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Danny Shelton

Danny Shelton's degree taught him a lot about himself, and how to help others.

Shelton graduated March 16 with a degree in Mental Health / Chemical Dependency / Addiction Studies, a program that trains people to become social work assistants and other jobs in the mental health field. Addiction is a subject he knows something about, although he's been sober for five years.

"Before that, the last 20 years were a mess," Shelton says.

He came to Columbus State after being a client at the COVA (Center of Vocational Alternatives), an agency that provides jobs training for those in recovery. He got plenty of encouragement to go to school, and keep his turnaround on track. He started at Columbus State in 2009.

Shelton also joined the TRiO program, a group of federally funded programs that help students who are low-income or the first in their family to go to school. TRiO staffers helped find scholarships, gave study and scheduling tips and hooked him up with tutoring.

"They made the transition (into college) really smooth," Shelton says.

Shelton relied on his faith in God and a lot of hard work, making the dean's list several quarters. His favorite classes were Human Growth & Development (PSY 240) and Abnormal Psychology (PSY 230), which both dealt with people's mental well-being. In those classes, he learned that what he'd been through is quite common, and curable.

Shelton is back at COVA, but this time he's a peer mentor for former prisoners re-entering society. And he plans to continue his education and get a bachelor's in social work.

"My advice is to have faith in yourself, in God, work hard, and study," Shelton says. "If you do fail, don't get discouraged."