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Class of 2023

Congratulations to the Collegiate Recovery Leadership Academy Class of 2023!

We are excited to introduce you to our Collegiate Recovery Leadership Academy Class of 2023! This cohort hails from 20 states and 42 campuses from around the country. With diverse educational, professional, and recovery backgrounds we know that this group of students will not only make impactful changes on their campuses but will leave a lasting mark on the national collegiate recovery movement. It’s our largest cohort today with:

• 39% coming from schools that are new to SAFE Project
• 1/4 who self-identify as a minority or person of color
• 1/3 representing a community college

Learn More About the Collegiate Recovery Leadership Academy

Meet the Collegiate Recovery Leadership Academy Class of 2023!

After nearly 20 years of active addiction and numerous incarcerations, I didn’t see a way out. It was only after experiencing the joy of recovery that I developed the resolve to change and to help others do the same. I want to be able to help others who have suffered as I have, obtain a better life.

Benny Benicker (he/him), Mountwest Community & Technical College

I am excited about the opportunity to connect with individuals who share my experiences and want to see the same changes in the world that I do. There is nothing like having a strong support system!

Brittany Blakely (she/her), Eastern Gateway Community College

I am so excited about bringing awareness to addiction and the many paths to recovery. So many people don’t see recovery as an option, or have a community to support them. I want to work towards providing resources and a community of inclusion for everyone.

KB Bush (they/them), Mississippi State University

If I’m able to heal myself and love my journey, then I will be able to tell my own story with the hope that someone connects with it and uses it as a pathway. So me telling my story is another gateway to success. My story needs to get out there so I can help at least one other person. That’s my goal.

Jason Chico (he/him), Mt. San Antonio College

I am getting my masters to be a substance abuse therapist and I am in recovery myself. I believe that college doesn’t have to involve alcohol. It can be cool to be sober in college!

Lindsey Greenwald (she/her), Wayne State University

As a person in recovery, school is one of the most triggering stressors. I believe it’s so important to have a safe and supportive space on campus to support students in recovery, as well as their allies. My father and I struggled with alcohol. It made our time together too short and I miss him dearly. Recovering from addiction changed my life in so many beautiful ways and now I’m on the path to becoming a counselor to help others. It’s so hard to feel alone and not know where to start. Having a community makes all the difference in finding those resources to get and stay sober.

Amanda Hanson (she/her), University of New Mexico

Like many Americans, my family was heavily impacted by substance use. It took an enormous toll on my childhood & teenage years. After I graduated high school and moved out of my parent’s house, I started meeting a ton of people with various different substance use issues. These folks weren’t the monsters or welfare leeches that many media outlets and stigmas make them out to be. These were just people who were just doing their best to get by while struggling with substance use disorder (SUD). I think this particular experience combined with what I experienced during childhood really motivated me into action. I want to get people to see what I see which is that people with SUD aren’t inherently bad people who only think about their next fix and break a bunch of laws to do it. They are often neighbors, brothers, friends, mothers. They are just normal people who need a helping hand and there is a lot that most communities can do better in order to get these people the help they need.

Jordan Hiltunen (he/they), Ferris State University

Collegiate recovery can be the spark that someone needs to better their circumstance and thrive in a community. If collegiate recovery programs were available at my campus during my time of active addiction, I may have experienced fewer hardships when beginning my journey into recovery. Collegiate recovery programs not only benefit the individual, but the families, and community members, as well. I hope to empower the students at my campus and provide them with the necessary tools to remain successful in recovery and allyship through collegiate recovery programs.

Danielle Irwin (she/her), Aims Community College

After loving someone who suffers from substance use disorder, a person can either choose to be harsh and bitter or loving and empathetic to others’ struggles. My experiences led me to choose the latter. Experiences, good or bad, are not wasted. I have learned so much from many individuals throughout my journey, and I am blessed with this opportunity to share the knowledge I have gained as a recovery ally with loving and healing words to others. I firmly believe that the healing message of recovery is for everyone, directly and indirectly, affected by the many realities of substance use disorder. I am most excited to help create a college community of empathetic and supportive students who are not afraid to have real conversations about substance use disorder, drug and alcohol awareness, mental health resources, and the hope that lies in recovery.

Fiona Knoster (she/her), University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

I have been in recovery since May 11, 2018, and many people close to me are also in recovery. I get to live a beautiful life today and want to do all I can to help others who are seeking a new way of life. I am excited to learn how to bring recovery and harm reduction programs to my university.

Monica Larsen (she/her), University of Miami School of Law

I think one of the main reasons I’m excited for the Fellowship with CRLA is having the chance to share my experience with other students in recovery. Coming from a long tumultuous history with substance use disorder and into recovery and then higher education, has offered me insight into the challenges that come from navigating higher education with little collegiate experience. My hope is to be able to pass along my experience and help other students in recovery, making the process easier for them.

Moriah Lit (she/her), Wellesley College

I’m excited to learn more on how I can tangibly make a difference on my campus and to connect with a community of like-minded people who are driven to make a positive difference as well, despite existing stigmas. I’m very passionate about the connection between substance use and mental health, and making a positive difference on campus.

Sophie Louis (she/her), Ursinus College

I remember a time when I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to; that loneliness and helplessness is overpowering. I remember thinking that no one would care if I was gone, that my existence was meaningless. I want nothing more than to be a voice for others so they don’t feel alone like I did, that their existence is important, and to help them work towards being their best selves. After beating my own demons, I consider it my life mission to help others accomplish the same. With SAFE I not only have an opportunity to lead actions in that, but to also learn skillets in helping others I wouldn’t elsewhere.

Lucarrio Lovato (he/him), University of Northern Colorado

Because substance misuse affects us all directly or indirectly, I am excited to hear amazing and inspirational success stories.

Emily Miyasato (she/her), University of Hawai’i- Mānoa

I believe adding value to the lives of others is my life’s purpose and I am excited to be a part of any organization that can help me in doing so. I am passionate about recovery because I am in recovery myself and because I firmly believe that in order for me to keep my sobriety I have to give it away.

James Nichols, BridgeValley Community College & Technical College

For the longest time, I was hopelessly dependent on alcohol. It was the purpose of my existence and every action was motivated by the hopes of the next drink. Recovery has shown me that there is so much more to life than being behind the veil of a chemical. It has taught me that I am capable of anything I put my mind to, and that my wildest dreams while drinking would have been selling myself short. This program is an opportunity to meet other incredible peers that are in, or avidly support, recovery. Additionally, the program gives me tools to be able to build programs to better spread awareness to addiction in my community.

Nathan Olszewski (he/him), Marshall University School of Medicine

What excites me about being part of the SAFE Project Collegiate Recovery Leadership Program is to be able to develop a project that is going to impact many students in a positive and supportive wellness-fitness goal.

Carolina Villabona (she/her), Santa Rosa Junior College

I am passionate about recovery because I believe that everyone who is in recovery needs someone to believe in them. I will endlessly hold on to hope. I am passionate about recovery because I believe that one day our world can overcome the drug war. I am passionate about recovery because I want to fight for all the lives that have been lost and because I believe we can overcome it. I am passionate about recovery because my mother and father couldn’t overcome it but I want to help everyone who can. Most importantly, I believe in recovery.

Jocelin Willis (she/her), Pennsylvania State University

Recovery is where I discovered me, recovery introduced me to Marsha. I am more than my disease. I am excited about having another platform and opportunity to be of maximum service.

Marsha Woodland (she/her), Walden University