Life is her teacher and she keeps learning

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Life can be full of challenges. Don’t let these challenges define you and never stop learning.

That was Colleen Desselle’s message at the West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce Empowering Women Luncheon held last month at the West Cal Event Center. This year’s theme was “Tatted to Mending”, a reminder that everyone has a story filled with twists and turns – good and bad.

Desselle, a WCCC board member, director of marketing and business development for the CSE Federal Credit Union, and winner of the 2021 WCCC Achievement Award, began life as a child often blamed and punished for not listening .

Turns out she had a hearing and speech disability.

The Empowering Women event featured slides of some of the participants as “little girls”, a reminder of carefree times and an opportunity to talk about childhood expectations and aspirations.

“That little girl was around a lot,” Desselle said, when the screen showed her photo.

After having her allergies treated, her tonsils removed, tubes put in her ears, school life was promising. Then life at home became difficult after the savings and loans crisis. The family collapsed. The house went to the sheriff’s sale, the business was lost and eventually went bankrupt, she said.

His parents divorced and his mother raised all four children with the help of Desselle’s grandparents. In college, she began to participate. She appeared in dance recitals, sang in the choir, and took on leadership roles.

The hearing and speech disability that kept her from being a child made her eligible for a disability scholarship to attend McNeese State University.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she said. “You may not realize it today, but one day you will.”

She did her college education at K-mart, eventually supervising a team of 25 people. But perhaps what set Desselle apart was that she was willing to work where she was asked, even if it meant learning new skills.

After completing her college studies in early childhood education, she realized that she was not cut out to teach and hated lesson plans and especially rewriting them.

Life was her master and she continued to learn.

“You can learn something from almost everyone you meet,” she said. “Spend time with those who broaden your thinking.”

Employed in 1990 at Calcasieu Marine Bank, she learned human resources as a receptionist, then promotions followed quickly, secretary for retail and credit operations, banking specialist with time in training and executive administration functions.

“Knowledge can be power,” she said.

In 1993, she was hired as a part-time cashier by the CSE Federal Credit Union. Within a year, she was a full-time Member Services Representative. She moved into loan processing, helped implement a new platform, moved into consumer credit, mortgage lender and then marketing rep. She trained in the credit union industry for three years and completed a one-year business development course. In 2015, she became a financial advisor for a credit union.

“Don’t expect others to invest in you,” Desselle said. “Invest in yourself.”

Desselle is a Certified Marketing Executive, a Credit Union Business Development Professional, a Certified Credit Union Financial Advisor, a member of the Credit Union Marketing Development Council, and a volunteer with several organizations.

“No matter what people think of you, always keep singing your own song,” she said.

His most recent achievement? Participating in his very first watermelon seed spitting contest at the Beauregard Parish Watermelon Festival.

“It was a learning experience,” she said.

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