Kennesaw State University offers hope and community of support to students in recovery

  By: Robert S. Godlewski November 20, 2014 11:41 am With holiday parties rapidly…

Georgia (Nov 21, 2014) — With holiday parties rapidly approaching, this may be a good time to explore what’s being done to educate college students about the risks of alcohol and drugs. 


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By:  November 20, 2014 11:41 am

But there’s a dilemma. Most students usually won’t admit they are abusing alcohol or drugs. Saying they have a problem could get them thrown out of school.

Those facing addiction walk on campuses every day and look like any other college students. They have dreams and want to achieve. Their personal struggles are what set them apart.

Kennesaw State University students Mark Lucas and Grace Yates are different. They are recovering addicts, who are able to maintain good standing in the university community.

Lucas knows firsthand the dangers of alcoholism and where it leads. An emphasis on alcohol and partying derailed his college plans during freshman year at a big-name university in another state.

“When I first entered college, I found hopelessness,” he said of that difficult time. “That’s what all of us have in common,” he said of students in Kennesaw State’s Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC).

For students who are looking to continue their recovery from addiction, Kennesaw State in suburban Atlanta has the CRC, an integral part of the Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery (CYAAR). Their stories reflect a perseverance and dedication to the goals of higher education.

Some 63 students, who are in recovery for a variety of addictions, provide peer support to each other and have the opportunity to teach peer-to-peer educational programs to reach Kennesaw State’s 26,000-plus students.

Yates is a recovering heroin addict who has been sober since 2010. The product of an abusive home, addiction runs in her family

“I left college to pursue my dream of addiction,” she said sarcastically of her disastrous first attempt at higher education. Today, with a B+ average in her college studies, this biology major has a different plan. “My dream is becoming a veterinarian.”

Lucas, through adherence to a 12-step program and working with his academic advisors and peers, has found success and will graduate in May. His next step is working for an MBA.

He is the president of the CRC, whose mission is to foster a supportive peer community within the campus culture that reinforces a student’s commitment to recovery. By providing social and academic support, the group’s goal is to allow students to be part of the mainstream college experience while putting their recovery and commitment to service first.

These students were among 11 awarded merit-based scholarships during a “Celebration of Recovery” breakfast this fall during National Recovery Month. CNN Vice President and Senior Editorial Director Richard T. Griffiths presented the keynote address at the Hyatt Atlanta Perimeter at Villa Christina.

“The CRC provides a community of support, a setting where — with professional leadership — the students help support one another, a place where the traditional college life experience is redefined,” Griffiths said. “It’s a place where the students are expected to set goals for themselves.”

Since its founding in 2007, CYAAR has helped many students dealing with addiction and those in recovery. The fall semester is an excellent time to familiarize the campus community with its mission, as well as to galvanize local support from among its many benefactors.

CYAAR provides education in addiction and outreach services to thousands of students and the greater community while supporting about five dozen Kennesaw State students each year who are dealing with rigors of college life, juxtaposed with sustaining their recovery.

“Our program provides the much-needed support for social and psychological change as these students recover from addiction,” said Teresa Wren Johnston, licensed professional counselor, and CYAAR’s founding director. “Our job is to provide those students with a continuum of care that offers opportunity and hope, while empowering them to succeed in college and in life.”

Because of CYAAR, most of these students are able to stay in school and remain on track to graduate.

“It’s important that students first acknowledge their addictions, seek treatment for them and incorporate healthy habits and principles into their lives,” Johnston said. “Strong, successful recovery programs are the key to survival.”

Robert S. Godlewski is a writer and communications expert who has worked as a TV network news producer and newspaper reporter/editor for two decades. For more than a decade, he directed national broadcast news outreach and orchestrated live satellite remotes for UPS during the busy holiday Peak Season. Currently, he is a staff writer on Kennesaw State University Magazine, based in suburban Atlanta. Follow him on


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit