When Duston Russell was 9 years old, he had an encounter with a firefighter and still remembers the cool gear, the fire truck, and how nice the firefighter was to him. Like many kids do, he said, “I’m going to be a firefighter.” The difference is that he is one of the few who will fulfill that dream, serving his community and helping everyone around him.
In early 2020, Russell became an oil industry statistic due to the pandemic and, with the support of his family, decided to pursue his lifelong dream. He enrolled in PCC’s Fire Science program in fall 2020 and just one year later has accepted a conditional offer of employment with the Farmington Fire Department. He excelled in PCC’s program, making the President’s List in his first semester, being named Top Cadet, and maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Russell grew up in an oil industry family; his dad was a pipeline welder and spent much of his time away from the family doing dangerous work. When Russell entered the workforce as a roughneck at the age of 18, he was fully aware of the commitment level needed to be successful. His familiarity with traveling and working long hours in the oil fields served him well during his time at PCC. For 16 weeks, he commuted to Pueblo for classes during the week and returned home to Cortez on the weekends. It was a challenge for the married father of two but his wife has been supportive throughout; she returned to the workforce so Russell could attend school full time.
Russell said Fire Science coordinator John Webber and instructor Scott Atterberry teach more than firefighting skills.
“One of the best classes was our professional development course,” he said. “They taught us about the hiring process, the mental toughness we would need in the workforce, and how to have a proactive mindset instead of a victim mindset.”
Russell said he didn’t do well in his earlier schooling so he challenges his children to find their passion and pursue it wholeheartedly. He hopes his experience shows them that when they are passionate about something, they can achieve great things.