ECISD board member plans Breakthrough event, program to help kids

Dawn L. Miller

Dawn L. Miller Ministries will present an event called “Breakthrough: Overcoming Barriers” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 1 at the Saulsbury Campus Center at Odessa College.

“This will be my second. Last year I did one, it was at the Rose of Sharon Baptist Church and I had about 50 or 60 women that came from all over Odessa and Dallas. I had two guest speakers that came in and the women were just blown away,” said Miller, who is on the Ector County ISD Board of Trustees.

This year, she wants attendees to be more engaged. Last time was a “sit and get.” For the first one, she and two colleagues from Dallas spoke.

“But this year it’s the women themselves connecting with other women and figuring out what is the barrier because this is overcoming barriers. Last year was overcoming … but now that you’ve overcome, what barriers are there that you need to overcome? How did you get here? That’s the first session,” Miller said.

She wants them to identify the barriers they are dealing with and being transparent with the women at your table. She’ll divide them up so they won’t know each other because you’re more apt to say something to someone you don’t think you’ll see again.

“Now let’s overcome and they’re going to do a vision board,” Miller said.

Miller got the Ector County Library, Medical Center Hospital and others to get involved.

Miller said it’s never too late to dream. She is the CEO and founder of Odessa Hope and Opportunity Center meant to help youth overcome things like anger issues and get them into meaningful employment.

In her research to get funding for Odessa Hope and Opportunity Center, Miller said she found there were 6,000 students suspended from ECISD, Midland ISD and IDEA.

The students were suspended for a variety of reasons. Some were violent and some were non-violent.

They may be expelled for one day and go to the Alternative Center, but get in trouble there and get expelled again and they can’t go to any school.

“So where are they? That’s where this center comes in. But in addition to the anger management … we’ll develop businesses because of Odessa Elite Events where these kids can work,” Miller said. Odessa Elite Events is another of Miller’s businesses.

Students often go to work at a fast-food place or auto parts store, for example, but they have the same behavior patterns they did in school.

“So they get fired. They wouldn’t be able to get fired from us. When you misbehave at work, call in too much, disrespect your employer, you go back to the center. We’re going to teach you those skills — interview skills, resume writing, subordination, respecting your supervisory chain and all of that. Then you go back to your workplace, and hopefully I’m looking 5, 10 years down the line Odessa Elite will own venues and those venues will be like a Main Event,” Miller said.

There is the trampoline park, bowling, Cinergy and skating, but she’s thinking about go-karts and paintball — things she sees in Dallas. These are things she’s going to be developing with the students from Odessa Hope and Opportunity Center.

Miller found most of the students through her involvement in the faith community.

“I went to church and I saw a lot of these same kids that I saw (in) my expulsion hearings and I realized they were living with grandma” or in foster care.

“When they turn 18, they have nowhere to go so I want to have a transitional living facility where they would stay until they’re 18. A portion of their rent would go into trust, so after those two years they get their trust and that should be enough to get them started in life. … Because in between, we’ve given them anger management. We’ve given them resume building. We’ve had a mentor set up with them. We’ve had them set up to do their FAFSA if they want to go to college. There’s all kinds of things we can plug them into,” Miller said.

She added that the youngest they can be suspended is 10.

“So that’s kind of my heart. I wanted to get that information out, because of course, I need volunteers that will help and work in the center and I need a location,” Miller said.

It doesn’t have to be her location. It can be an educational facility in a church, for example.

“Eventually, I hope to have our own standalone location, but starting off because in the fall there are suspensions as early as the second or third week of school, we need to have some place for those kids to go because then they’re not in the community making poor decisions.”

“It’s never too late to dream, right? I’m 53 and I’m just starting all these things. I have so many more things to do. I want to help women see and dream beyond where they are. So many of the women I’ve met with, the first thing I hear from them is call me you’d have been here years ago. Don’t feel like it’s too late. If I have to be the one that trumpets you’re dreaming again, then let’s dream again. And what do you need? What tools do you need? What’s holding you back? Well let’s figure that out,” Miller said.

She decided to take the Breakthrough event outside of the church because some people may not be comfortable in a church.

IHOP has donated breakfast, so they will provide a full pancake breakfast. Then the sessions will start.

“Then it’s them engaged. I decided not to bring in a keynote. I decided not to bring in my colleagues who team up with me on this because I want the women to really do the work for themselves because the only way you can overcome is if you’re doing overcoming yourself.

“Nobody can pull you through that. You have to usher yourself into that overcoming. I’m a licensed minister outside of everything else I do,” Miller said.

She’s working on her doctorate in ministry focusing on the disparate treatment of African American women in the Missionary Baptist Faith.

Miller said she is excited about the Breakthrough event and hopes to have it annually.

“But I do want to get to the point of doing some quarterly sessions because a year is a long time to deal with whatever you’ve been dealing with,” Miller said.

People can register for Breakthrough at

The cost is $25 and you can get tickets at the door.

For more information about Odessa Hope and Opportunity Center, visit