I entered college after some monumental life experiences changed me. Between the time I lived in addiction and now, I have gone from identifying as a homeless, dumpster-diving, non-hygienic man to a person who is asked to teach Sunday school, sponsor a child in Africa, co-parent, and attend events as a motivational speaker. Now that I am in recovery, I hold high academic honors and am on the dean's list with a 3.5 GPA. I have received various scholarships and founded The Message, a motivational-speaking company.
My success in recovery is only possible because of the support that was available to me through the help of many people, some of whom I met at Delaware County Community College.
As a 35-year-old student in recovery, I see a need for collegiate recovery programs at all schools, but especially at the community college level, where there are many students like me, who are getting their educations back on track after experiencing addiction or other issues that interrupted their education right after high school. A collegiate recovery program (CRP) is an institutionally sanctioned and supported program for students in recovery from addiction seeking a degree in higher education. The sole purpose of a CRP is to help students who are currently dealing with substance-use disorder or are in recovery.
Community colleges, which enroll about 46 percent of the nation's college students, are ideally positioned to help students in recovery, who need educational settings that welcome and understand their unique needs.
According to a 2016 report from Transforming Youth Recovery, a national leader in the youth recovery movement, only 15 community colleges offer or were considering some form of recovery support program or service. With more than 1,200 community colleges around the country, it is likely that there is a need for recovery services for community college students that is being woefully unmet.
I want all recovering students to experience the same opportunities to succeed. All community colleges should offer on-campus recovery programs that provide financial support for health-related resources for maintaining recovery, access to peer specialists in recovery as well as addiction therapists, and education on resources.
Many four-year universities already offer this type of support. Temple University is one of many colleges nationwide that are being progressive in this new movement.
As W.E.B. Du Bois once said: "Education must not simply teach work — it must teach life."
Students in recovery are untapped resources. Students in recovery have seasoned souls. They are more dedicated to achieving their goals. Their focus is laser sharp in response to the stigma society has placed at their feet as a people in sobriety. They tend to look up to the people others look down on because they know pain and struggle. They realize the value in time and try to use every second to better their surroundings. People in recovery are everywhere and in every industry: inventors, writers, musicians, educators, and CEOs of major corporations. George W. Bush and Buzz Aldrin are just two examples of men who changed the world in addition to overcoming their own addictions.
I hope that one day soon, students will not have to fight for addiction and recovery services but that they will be as common as finding the bookstore. No student should be forgotten.
Frederick Shegog is an honors student at Delaware County Community College, where he is majoring in communications. He founded The Message, a motivational-speaking organization, and is a person in recovery. He can be reached for services at firstname.lastname@example.org.