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We want to extend an extra congratulations to these StepUP students who made the 2021 Fall Dean’s List! The Dean’s List recognizes full-time students who have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher or part-time students who have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher. This past semester we faced some challenge adjusting as we entered back to in-person classes but you all did incredible and we are proud of you for working your hardest to stay focused on school. Keep up the good work! If you would like to see the entirety of the Dean’s List visit,

StepUp Dean’s List

  • Cozi B.
  • Logan D.
  • Cassidy D.
  • Kramer D.
  • Bowman D.
  • Ryan F.
  • Savanna F.
  • Camille K.
  • Hanna K.
  • Adam K.
  • Grace R.
  • Tucker R.
  • Jake S.
  • Emily S.
  • Shelby W.
  • Andrew W.


We want to extend an extra congratulations to these StepUP students who made the 2021 Spring Dean’s List! The Dean’s List recognizes full-time students who have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher or part-time students who have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher. This past semester was not easy as we were in the mist of the pandemic but you all pulled through and we are all incredibly proud of you for working your hardest to stay focused on school as we know this was not easy. Keep up the good work! If you would like to see the entirety of the Dean’s List visit, 

StepUp Dean’s List

  • Dylan A.
  • Jared B.
  • Cozette B.
  • Alex C.
  • Maria D.
  • Logan D.
  • Cassidy D.
  • Kramer D.
  • Bo D.
  • Simon E.
  • Savanna F.
  • Alec F.
  • Elise G.
  • Camille K.
  • Ethan L.
  • Thomas L.
  • Alexa N.
  • Madeline R.
  • Tucker R.
  • Patrick R.
  • Jake S.
  • Michael S.
  • Emily S.
  • Joseph W.
  • Andrew W.

Alumni Student Spotlight

A morning with Jamie Hejna

I sit silently in my desk chair waiting for the Zoom call to connect. The level of isolation that’s come as a biproduct of the pandemic has me nervous to socialize with someone new. However, when the call connects I’m greeted by someone with an inviting grin. I barely have time to give my interviewers preamble before Jamie jumps right into the nitty gritty of getting to know one another. We chatted and laughed over shared experiences in sobriety and addiction, discussed our ambitions and professional lives, and laughed about mutual friends. Turns out he’d gone to college 45 minutes from where I grew up and was also born three hours from there. I knew I had him pegged as an East Coaster, go figure.  It took me about a half an hour before I realized I hadn’t ben recording, nor started the interview.

To preface all of this, Jamie is a freelance digital marketer. He started his own Full Service Digital Agency, Ollie Marketing. He represents a handful of business and clients across the country. I mention this because I feel like it gives context to Jamie’s story, experience at StepUP, and how far he’s come. As someone who also has an interest in marketing, I found myself in awe of Jamie’s ambition at various points in our conversation. If you want to check out his agency’s home page or a few of his clients, click the links at the end of the interview.

T: Why don’t you tell me a about what your early life was like and what the front half your addiction was like?

J: Absolutely. Thank you for taking the time, by the way. Always happy to chat with current step up students. I grew up in Connecticut. I started drinking and using drugs when I was in middle school which continued throughout my adolescence. Everything definitely became elevated, through, through my drug use. It got to the point where I barely graduated high school and just kind of slipped by. I applied to several colleges and got into one which was Johnson State in Vermont, this was in 2010.

When I got to Johnson state I did pretty well at first, but like many others dealt with not necessarily being prepared and going through a process of burning down all the bridges and everything coming to a crashing halt. That happened pretty slowly though, I mean I got through two and a half years up in Vermont. My grades dwindled lower and lower each semester and everything finally came to a screeching halt in 2012. It was around 12/12/12 to date and I dropped out of college and I went to my first treatment center, which was Karen Foundation in Pennsylvania. At that point I remember going into the program and, as it relates to my collegiate career, thinking that there was no way that I would get another opportunity again to be able to go to a four year school. I danced around sobriety for a few years working in working various  jobs like serving tables, I lived out in California for a little while…

T: Were you sober that whole time?

