CYAAR Helps Coles Student Fight Battle Against Addiction

Accounting major Blake Gordon is one of CYAAR's latest success stories

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 20, 2019) — After surviving cancer, battling depression and undergoing treatment following years of alcohol addiction, Blake Gordon moved to the Atlanta suburbs to get a fresh start. He had no idea at the time how life-changing a decision he had made to move into a sober-living residence just down the road from Kennesaw State University.

Gordon learned about KSU’s Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery (CYAAR), and thought it was just what he needed once he had been sober for a year and was ready to tackle attending college. He now credits his involvement with CYAAR for helping him thrive at Kennesaw State, as he is on track to graduate in December 2020 with an accounting degree.

Blake Gordon, CYAAR studentBlake Gordon (center). Also pictured: Reid Williams, left, and Pierce Smith.
 

“Without this program, I would not still be in school,” Gordon said. “It’s a wonderful support system because we’re all in this together. Everybody has gone through similar circumstances, so you have the sense that you’re not alone.”

It certainly hasn’t been easy, though. Gordon describes his first semester at Kennesaw State as “a disaster. It was the toughest challenge that I’ve ever faced in my life.”

Gordon said that his car broke down during his first week of classes at KSU. His laptop computer crashed. He was laid off from his job. Money was so tight that he couldn’t buy all the textbooks he needed and he exhausted his meal plan after about a month. 

“Here I’ve made this big decision to go back to school at 29 years old, being a recovering alcoholic and on the verge of trying to change my life, and it all falls apart,” Gordon said. “It was a very scary time.”

Gordon got through it with the help of CYAAR. He became nearly a daily fixture at their office, whether he was seeking advice from staff members, participating in programs, spending time with other students in recovery or accessing the computer lab. His first semester that had started so poorly ended with Gordon earning a 4.0 grade point average.

Meanwhile, paying for college “remains the uphill battle that I face every semester,” Gordon said. CYAAR has assisted him through directly providing scholarships and helping him find other agencies that have provided financial aid.

“The financial support from CYAAR is life-changing. They say, ‘We’re going to keep the dream alive for you,’” Gordon said. “I went from thinking, ‘This is extremely difficult and I don’t know if I can do this,’ to, ‘This gave me the confidence that I needed and I know that I’m going to do this no matter what life throws at me.’”

CYAAR Students

Gordon joined 30 other students today in receiving scholarships totaling $55,500 at the CYAAR Collegiate Recovery Scholarship Breakfast. The annual event celebrates student successes and thanks supporters for donating funds for CYAAR’s endowed and non-endowed scholarships as well as the student-learning initiatives in its Collegiate Recovery Program. 

Another of this year’s scholarship recipients was Cassie Bramblett, who received the Mandy Krasner Memorial Scholarship. The new scholarship was established to honor Krasner – described as “a beautiful, warm, caring, artistic and energetic young lady” – who died accidentally at age 26 after battling an eating disorder.

“Blake and Cassie are just two examples that, when students in recovery are given the academic and recovery supports they need, they succeed,” said CYAAR Executive Director Teresa Johnston. “The most important part of our work, the heart of our work, is our students. Providing the opportunity to attain an education while in recovery from addiction provides hope and a second chance.”

Gordon is making the most of that chance, as he works toward his goal of becoming a certified public accountant. Wherever his career takes him following his graduation from Kennesaw State, Gordon plans to remain actively involved in supporting CYAAR.

“I want to be that mentor to somebody who has struggled with the same thing that I have,” he said. “One thing for certain is that I want to give back as much as I can to this program that has given me everything.”

—Paul Floeckher

Photography by Jason Getz

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