Breakthrough: Tara Bollinger (Dallas 2019)

Posted by: Kimberlee Mitchell, Staff Writer | February 25, 2021

DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative

Being a part of DVULI reminds me of going to the gym. At first, you wonder if it’s worth it because it’s difficult, a big investment, and sometimes even a little painful. Then, you start seeing results and realize this is exactly what you need, so you keep going.

Tara Bollinger (Dallas 2019) developed a passion for empowering youth during her college years while competing in pageants. After being crowned Miss Missouri USA in 2003, she toured full-time as a youth motivational speaker, addressing more than 100,000 students in a single year. Her work with schools (public and private) revealed a need for consistent programming to empower middle and high school students to reach their potential and academic success.

This moved Tara to launch her own nonprofit organization, Inspire School Programs, whose mission is to help young people discover value, find purpose, and build strength.

Although she was living out her dream of ministering to youth, something was amiss.

The invitation to participate in the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative (DVULI) came at a time when “I was earnestly praying for God to send me help,” Tara explains. She ultimately discovered DVULI was an answer to her prayers.

At the first national conference (NC1), she recalls hearing about the core value of balance. “Put your mask on first,” the speaker said. Confused, Tara figured she heard wrong as she was in a hotel conference hall and not on a plane. Then the “aha” kicked in. “Wasn’t I supposed to first help everyone put their masks on even if I died?” Tara reflects. This revelation impacted her deeply and led to writing a breakthrough plan that helped her put physical and spiritual practices in place to keep her healthy and emotionally whole. 

“By investing in yourself, ultimately, you reap rewards for your health, your relationships, and your ministry impact,” Tara insists. “I thought taking time away from my children and ministry might be detrimental and something I would regret. I could not have been more mistaken.” 

Tara points to learning about the core value of leverage and is grateful such lessons came before the challenges of the 2020 global pandemic. “I directly applied leverage to help me navigate the chaos,” she says while recalling a specific journal entry that contributed to her breakthrough plan:  

Keep it simple. God is not asking you to endanger or risk your family, your health, or your sanity. He is giving a very specific strategy and steps that are clear and manageable to implement. These will not be beyond the scope of your ability, nor will they make life harder. This season will be one of strategic implementation where a few key things will be door openers to the next level.

“This led to impact and growth I never could have accomplished without those DVULI tools,” she shared. “When I start to feel overwhelmed, I go back to this entry and recenter on the things I learned and the tools available to me.”

With trust and perseverance, this mother and former pageant winner faithfully experienced a new kind of beauty among the pandemic ashes that set the course for sustaining a healthy personal life and youth ministry.

“DVULI challenged me in ways I didn’t realize I needed, but ultimately, I came out stronger, energized, and healthier,” she said. “I would encourage anyone who wants longevity in ministry to be part of DVULI.”

Learn more about Inspire School Programs