J: No, my story has a lot of ins and outs. I’ve had had periods of sobriety that have been as long as two and a half years, and really I wouldn’t change anything about that, because the journey has just been, it’s been so worthwhile every step along the way.

T: What brought you to Minnesota specifically?

J: So basically, I think it was somewhere in 2015 I had another relapse and ended up getting sent to Hazelden in Plymouth, Minnesota. There I am sitting in the facility wondering how? Like “what’s it gonna take for me to get out of this revolving door and be able to find happiness and peace within myself?” Um, and during that time, there was a step up committee of students who came in to Plymouth, and basically talk about the program, I guess you know promoting it. I had never heard of a collegiate recovery program before. I had no idea something like that existed. It seemed like an opportunity to have a sense of purpose, that, that I don’t think I ever really had.

T: Did you ever see yourself going back to college at that point? Or did you see it as a door that had been closed?

J: You know financially things were a mess because I just avoided student loans from the last school. So that was, that was a financial hurdle that I was dealing with. But, I still applied and I got my acceptance letter into Augsburg and I was able to convert my default loans. I went from Plymouth into Fellowship for a three month program. I got out of Plymouth in May, so I was in Fellowship for June, July, August, basically. It ended up working out perfectly where my first day at Augsburg orientation was my last day of fellowship.

T: God, that must’ve been a good feeling.

J: Yeah it was great. There was no layover and nowhere to have to kind of figure out like what I was going to do in the meantime. So it was August of 2015 when I started at Augsburg. I think within, you know, the first week I had already met tons of people who are in recovery, in college, and trying to better their lives. It was a really needed change.

T: Was that intimidating initially?

J: It was definitely intimidating.

T: Now, did you ever see yourself, like, going in the direction of freelance and developing your own brand?

J: Well, everything moves so quickly. I think what occurred was when our first quarter results came in at my old marketing job. I realized that I just built something that improves a business’s statistics and in a way like truly grew a business. I was so excited, the excitement overpowered any intimidation that I felt about going off on my own. I remember, like during this time, talking to family members about it. A lot of them were encouraging me to take a safer option. I just felt like this urgency, like my vocation is really taking shape in my life. I ended up pursuing that feeling, and basically, I’ve been doing it ever since.



Our conversation went on for another 20 minutes or so. We continued to hash out the details of Jamie’s journey into the world of freelance marketing. Those details that canvassed our entire conversation helped me feel like like we had really fostered a connection over our hour and a half morning pow wow. Coming away from the interview, Jamie left me with a few takeaways. The first was that, the ambition and perseverance of StepUP alumni will never cease to amaze me. Second, you never know when you’ll end up forging a connection within our community (a reminder I felt that I needed). Finally, Jamie’s got one of the cleanest frontside boardslides in the game.







2020 Fall Dean’s List

We want to extend kudos to the StepUP students who made the Dean’s List for Fall Semester of 2020. The Dean’s List recognizes full time students who achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher or part time students who achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher. This past semester a number of StepUP students achieved just that. We offer you all a wholehearted congratulations, especially given the unprecedented nature of this past semester. We know the jump to virtual learning came with a whole new set of it’s own problems. We’re proud of all of you for going above and beyond the last 3 months. Keep up the hard work! If you’d like to see the list in its entirety, visit the 2020 Fall Semester Dean’s List.

Student List:

Dylan A.

Maxwell B.

Jared B.

Cozette B.

Alex C.

Cassidy D.

Kramer D.

Bo Dudley

Simon E.

Ryan F.

Savanna F.

Elena G.

Elise G.

Colin G.

Brendan K.

Ethan L.

Mike L.

Thomas L.

Fox M.

Alexa N.

Michael P.

Madeline R.

Tucker R.

Patrick R.

Isabel S.

Michael S.

Chris S.

Abbey U.

Andrew W.

Joseph W.

Andrew W.

2020 Spring Dean’s List

We want to extend kudos to the StepUP students who made the Dean’s list spring semester of 2020. The Dean’s List recognizes full time students who achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher or part time students who achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher. This past semester a number of StepUP students achieved just that. We offer you all a wholehearted congratulations. Keep up the hard work! If you’d like to see the list in its entirety, visit the 2020 Spring Dean’s List.

