Transformational recovery

 Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal


Education + recovery = hope

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 22, 2016) — The Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery (CYAAR) at Kennesaw State University is transforming lives, and Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal helped celebrate a few of those successes at a scholarship breakfast on Sept. 21.

“I’m so thankful you’re giving them support as educators because it makes a difference,” Deal said. “We’re changing lives instead of losing lives.”

The CYAAR offers a Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP), which is a retention, progression and graduation initiative for a cohort of students in recovery from addiction. Within the CRP there is a Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC), which is a community of students who are seeking recovery and participate in recovery support services on campus.

“Education itself is a provider of hope,” said CYAAR Director Teresa Johnston. “When we marry education and recovery together, we see incredible results.”

Student success

This fall, CYAAR awarded $20,000 in scholarships to its students, including senior Hillary Groover, who received the Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery Board Scholarship.

“I saw it (CYAAR) as my only option to come back to college,” she said. “Right after high school, I came to KSU, but in active addiction, I couldn’t handle going to school.”

Groover is now a senior majoring in psychology, with a minor in dance. She has been sober since 2013.

“Through community and connection, we alleviate a lot of the symptoms of addiction,” she said. “It’s going to be my honor and privilege to give back to this community that has given me so much.”

According to Groover, the scholarship she received will give her more time to focus on the important things in her life.

“This scholarship is extremely beneficial for me going into my last year of study because it will allow me to spend less time at both of my jobs and enable me to utilize my time on my studies, with my research team, as a university teacher’s assistant, a peer educator for the CYAAR and as a loving wife and family member,” she said.

Endowed scholarships

The Collegiate Recovery Community awarded five scholarships, including the Lucas Family Scholarship. Jeff and Teresa Lucas served as scholarship co-chairs. The Lucas Family Scholarship was established to help sustain and continue the work of the CYAAR and to support its students. Their son is a 2015 CYAAR graduate, who just recently passed the CPA exam and will receive his six-year sobriety chip in November.

“We are grateful for the support shown our family during the years our son attended Kennesaw State University,” said Teresa Lucas. “I firmly believe it would not have happened without this program, and by supporting it we’re hoping others can find hope as well.”

First program of its kind in Georgia

Since its founding with three students in 2007, the program today has grown to 70 students who self-identify as in recovery in its CRC. Students within the CRC have an average grade point average of 3.1, 60 percent of participants go on to graduate from Kennesaw State and the program boasts an impressive 89 percent retention rate semester to semester.

“Our students have higher GPAs, and their graduation and retention rates are higher than other students,” Johnston said. “We walk alongside of recovery. We are able to learn from these students, do research, then go back into the community and provide recovery informed education and addiction prevention education.”

Not only does the program provide hope and a bright future for its students, Deal said graduates can help make Georgia a better state.

“We’re grateful to Kennesaw State which started this program with only three people and now, it’s nationally known,” the First Lady said. “Georgia needs you. We want our state to be a great place for everybody to live and work and play, and everybody has a contribution to make.”

--By Jennifer Hafer

Photo by Lauren Lopez de Azua


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