Overcoming Adversity

“I didn’t even know what a scholarship was. I had full ride scholarships for track after high school and I didn’t take them … I didn’t know what I was doing or have anyone to help me out,” said Dallas Ott, a senior at MSU, who now knows exactly what she is doing — she is a full-time student focusing on her undergraduate degree in GIS planning.


After graduating high school, Ott did not receive adequate guidance to assist her in navigating the challenging path to college, describing herself as, “very naive … I didn’t receive much help.” However, Ott did not let that hinder her but instead utilized her skills and passions. “I’ve done a lot of outdoor work, managed ranches, worked on tree farms, remodeled houses, done reclamation projects, sold my artwork and of course taught fitness classes,” Ott said. Art is a passion of Ott’s and she has been profiting from it since she began selling pieces around the start of high school.


Ott’s most important job is being a mother to her four children. Ott has a 21-year-old son, 16 and 15-year-old daughters and an 8-year-old son. “I want my kids to know what their opportunities and options are and help them follow their passions and dreams.” Ott beamed while talking about her children, describing all four of them as extremely athletic and overall wonderful children.


Ott, 42, resided in several different parts of Montana before coming to MSU in 2011. She grew up in Hot Springs and spent a few years in Dillon working as personal trainer, weight trainer and circuit trainer in addition to teaching step aerobics and floor aerobics.


She then lived in the Polson/Rattlesnake Gulch area from 2001 to 2011. Ott spent her time in Rattlesnake Gulch restoring a ranch and raising quarter horses for barrel racing and roping. During that time she also homeschooled her two daughters. They lived simply, without electricity and utilized gravity flow spring water. “It was the best way of living I’ve ever had. There is a different type of connection you have with your daily activities with your families. We lived much closer to land.”


After working on the ranch, Ott moved to Helena where she heard about an arborist position open through the city of Helena. “I used to own a tree farm so I know trees pretty well but I didn’t know what GIS was so I didn’t get the job. It was either get the job or go back to school and since I didn’t get the job, I went back to school.”


In 2011, Ott enrolled at MSU and began teaching fitness classes at the Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center. She currently teaches Dance With Dallas and The Next Level and has previously taught Oula and the Ab Lab. Dance with Dallas is a floor aerobic class that will “no doubt get a sweat going.” The Next Level, Ott’s favorite class, was modeled after Jillian Michaels bodyshred class. The intense metabolic-boosting class is 30 minutes of non-stop movements that work multiple muscles. “The dance class is mentally freeing which is important for students because we’re so stressed. The Next Level focuses more on yourself and the boundaries you want to push; I like it because I’m always pushing myself.”


While Ott has to dedicate an ample amount of time to choreograph her classes, the time is well worth the results. “What inspires me and gets me excited about life is seeing people pursue any type of goal and putting forth the energy to go for it. If I can be a part of that through exercise then it is just so motivational to me. It really makes me happy.”


Ott is satisfied with her time at MSU thus far, “I really like the education I’ve received from MSU, I believe it has really grown as an institution … I am amazed at all the programs and there are so many opportunities for students to get help in several different areas.” After graduation in May 2015, Ott hopes to find a good job and spend as much time as she can with her children.