StepUP Dean’s List:

  • Maxwell B.
  • Alex C.
  • Logan D.
  • Cassidy D.
  • Kramer D.
  • Evelyn D.
  • Bo D.
  • Simon E.
  • Noah F.
  • Savanna F.
  • Cole F.
  • Elise G.
  • James J.
  • Lydia K.
  • Benjamin L.
  • Mike L.
  • Erin M.
  • Annie M.
  • Samuel M.
  • Fox M.
  • Alexa N.
  • Michael P.
  • Anthony P.
  • Madeline R.
  • Tucker R.
  • David R.
  • Patrick R.
  • Isabel S.
  • Tyler S.
  • Alexander S.
  • Abbey U.
  • Andrew W.
  • Joseph W.
  • Tyler W.
  • Chase W.
  • Tommy W.
  • Andrew W.

Student Feature: Statistics by Logan Denzer


in every rehab
i’ve ever been to
they tell you only one in ten of you will make it
that seven in ten of you will start again after only a few weeks
you look around
trying to spot the ones who won’t stick around

stick around in treatment, and stick around in life

they tell you to “stick with the winners”
so you pick your winners
and you don’t leave their side

they say the winners are the ones
who really
want it

but sometimes
even the ones
who really
want it
can’t get it


Logan D.

Student Feature: Prescription Paradise

The opiate epidemic has been a plague on our country for close to 30 years, but within the last 12 years it has become drastically worse. There are a number of reasons it has become a progressively worse issue, and the worse it gets, the more drastic the consequences become. People are overdosing and dying, prisons are filling up with addicts when they need rehabilitation, and treatment is not accessible by many of the people struggling with this issue. In 2016, 48.5 million or 18% of the population used an illicit substance or misused a prescription. Of that, 4.4% used some form of opiate (heroin, Oxycontin) that is only second to marijuana at 13.9% (Center for Disease Control, 2018, p 7). Prescription opiates are trending higher for misuse than any other drug (Segal, Gerdes & Steiner, 2018, p 362). We are spending 78.5 billion dollars a year addressing this issue and yet between July, 2006 and September, 2017 overdoses increased 30% in 52 areas of 45 states (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2018). Clearly the solutions that are being currently put fourth are not working and we need to find a new way to address this issue before it continues to get worse.

There are number of things that have contributed to the consequences of the opiate epidemic in our country, but at the center of it is pharmaceutical companies and prescription opiates. In the year 2006, healthcare providers wrote 72.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 people in the United States. By 2010 this rate had increased by 3% annually. By 2017 that number had been reduced by 19.2% leaving it at a rate of 58.5 prescriptions per 100 persons. This means that in 2017 17.4% of the population in the United States received one or more prescriptions for opiates that year, with the average being 3.4 prescriptions per person (CDC, 2018, p 6). This is important because it is estimated that 21-29% of people prescribed opiates misuse them. 8-12% of those people develop a substance use disorder, and 4-6% of those people will transition to heroin (NIDA, 2018). 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription pain medication (NIDA, 2018). Although there was a decrease in the number of opiates prescribed, the number of overdoses increased in 2016. This shows that prescription opiates are one of the main causes behind the opiate epidemic in our country. Heroin has become deadly due to it being cut with synthetic opiates like fentanyl (another prescription opiate), and most of the people who end up using heroin start with prescription opiates before developing a substance use disorder.

