Craig Kwieran

If we asked you to think of a person who represents the heartbeat of Pathways Core Training, you’d probably instantly think of Craig Kwieran. Craig has been serving the organization in different capacities for thirteen years and we have come to depend on his warmth and energy to bring some light into every Pathways weekend. As you know him today, he walks confidently in his authenticity and emanates joy in his daily life, but operating as an open and trusting man didn’t always come easy to Craig. Actively seeking healing, growth and higher purpose for well over a decade is what has allowed him to be comfortable in his skin and courageous in his endeavors.

As many of you may recall from his testimony during the P1 training he facilitates, Craig grew up as an only child, with a father who was career-Army and often physically unavailable and an immigrant mom who struggled with modeling emotional intimacy. He experienced a lonely childhood at home and that isolation was further amplified by living the transient life of a military family who never stayed anywhere very long or established roots. In his early childhood Craig would develop friendships on each base, only to be ripped away to go to another foreign environment surrounded by strangers. After experiencing a few cycles of painfully grieving these severed relationships, somewhere in his young heart he made an inner vow that it was safer to remain disconnected and he closed off his heart to any opportunities for bonding. He coasted through his adolescent and teen years without developing any close relationships that could possibly go beyond surface level and leave him vulnerable. It only made sense that he would gravitate toward something familiar after graduating high school – the emotionally sterile environment of the United States Marine Corps, where he served our country for six years. Even after reentering civilian life, Craig maintained a lifestyle of moving to a different city every couple of years, which ensured that he wouldn’t get too attached to anything he might lose. As he puts it, “It was all I knew, and it was easy.” It was only easy on the surface, however – underneath the casual, playful exterior was a man longing for connection to anyone or anything, and he was desperate to discover what it meant to have a home.

When Craig’s stepmother graduated from Pathways in 2004, she desperately wanted her husband, Craig’s father, to attend the training. When her pleas fell upon deaf ears, she turned to Craig and asked him for a favor – she needed him to go to Pathways in the hopes that her husband would follow his lead. Secretly, though, his stepmom was working a dual-purpose strategy the whole time. As Craig says, “She knew I desperately needed the training. She also knew I would do anything for my Dad.” While Craig had a suspicion that his own life could benefit from what the training had to offer, he only conceded to attend under the pretense that he was helping someone he loved. When he was asked what he wanted during his weekend training, he simply mustered up that he just wanted to “be happy.”

Craig became the LGL of class 215 and graduated from Pathways Core Training in November 2004, and within six months he was plugged in as a check-in volunteer and progressed quickly to serving as a TA. After finally finding a place he belonged and experiencing what authentic connection truly does for your heart, Craig moved from Austin to Dallas to be closer to his Pathways family. In 2007 Craig joined the Pathways staff, where he served for nine years in many different positions, including executive leadership. He has served as a facilitator since 2009, participates in Community Council, hosts the P-Parties and emcees graduation. Craig honors a calling of serving the organization wherever they need him – no job too great, no task too small. It’s one of the ways he cultivates a spirit of gratitude and maintains pure motivations about serving, remembering that it’s all a quest to help others find their true North.

After 13 years within the organization, one thing that has never changed is Craig’s belief in the training itself. He says, “The one unfailing dynamic I’ve experienced in Pathways is that while it’s constantly evolving from a logistics perspective, the roots of the training itself are strong and solid. I’ve seen facilitators and staff come and go, but what always remains the same is: THIS. TRAINING. WORKS. It worked for me, it worked for my wife and my family. It can work for anyone that invests their energy into embracing the program.” When asked what is different about Pathways from when he first came on the scene, Craig submits that the biggest change he sees is the arching commitment to consistency and transparency. “I see the improvements that have been manifesting as the organization strives to become self-sufficient and sustainable. The organization is successfully doing what we teach the trainees to do – taking care of itself so it can continue to take care of others.”

His confidence in the training itself and in the trajectory of the organization are a few of the reasons why he continues to faithfully participate, but ultimately it is the heart transformations of the trainees he serves that keeps him engaged and dedicated. Although Craig resigned from his full-time staff position at Pathways Core Training last spring in order to create space for his family to come first, the question of whether or not to continue serving as a facilitator or leader was never really on the table. He chose to stay involved because he’s honored to be able to step in the room and help others create the lives they deserve. He tells us, “I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me and helped me create this life I lead. Each month, I have the opportunity to watch people change their lives when they take responsibility for their happiness. I get to see others choose, like I did, to engage life and live it with purpose, instead of allowing life to just happen to them. Creating a new life isn’t easy – it’s hard work, but it’s so worth it. To play even a small part in that process is my way of thanking the people who stood in the gap for me when I needed them.”

Being actively engaged in the Pathways community and having embraced the training in the outside world for most of his adult life gives Craig great perspective when he walks alongside others who are beginning their journeys of self-discovery. His best advice is to relentlessly pursue the best version of yourself, as there is no summit of awareness and growth to reach. In the time since he first attended the training, Craig has endured a handful of defining moments that threatened to derail his trajectory and undo his progress. In each of those pivotal times, Craig believes he faced a crossroad in that crisis of belief. “Each time I knew I had a choice. I could either resign myself to the failed coping strategies of my past and surrender to the pain, or I could embrace the challenge before me, do the work and rise above.” Craig turns to the same tools he teaches when he’s working through a setback – he journals, he seeks accountability from his core nucleus, he asks himself the tough questions, he processes through forgiveness, and he has even been known to write on a rock or two – or ten. He says, “It’s never too late to step into hard. In those times of crisis, sometimes it took several months of struggling, confronting, and grieving to process through the complications. But, ultimately, the pain turned to celebration as my efforts came into fruition.”

This commitment to rising up with courage and determination has created a very different legacy for the man who was once a lonely army brat with a heart afraid to love. Craig married Savanna (class 233) in 2010 and the couple welcomed their daughter McClain in the summer of 2015. He steps into the arena every month, energized by the fresh perspectives he encounters and powered forward by the continual lessons he learns about himself through the process of serving. It’s all part of his design to continually elevate himself to his highest potential. He says, “My daughter deserves the very best dad, my wife deserves the very best husband, and I deserve the very best man I can be. It’s my job to pursue that, each and every day.” Craig Kwieran has certainly fulfilled the wish of his heart in the Weekend – he is finally happy, but more than that, he’s content. He’s thriving, and he’s grateful. He has created what his heart desired – a home full of love and connection with his little family and firmly established roots within a loving community. He also has stronger, more intimate relationships with his extended family, including his father who did follow his son’s example and graduated in class 217.

When we asked him which aspect of the H.O.P.E. acronym resonates the deepest within his heart, Craig says that it is the gift of renewed passion for which he is the most grateful. He struggled to find anything that made him feel alive and valuable before attending Pathways, but healing from the relational wounds that accompanied him to the Weekend allowed him to uncover a heart that is innately designed to embrace and nurture others. “Once I dropped my masks and let go of the pain, I could see that there are a lot of people hurting just like I was. If I can be an instrument in helping someone find their center and their peace, then I am pursuing my highest calling. Nothing feeds my heart like being a witness to people taking control of their own lives and realizing their dreams and true potential.”