Scholarships help Kennesaw State students succeed in recovery

Bre McDonald
Bre McDonald 

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 21, 2021) — As a senior majoring in exercise science, Bre McDonald has come a long way from the days when she derailed her college career with excessive drinking and a nonstop-party lifestyle.

During a year at a treatment center, McDonald learned about KSU’s Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery. She enrolled at Kennesaw State in 2019 and became part of CYAAR’s nationally recognized Collegiate Recovery Program, which she credits with turning around her life.

“I became a completely different person,” McDonald, 29, said. “I had my fears when I came here, being a little older in school, but CYAAR and this recovery community became, and still are, my foundation. I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am without it.”

McDonald began drinking alcohol in high school and it spiraled into an alcohol use disorder in college, where she hit bottom. She quit attending her classes, succumbing to what she described as her “perspective that school was getting in the way of me having a good time.”

But she gladly points out that period of her life is “like night and day” compared to now as she is benefitting from CYAAR programs and services such as counseling, recovery meetings and scholarships, while also serving as a peer educator speaking to groups of KSU students about the dangers of alcohol and drug use. Most importantly, she connects with a community of fellow Owls who relate to her experience in recovery.

McDonald joined 14 other students Monday in receiving scholarships totaling more than $46,000 at the Collegiate Recovery Scholarship Breakfast. The annual event celebrates student successes and thanks supporters for donating funds for CYAAR’s scholarships and other initiatives for students in recovery.

“The most important part of our work — the heart of our work — is our students,” said Teresa Johnston, executive director of the Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery. “By providing recovery supports in higher education, students like Bre not only thrive, they soar. When we take the time to see our students as individuals and create space for them to connect in our community, we offer hope and a roadmap to success.”

McDonald has received two scholarships that were established to support CYAAR’s work – the Jeremy Leo Letalien Scholarship and Lucas Family Scholarship. Along with the financial assistance toward her college expenses, the scholarships have an emotional connection for McDonald – particularly the one in memory of Jeremy Letalien, a Coles College of Business alumnus who battled addiction and passed away at just 25 years old.

“It is touching to know that people care about those of us living in recovery today even though they’ve been touched by addiction in such a devastating way,” McDonald said. “For someone to lose a loved one and still believe in us and want to give back to us is just amazing.”

Just as people have supported McDonald along her journey, she plans to devote her career to caring for others. She aspires to be a cardiac rehabilitation specialist, helping heart patients strengthen themselves through exercise and nutrition.

“I read this proverb that says, ‘Above all else, guard your heart because everything flows from it,’” McDonald said. “Cardiac rehabilitation sparked my own heart to be able to rehabilitate something that everything physiologically flows from.”

– Paul Floeckher

Photos by David Caselli


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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 kennesaw.edu

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