This issue is affecting people in a number of ways, one of the ways it is affecting people on a micro or individual level is overdose and death from overdose. Overdose is arguably the harshest self inflicted consequence of addiction, more specifically opiate use disorder. This could be considered a mezzo issue because of the person providing the drugs or the effect an individual’s death has on those in the community, but it fits micro because it is one of the worst things that can happen to you on an individual level. 2016 set a record for the number of deaths caused by drug overdose at 63,632 or 19.8 per 100,000 people. Prescription or illicit opioids were involved with 66.4% or 42,249 of these fatalities. Among all of the deaths that occurred from opioid overdoses the most common type of opiate that caused them were synthetic opiates like fentanyl. Of the 42,249 opiate related overdose deaths fentanyl was to blame for 19,413 of these. This was followed by prescription opioids at 17,087 deaths, which in turn was followed by heroin at 15,469 deaths. These are not mutually exclusive from each other, meaning that one or more of these could have been found in someone’s system at the time of death (CDC, 2018, p 7). This could be because, as referenced previously, many illicit opiates are being cut with synthetic opiates like fentanyl and fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent then morphine, which makes it much easier to overdose on (NIDA, 2018). Although some people will actively seek out fentanyl for recreational use, it is often used to cut heroin in order to save a dealer money or make the product better. What’s worse is that there is no real way, short of a test kit to see if what you’re ingesting has fentanyl in it, which could also lead to overdose (NIDA, 2018). There was a rapid increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids starting in 2010 and continuing through 2016, increasing 87% annually from 2013-2016 (CDC, 2018, p 7).

To examine the way that this issue is impacting people on a mezzo or community/family level, it’s important to acknowledge the way that most addicts are getting high on opiates. A popular way of using heroin or other opiates is intravenously. The reason for this is not only that it’s the quickest way of delivering opiates to your bloodstream, but it also produces the strongest and longest high, which is why it is favored among addicts. Not only does injecting heroin increase the risk of overdose, but it also increases the chance of contracting HIV/AIDS. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and is a precursor to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) (Segal, Gerdes & Steiner, 2018, p 388). It is a bloodborne disease, meaning that it can be passed through things like sexual contact and sharing needles for IV drug use. In 2004 the CDC estimated that 70% of infections were contracted through heterosexual contact and 28% were due to injection drug use. In the United States there are more than a million people living with HIV and it is estimated that 1 out of 8 of those people do not know they have the disease (Segal, Gerdes & Steiner, 2018, p 388). While HIV isn’t necessarily fatal, AIDS is. To have AIDS you must have HIV antibodies and an opportunistic infection like an AIDS related cancer. The death rate from AIDS has fallen over 45% since 2005, however there is still no cure. There is a treatment, but it is expensive. 1 in 4 people with HIV cannot afford it (Segal, Gerdes & Steiner, 2018, p 389). All it does is help manage the disease, not cure it. IV opiate use increases the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and giving it to someone else or unknowingly passing it on to your child as it’s genetic. This can have many negative consequences on a family or community.

A way that this issue is impacting people on a macro or state/national level is through lack of access to treatment and criminalization. During the 1970’s the Nixon administration started the war on drugs. The objective was to limit the availability of drugs with hopes that use would go down (Segal, Gerdes & Steiner, 2018, p 389). By 2015 the United States had spent about 25 billion dollars on drug control with 66% of that going towards incarceration (Segal, Gerdes & Steiner, 2018, p 389). People all over the country are being locked up for drug offenses like possession charges, addicts who are caught with heroin could potentially be thrown in prison. It is estimated that as many as 48% of inmates in federal prisons and 16% of inmates in state prison are there for drug related offenses (Segal, Gerdes & Steiner, 2018, p 390). Addicts in prison don’t have access to the necessary treatment for rehabilitation. Which makes them more likely to use or offend again when they are released. Which means they could potentially get caught again and wind back up in prison, restarting the whole cycle. The addiction rate has remained pretty much constant since the 1970’s, when the war on drugs was started, at around 1.3% of the population, while the budget for drug control has continued to grow. This shows no direct correlation between drug control and addiction rate and is evidence of a broken system (Dai, 2012). Addicts need treatment, treatment they are not getting in jail. Opiate addicts will often steal or commit crimes to make sure they have money to get their fix. They are likely to leave jail and commit a crime in order to get high again because they didn’t receive treatment while they were locked up. This is an issue that has repercussions nationwide and involves the entire country.

Clearly there are a number of consequences that have occurred because of the opiate epidemic in our country on micro, mezzo and macro levels. It is no longer a contained issue, and it would be hard to find anyone in the country whose life has not been touched by the crisis. A potential solution to the micro level issue of overdose deaths are safe injection sites. A potential solution to the macro level issue of criminalization could be decriminalization.

