Dr. Katrina Burruss is a best-selling author, mother, wife, US Air Force military veteran, and CEO of the Dream Upward Foundation. In this interview with Dr. Burruss, she discusses her journey, her profession, and her purpose.
Dr. Burruss, a Fayetteville native and clinical lab consultant with 23 years of experience, is a woman on a mission, not only is her journey inspiring, through a series of remarkable initiatives aimed at uplifting underserved and marginalized communities she is showcasing the impact one can have when they embrace servant leadership.
The Dream Upward Foundation was born out of Katrina’s own challenging experiences and her desire to help her community. She recounts how her “Become Her Speaker Series” revealed a gap in resources for the underserved. While these events offered valuable connections and resources, the people who needed them the most often couldn’t attend due to various obstacles. This realization fueled Katrina’s determination to create a more accessible platform for empowerment. “Through prayer and faith,” she explains, “Dream Upward Foundation was born.”
SM: Tell us more about the Dream Upward Foundation.
KB: So the Dream Upward Foundation is only seven months old. We are just hitting the ground running and launching our mission and vision, which is essentially surrounded around bridging the economic gaps that hold people back, whether it’s professionally or personally.
We’re really seeking to partner with different community organizations to funnel funds and resources into their projects to further their initiatives. One entity that we are interested in partnering with is the Raleigh Police Department ACORNS unit. ACORNS, stands for Addressing Crisis through Outreach, Referrals, Networking and Service. The mission of the ACORNS team is to connect with individuals in crisis and provide them with the resources needed to meet their individual goals.
We’d like to be able to partner with them to be their foundation of choice to pour back into their organization so that they can help more people in the community. From a personal aspect. We are focused on helping youth women and men overcome the obstacles that they face, the challenges they face that are stopping them from achieving their dreams. A lot of our organization’s focus and foundational principles come from my own life.
Having been born with a birth defect, and diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome as a result from alcohol exposure during her mother’s pregnancy, Dr. Burruss was told that she wouldn’t be able to learn like a normal person and that she would have different challenges functioning, given brain damage. Not only did she overcome those challenges, having gone through the military, graduating with her doctoral degree, which is the highest level of postsecondary and successful written a number of award winning books. She believes having achieved these things despite what others said and believed, who better to be a voice for those that need inspiration and motivation to overcome than someone that has actually been through it.
SM: Having gone through all that you’ve had to endure and achieving all that you have. Why start the foundation?
KB: I always tell people, I’m an imperfect Christian, if God wants me to go around speaking to people, he is going to have to take me as I am. I don’t feel that giving people the glory story is really the most helpful. Yeah, they like to hear it, but it’s not always the most tangible. People need to see the struggle, they need to know, hey, I’m a regular person just like you.There are resources that I needed, still need and I’m sure others need. I was a single mom, I’m also a domestic violence, suicide and childhood trauma survivor. I know firsthand that there were resources that I needed, and couldn’t get access to. I also know there’s a population of individuals that are doing OK in life, yet still need assistance and access to resources too. We all have a desire to help the homeless, or provide assistance to those in underserved or marginalized communities, but let’s be real about it, there are everyday people like me and you that aren’t homeless that can use a little help every now and then as well. Folks that suffer from job loss, low income and raising cost of living, etc. Different things happen, life happens, and we all need help. Who and how we support people in need shouldn’t be put into a box, essentially.
SM: What has been a proud moment for you as it relates to the impact of your work?
KB: I think one of the proudest moments for me, came really, most recently, as a brand new organization. As I mentioned we’ve transitioned from a speaker series to now a nonprofit, North Carolina based organization that’s undergoing my 501c3 status and just seeing the community backing that we have received, has been amazing. In talking with people about the mission, the vision, what we are aspiring to do and seeing them pour into our initiatives again it’s been a blessing.
A prime example, it’s our first fundraising gala and we’re 100% fully funded, based on goods, services, and donations from community leaders. For me it’s this belief in the work that speaks volumes to what God is doing in this season, and the impact that we’re already having on people that believe in what we’re doing.
SM: On Saturday, September 9 the Dream Upward Foundation will present their first fundraising gala, “Inspired to Dream,” at the City of Raleigh Museum. Tell us more about the event and what people can expect.
KB: To be very honest. God has graced me with purpose. He won’t take his hands off me, even when I give up—he’s like, nope, I still got something else. But it’s really not my event really, it’s God’s event. And I’m just the vessel. Because really I was kicking and screaming about it. There’s something he wants to do that day that’s bigger than me. I’m just being obedient, because that’s better than a sacrifice. I prayed a lot and I listen a lot, and I asked him, if this is something you have for me to do, send the people and send the resources. He sent the people and he set the resources. All of our star panelists have stories of triumph through challenges, and they’re walking testimonies of what it looks like to keep going. They’re going to talk about why they even believe in the Dream Upward Foundation.
So what can people expect? I’m a boatload of a good time. We’re definitely going to party for a cause. Proceeds from the gala, a portion of those are going to be donated back into nonprofits that lift up marginalized and under-resourced youth, women and men, offering educational grants, things of that sort and the other portion of the proceeds are going to be funneled back into the Dream Upward Foundation so that we can start pouring out to these other organizations that we seek to partner with. Ultimately, I want to leave empty. I want to be the lender, not the borrower.
SM: If budget, resources, capacity was not a factor, what would you ultimately like to achieve?
KB: I want to create a campus to help individuals in transition. I envision a campus and community that would consist of real affordable apartments, a 24 hour daycare, a barbershop, a beauty shop like it would be a supportive community and environment that residents would have access to as they transition out of whatever challenging situation life has thrown at them.
SM: Any final words?
KB: I definitely just want to encourage the Substantial audience and community to like and follow. Visit our website https://tinyurl.com/InspiredToDream to learn more about us. And just to follow our journey, because at the end of it all, whenever it is said and done, we want to be able to look back at our growth, and to see all that God has done and what he has manifested because it’s going to be something big, something Substantial.