By Daniel J Vaccaro
Elizabeth Hubbard had hit rock bottom. She was already a high-school dropout and drug addict. And now in her mid-20s, she was in trouble with the law.
“It was a dark time,” she recalls. “I got into drugs and made some bad choices.”
But amid the tumult, she found hope in an unexpected place, in a person she was forced to see as a result of probation – a drug counselor.
She also discovered something else: her purpose.
Ten years later. Seven years clean. Hubbard is an intern at Synergy Residential, a substance abuse rehabilitation program. She works with adolescent boys who choose to get help over going to jail.
The internship is the culmination of her time at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she is a human services major with a concentration in addiction studies.
“This experience has been a real growth opportunity for me, as a future counselor and as a human being. I’ve learned how to be more assertive, but also how to set my own values aside in order to see where someone else is coming from.”
Hubbard graduates this May, an accomplishment that seemed almost unfathomable a decade earlier.
And she didn’t just sneak across the finish line either. She will graduate with a 3.98 GPA and will be given the Provost’s Award at the commencement ceremony, an honor reserved for one of the highest-achieving students in the graduating class.
That accomplishment is made all the sweeter by the challenges Hubbard has overcome along the way. Beyond her struggles as a young adult, last school year she had to weather an educational and emotional firestorm that would have grounded most people. On top of school, she was getting her first experience in the field through her practicum, working part-time waiting tables, serving as president of two students clubs, teaching as a supplemental instruction leader, and grieving the loss of her father, who passed away in May 2016.
“I honestly never thought I could handle all of that at one time, but it just goes to show you what we can do when we put our heart and mind into something.”
With graduation in sight, Hubbard has found a little more time to focus on things she enjoys outside of school. She skates in roller derby and practices parkour. She is also something of a collector of tattoos. (See her arms for evidence.) She even recently started an indie rock band called Water the Fast.
Hubbard has a job lined up after graduation, too. She will continue her work at Synergy Residential full time. When she has enough training hours, she’ll become a certified drug counselor.
“The biggest way to help people who are struggling with addiction is just to be there for them,” she says. “My counselor helped me so much. I want to do the same for other people.”
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