There are a number of reasons that people across the country are overdosing on opiates, whether it is the fact that they are alone and have no one to help revive them or the people with them don’t know how to go about reviving them. A potential blanket solution to this problem is opening up safe injection sites. Safe injection sites are places where addicts can go to receive clean needles, cookers and tourniquets and get high under the supervision of trained staff who is supplied with NARCAN, without fear of being arrested. This could help solve the micro level problem of overdose deaths by providing addicts a safe place to use. In Vancouver, they opened safe injection sites and evidence from those suggest that safe injection sites are associated with lower overdose mortality, Vancouver had on average 88 fewer overdoses per 100,000 people annually, they also saw a 67% drop in ambulance calls for treatment of overdoses, as well as a drop in HIV infection rate (addressing the mezzo issue as well) (Ng, Sutherland & Kolber, 2017). Many states have vetoed safe injection sites citing the reason that it could be seen as enabling addicts and draw more crime to the area they are located. Social workers could help this process by advocating to local senators and mayors in an effort to open safe injection sites. If opened, they would help reduce overdose deaths and decrease HIV rates.

A potential solution to addressing the macro level problem of drug addicts being locked up for drug offenses, instead of receiving the necessary treatment, is decriminalization of all drugs. This wouldn’t make all drugs legal, but if we instituted a system similar to what Portugal instituted in 2001 it could help. In Portugal, drugs still are not legal, but if someone is found with drugs under a certain amount, they will just be confiscated. They are then required to undergo an assessment with a social worker, psychologist and lawyer determining whether or not they need treatment of further resources (Frayer, 2017). Since 2001 the drug induced death rate has dropped five times lower than the European average and there are only about 2,500 drug related cases per year, which is a 75% drop since the 90’s (Frayer, 2017). While there isn’t much data on the overall effect that decriminalization of drugs has on Portugal. It seems to be the obvious solution for the issue in the United States. What we’re doing right now is not working. Instead of putting 66% of the 25 billion dollars that has been spent on drug control since the 70’s towards incarceration, it could be put towards making treatment more widely available. If this was instituted, it could potentially help the United States put more money towards treating addicts and making treatment more widely available, as well as lowering crime rates and reducing the likelihood drug related offenders will reoffend. Social workers could help raise awareness about what decimalization could do for our country, as well as advocate to politicians in favor of this policy.


From Statistic to Sobriety

An Essay on Addiction

By Tucker Robinson

I’m assuming if you’re reading this, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced anxiety in some way, shape, or form. The unwavering tremors, that scalding feeling deep in the pit of your gut, that ever present looming sense of doom, brought on by whatever fear inducing event or situation you’re staring down the barrel of. Although it’s quite common and pervasive within our culture these days, it still seems to be so unquantifiable and undefined. So often have I tried to relate to someone over our shared anxieties and it always feels like we’re speaking two different languages. Regardless, if you’ve experienced something like I’ve just described, there’s a good chance you know what it feels like to have walked a mile in my size 10 Van’s slip ons.

It started, for me, around age four. I was still too wee of a lad with neither the vocabulary, nor the verbal skills to put the feeling to words. But it was always there, unwavering and ever prevailing. At times it felt almost tangible, like I could reach out into the space in front of me and touch it, or could see it lurking over in the corner, ever present and always there. I remember frequently looking around the space I was in, making a concerted effort to read the faces and body language of my peers, trying to gather if they felt the same way I did. At eight years old, I was given a word for this feeling: “Anxiety,” I repeated the word out loud to no one in particular and it felt alien. A name and definition didn’t go far in helping me understand and manage the way that I felt. I was old enough now to gather that this particular feeling was exclusive to me, or so I thought. It made me feel unique and isolated, all at the same time. I overcompensated, I lied, I was defiant, all products of my meager attempts to mirror my peers’ behaviors. Those attempts often ended in being rebuked or laughed at, making that feeling all the more omnipresent. So, I withdrew further, growing constantly more resentful over a guide to life I seemed to have not received. The more problems I had the more I blamed my “anxiety,” which agitated it further and so on. I had almost resigned myself to a life of solitude and suffering, until one day that unwavering always looming sensation was cut short and stopped dead in its tracks.

