Building Futures


Kennesaw State addiction recovery center awards scholarships

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 14, 2018) — There was a time Tara Serio thought finishing college would be a long shot. Having earned a scholarship through Kennesaw State University’s Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery (CYAAR), her goal of obtaining a college degree now appears to be within reach.

Serio’s higher education journey originally began in 2003, but her struggles with alcoholism forced the psychology student to put her studies on hold while she fought to become sober. By October 2007, Serio quit drinking alcohol entirely and launched a steady career, and in 2017 she reenrolled at KSU.


Today, having been sober for more than a decade, Serio joined 19 other students who were awarded $42,320 in scholarships at the CYAAR’s Collegiate Recovery Scholarship Breakfast. The annual event raises funds for the CYAAR's endowed and non-endowed scholarships as well as the student-learning initiatives in its Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC). In addition, it connects donors with their scholarship recipients and thanks those who fund endowed and annual scholarships. The event featured remarks from several students who have sought help through the center, as well as speeches from State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick and KSU President Pamela S. Whitten.

Having originally considered taking the fall semester off, Serio said the scholarship has eased the financial burden of attending college and has allowed her to instead concentrate on her coursework.

“I would not be in college this semester had I not received this scholarship,” Serio said. “The CYAAR has really helped me stay on track to graduate and, as a side effect, it has given me the confidence to apply for other scholarships. The entire recovery community has been unbelievably helpful throughout this process.”

Though she originally was reluctant to return to school, Serio said her concerns were put to rest after she learned of the resources provided by CYAAR. One of the first collegiate programs of its kind, Kennesaw State’s CYAAR remains at the forefront of addiction and recovery science research, providing a comprehensive approach for students, faculty and staff who wish to explore the impact of addiction, alcohol and drug use on their lives and the lives of others around them. 

Serio credits the CYAAR for creating an inclusive environment in which she and other students can seek support without worrying about the stigma attached to addiction and recovery.

“There’s no shame in the community,” she said. “Alcoholism, drug addiction and eating disorders – that’s all stuff people in the CRC deal with. From my perspective, I have a place on campus where I can go to be myself, share my story and hear from others who have gone through it. We’re all still able to attend college and build a better life. We’re like family.”

During Friday’s breakfast, CYAAR Executive Director Teresa Johnston expressed her amazement over how much the program has grown in her time at KSU. She opened the center in 2007 with two offices and a meeting room on the second floor of Willingham Hall. Eleven years later, it has grown to include seven full-time and six part-time staff members who support an average of 75 students per year. The growth the center has seen would not have been possible had it not been for the support she received from the KSU community and beyond, Johnston said.

CYAAR Teresa

“The contributions that organizations, corporations and individuals make to the CYAAR are critical because it allows us to focus our attention on the education and wellbeing of the students we serve,” she said. “In providing these scholarships and by offering our students undergraduate and graduate research opportunities involving addiction recovery, KSU will continue to be a model for collegiate recovery programs nationwide.”

Whitten, who provided a welcome address at the scholarship breakfast, noted that 60 percent of new students in the CYAAR selected Kennesaw State as their first-choice based on its Collegiate Recovery Program, adding that 38 percent of students in the program were awarded scholarships for the upcoming academic year. During the 2017-2018 academic year, CYAAR students achieved an average GPA of 3.20.

 — Travis Highfield

Photos by Lauren Kress


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