BENNINGTON -- When Michael Washington went back to school, he had felt like he had already lived another life. A year and a half later, he has an associate's degree from the Community College of Vermont, and looks forward to continuing a path in a new life.
Washington works closely with younger people through prisons and drug recovery programs to talk about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. He is continuing his education to advance that mission.
"I've been blessed to find recovery myself because I was inflicted (by drugs) at one point in my life," Washington said. "So, my whole purpose now is to bring that message to bring that to other recovering addicts on the fence Obviously it's not too late for them to turn things around if I can at age 54."
Washington was nominated to speak at the statewide CCV graduation at the Norwich University Field House on Saturday, June 7. Although he wasn't selected, he was awarded CCV's annual Community Service Award for being a model for other students and volunteering his time to help recovering drug abusers. He also spoke at a graduate reception at the Bennington CCV on Saturday.
To his colleagues, Washington said he stood in front of them as proof that a fall in life can serve as a positive thing. "I You are going to fall down or hit bumps in the road during this process, but the world doesn't care how many times you fall down: As long as it's one fewer than the number of times you get back up.
The nine-year Bennington resident once worked in accounting and as a broker on Wall Street in New York City. After his fall, he went back to school at CCV in January 2013 and went to classes full time. He has now received his associates of arts degree in human services. He is enrolled in classes for the fall at Springfield College School of Human Services St. Johnsbury. He plans to go ahead with a bachelor's or master's degree with a concentration in addiction studies.
"I'm going for the whole ball of wax with this and try to make a difference," Washington said. "The environment of learning is catching, and I've been able to embrace it.
Although state assembly was in session, Rep. Ann Mook (D-Bennington) wrote in to announce her regrets for not being able to attend Saturday's graduation reception. She wrote how astonishing she thinks it is for individuals like Washington who value their education enough to make a new start.
"Some of you have returned to the classroom after many years absence or are going for the first time; Not really sure if you can make it and every day convincing yourself ‘I can do it,'" wrote Mook in her letter. "You are to be applauded: Your journey has just begun."
During the reception, CCV English professor, Laura Mack, said that she found a home at CCV when she started because its an environment in which students come back to make a change in their lives.
"The reason I knew I found a home was that there were people in that classroom who wanted to learn: People who believed that I had something to teach them," Mack said. "Some were young, some were old; Some had jobs and some didn't. All of you share a faith that education will change your life."
Over 700 people are expected to graduate at the statewide CCV graduation in June.
Contact Tom Momberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg