelmed and thus pretty unhappy with my life. And while expressing this to many of my besties (most from DA), one friend showed up and offered the idea of backpacking Southeast Asia for a few months. I was absolutely terrified, but I recognized it was the call I was looking for, so in June of 2015, I headed to the exact opposite end of the planet and basically came back an entirely renewed human. That trip created many different ripple effects, one of which led to me spending three months of the next year living in Ghana, West Africa. After I returned home from that experience, I moved to Atlanta, where I am currently working in broadcast public relations.
Q — What DA experiences influenced you or helped you get where you are today?
A — Reflecting back, I am forever grateful for my roots at DA. I will be the first to advocate for the insanely strong community that Durham Academy has created. But more important than community, is the connectivity. I still have incredible friends from DA. And there is also this cool thing where I see old classmates and people from other years who I shared the campus with, and old teachers who knew me long ago — and every time I see them, it is like seeing family. While we share brief updates and new revelations, the connectivity is so clear.
I also thank DA for imprinting on me the power of nature. Seriously — I still remember Senior Challenge like it was yesterday. And nearly every class trip before it. And as I go through hectic days of adult life, I crave moments of nature and all the awkward, uncomfortable moments that it creates for growth and bonding. I would have never been able to zipline into the mouth of a cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam and spelunk into a pitch-black cave on a quest to find mud pools and swim through ice cold rivers, if DA had not shown me how amazing adventures in nature can be.
But perhaps most specifically, I appreciate DA for allowing me to be my growing, developing self. Listen — most people grow up not loving school or the environments they were born into. That is a common passage of life. But if you’re going to live in that right, DA is a pretty safe and nurturing place to do that. Growing up was hard, DA was really hard at times, but I still have a deep sense of love and gratitude for this place as I understand how really special my experience was as compared to other people’s.
Q — What’s on the horizon for you?
A — In terms of the future — I have my heart set on helping people free themselves from their own limiting beliefs so that they can design the life of their dreams while also continuing to explore different places and cultures and the natural beauty of this planet. I think this world is a big, beautiful, fascinating place, and I am here to celebrate it!