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Student Plans to Help Addicts Through Education and Shared Experiences
“I want to teach people that the things that have happened to us do not define who we are. I’d like to be a part of programs that help others avoid addiction struggles altogether. I think education and mental and emotional health is where we should start,” said NWACC student and psychology major, Ashley Luzzi.
Ashley has first-hand experience with opiate and meth addiction and its consequences, but also with finding strength in religion to overcome addiction and making peace with herself and others.
“I ended up incarcerated for 54 days, but while I was there, I discovered Jesus and read the bible. It was kind of like an awakening. I realized who I was and who I was supposed to be, and learned that neither my past nor my childhood traumas defined me,” she explained. “I made peace with myself and others, so I could enjoy God's forgiveness and mercy in my life.”
Now, 13 months sober, Ashley is pursuing an associate degree at NWACC and plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in Drug and Alcohol Counseling at the University of Arkansas in order to make an impact on this social problem.
“With a formal education and my experience, I can be the change that is needed to fight against this epidemic,” she said. “I’d like to help others overcome their addictions and become a positive participant in society again, or to help restore a family unit that has been destroyed due to addiction.”
Along with taking college courses, Ashley commits time to her husband and kids as well as the community. She volunteers for various church events and the DIVA & DUDE non-profit organization. DIVA & DUDE’s mission is to be a catalyst for family empowerment. Through encouragement, education and edification, they provide services and programs that increase the social well-being of families and children.
“I chose to do a service-learning project for DIVA & DUDE. I helped run a small resale store that has been stocked through donations, and the proceeds help to fund houses like the Oxford House for Men, which is a sober living house for men coming out of rehabilitation or incarceration,” she explained.
Due to Ashley’s involvement in the community and dedication to her educational goals as well as her personal and professional development, she was recently nominated for the Golden Eagle Award by NWACC English Instructor Amanda Miller.
“Ashley is very open about her past as a recovered drug addict, and has turned her life around by exercising her faith and seeking to improve her life through education. She is very conscientious in her work, and she never gives up no matter what the task,” said Amanda.
NWACC students who are nominated for the Golden Eagle Award must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average and demonstrate a commitment to education, social awareness and personal development and be involved in varied activities.
Golden Eagle Award recipients, like Ashley, receive a certificate of recognition and a $100 check from the NWACC Foundation at the NWACC Board of Trustees meetings. Monthly recipients of the award may become eligible for consideration as the College’s Distinguished Golden Eagle Award, an honor presented annually that includes additional scholarship money.
Receiving the Golden Eagle Award and being able to share her struggles and dreams with others has given Ashley great joy.
“I was so honored to receive this award because I have literally fought for my life to be able to be where I am at this very moment. And for others to notice my hard work without even knowing where I began this journey, literally left me in tears of joy,” she said. “God has truly blessed me in so many ways. I never imagined I would actually make it through college let alone exceed and win an award!”
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Visit nwacc.edu or call 479-986-4000 to learn more about choosing a higher education with NWACC.