Homeschoolers are known for blazing their own trails. Malinda launched onto her own unique journey by deliberately spinning her 2001 Lexus across a snow-covered parking lot.
The thrill she felt in learning to safely pilot her car through extreme conditions inspired the 27-year-old to accrue an unusual collection of skills—which recently landed her a job protecting the head of one of the world’s top tech companies.
But she did need HSLDA’s help to get there.
Different Kind of Education
The youngest of four homeschooled children, Malinda completed her high school requirements and graduated in 2012.
Her parents were trailblazers as well, in that they began homeschooling in the 1970s, when the legality of the practice was questionable at best.
Malinda described her parents’ educational approach as experimental: “It started with, ‘Let’s try it ourselves and see what happens,’” she said.
Being among the first families to homeschool also meant that Malinda inherited some of her older siblings’ textbooks—sometimes with notes and answers already written in the margins.
After high school, Malinda quickly decided she wanted to explore opportunities outside the well-worn path of college and academia.
“Like any young individual,” she recalled, “I was restless.”
She liked to work, and when she ventured out on some short-term missions trips and other jaunts, she realized she enjoyed travelling, as well.
Taking the Wheel
Malinda also discovered a passion for driving. She would take her car to out-of-the-way places and try to recreate the maneuvers featured in film and television. She dreamed of going to professional driving school with the goal of getting paid to perform stunts someday.
Her brother, who owns his own security company, steered her in a slightly more conventional direction: Malinda started attending school for emergency medical technicians.
“It was a good way to test myself to see how I would handle an emergency,” Malinda said. And though she completed the medical aspect of the training without difficulty, Malinda added that she hadn’t expected to feel unnerved by her first experience in a formal classroom environment. “I think it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done,” she said. But leveraging her resilience and love for new adventures, she quickly adapted and completed her certification.
Afterward, she enrolled in security training. She was one of the few women to attend in the history of the school, and most of the men had military or law enforcement backgrounds.
“What shocked me,” Malinda recalled, “is that I absolutely thrived in that environment.”
Her new skills led to her being hired as a contractor to provide private security for the world’s most influential and high-net-worth individuals and families.
An even bigger opportunity arose late last year, when a global tech firm offered to make Malinda a company employee on their top executive's security team. She was the first woman in the United States to reach this role without military or law enforcement experience.
A Surprising Roadblock
Unfortunately, her homeschool diploma threatened to raise a roadblock. Though Malinda’s home education credentials had never previously posed a problem for her being hired, the tech company’s recruiter questioned the validity of her transcripts.
“They wanted proof,” Malinda said. “They asked for something from my school’s principal, so I gave them my mom’s telephone number.”
Her mother’s assurances regarding Malinda’s high school records failed to satisfy the recruiter. So, Malinda contacted Home School Legal Defense Association.
“My parents were HSLDA members forever,” Malinda said.
HSLDA Senior Counsel Darren Jones sent a letter to the recruiter on Malinda’s behalf. He explained that Washington state had enacted homeschool laws well before Malinda started school, and that her parents had complied with those laws. They submitted annual notices of intent, taught Malinda the required subjects, and administered annual assessments.
Malinda was approved for hiring “literally two minutes later,” she said. “I have my dream job, and it all worked out.”
The Road Ahead
As part of the security team, Malinda helps organize the executive's travel logistics, screening for possible dangers wherever they go. She especially enjoys driving him and his family, though her focus is on navigating everyday traffic instead of engaging in extreme maneuvers.
The job does come with perks, however.
As part of her travels, Malinda gets to visit the most exclusive venues across the US, Europe, and Asia. (Think the White House, the Vatican, private tours of the Taj Mahal and, of course, superyachts.) She even got invited to a luxury auto manufacturer’s private track to test drive some of their high-performance vehicles.
“We pushed them to the limit,” said Malinda, adding that the experience made her feel like she was in her true element. She said, “I joke that I drive better backward than I do forward.”
Upon reflection, Malinda insisted her passion to succeed in a unique career is not so unusual, considering her background. Homeschooling teaches students how to learn and motivates them to prove they are just as qualified as others, she explained.
“I’ve probably worked with about eight other homeschoolers,” she said, “and the thing that drives them is that they try really hard.”
It does help to have an advocate like HSLDA, she added.
“I am really grateful that you guys were there and available,” Malinda said.