The Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT) created the Transforming Lives Awards program in 2012 to recognize current or former students whose lives have been transformed by pursuing higher education at a community or technical college.
Each year, the ACT Awards Committee chooses five awardees from a pool of nominations from the state’s community and technical colleges. The awardees receive $500 from ACT and share their stories during the Transforming Lives Awards dinner held during the ACT winter conference in January. In addition to the awardees, all student nominees are recognized during the ceremony and are invited to the dinner.
Jeffrey Haley was nominated by Peninsula College, and attended the dinner in Olympia January 22, 2018. Here is his story:
I used drugs for 25 years. Ten years of those years were spent incarcerated in one form or another, using the entire time. In 2004, just before my last term in prison, I overdosed and flat-lined for just over 3 minutes. After two weeks of recovery time, I went right back to my adversary and continued to use until I went back to prison in 2005. While I was incarcerated, I wrapped up my G.E.D. and took some computer classes, in an effort to get my life on track.
Peninsula College Transforming Lives nominee, Jeffrey Haley, center, was joined at the banquet by PC board members Dwayne Johnson, Dr. Michael Maxwell, Representative Steve Tharinger and PC President, Dr. Luke Robins.
When I got out of prison I gained custody of my son who is now 18. I stayed straight enough to hold down construction jobs and raise him, until he got old enough that he wanted to hang out with his girlfriend more than his Dad. With my son around less, I returned to drug use and in a short time lost everything I had worked so hard for. In May 2016 I picked up another drug related charge and for the first time in my life I had enough. I attended Drug Court and chose to go back to school.
I wanted to be a counselor to help people with the disease of addiction. I gained a new perspective on my use history, seeing it as “research time.” I started courses in the Addiction Studies program with Stacie Bell in fall of 2016. All of the staff are awesome, and I feel like the program was designed for me.
While in the first year I also started working at the Detox Center in Port Angeles, where I realized that this is what I want to do forever. Turning my lifetime of drug use into an opportunity to help other addicts get clean is a dream come true.
I have now graduated from Drug Court and am interning with Cedar Grove Counseling’s Johnny Watts. Johnny is also an Addiction Studies alumnus.
If I could give potential students any advice, I would say it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything you think needs to be done. Just take one step in the right direction and start getting things done one at a time. Somebody’s hand will guide you through the rest. If you just start, you will build confidence along the way and things will begin to flow.
Peninsula College really helped me change my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.