It was clear and smelled strongly of juniper and pine. The bottle was tinted and green and didn’t look like it could’ve held more than half a liter. But no sooner had I brought the bottle to my lips and recoiled in disgust, did it become clear that the bottle was bottomless, it needed to be bottomless, a well that never ran dry. The disgusting taste was dwarfed by a chorus of 1,000 drums, horns, and cries, that coalesced into a sound of overwhelming relief. All in the midst of a moment, I was able to take 13 years of discontentedness and anxiety and isolation and violently jam it into that never ending bottle and cap off the next 10 years of my life. Because in that moment I knew true freedom, I was everything I wanted to be and didn’t have to change a thing. That guidebook I had never received had been dropped in my lap in the shape of a Tanqueray bottle. I dove headfirst into that bottomless well bathed in enlightenment, blissfully hyperaware that the looming presence had vanished. It wasn’t until much later that I pondered the cost of that freedom, after that well had stripped so much away and reduced me to nothing. There wasn’t a single moment that evening that I considered that night, alone in my room, that what I would find at the eventual bottom of the well would be undiagnosed alcoholism.

It’s October almost 10 years later, the frigid Boston wind blasts through my thin and filthy sweatshirt. Somewhere along the line, my prolonged indoctrination into all things addiction had become a broken way of life. That unwavering, unfaltering presence that had disappeared with a nip of gin now surrounded me. But relief was near, relief had told me it was 20 minutes away over an hour ago, but my choices were limited. I was running on empty, the well had run dry. It had been over a year since my last drink, but I certainly wasn’t free. In some misguided attempt at finding my way out of that well, I had exchanged the bottle for a syringe. I bear the weight of three treatments, numerous detoxes, a family I had pushed away, friends I had deserted, and that unrelenting presence. But in some convoluted attempt at hanging onto my youth, my use always seemed to take precedent and no matter the cost, I would wind up back on this same corner, waiting. I focus all my energy on not vomiting. I am cold. A car door opens, the exchange is quick, but the relief is even quicker. Just the feeling of the bag in my hand makes everything seem alright, even if it’s just for a moment. A moment of freedom is what I strive for, what I live for, isn’t it? Isn’t that how my journey down the well started? I look for a vein and get a hit, my thumb resting lightly on the plunger. I hesitate, tears start to well, teetering on the brink of “just one more” and oblivion. In this brief moment of clarity, I recognize that this journey has been all for naught. I’ve razed my life an in effort to chase away a presence that only stays gone until morning light. But now, when it wakes me from my restless sleep it brings sickness as well. Can I get out of this bottomless well? This presence may have chosen me, but I certainly didn’t elect to live with this presence. Can I change that? If I can, I need to be unburdened to do so. I push the plunger.

I am, to this day, baffled by the concept of addiction. I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to put it in a box and define it. Hindsight is certainly 20-20, but the day I coughed and choked on my first drink I thought I had finally found something that alleviated that foreboding presence that followed me around constantly. Up until that day, it had been labeled many things: Anxiety, depression, anger issues, but not once did anyone offer up the idea that maybe it was untreated alcoholism. Why would they have? No one in my life was thinking in that manner, not many people in our country are thinking in that manner. A conversation that could’ve saved me a lot of pain and suffering was pushed aside, for what? In hopes of labeling it something less stigmatized? In an effort to label it something more treatable and better understood? Our culture is prone to looking for an easy answer, even if it’s the wrong one. Right now, there is a silent epidemic tearing through our country and people are still struggling to talk about it. We’ve lost more people to overdoses in the last year than we did American soldiers in WWII. The number of overdoses in our country has actually driven the average life expectancy down. But people don’t want to acknowledge it because there still isn’t an instant fix for the problem as a whole.

It has been over two years since I took my last drink or drug, and the only unwavering presence in my life,today, is gratitude. One of the most significant steps I’ve taken in my recovery so far has been re enrolling in college. My alcoholism and anxiety warped my perspective of higher education. For so long, college was just another way to escape the tight grip my parents had on me and further feed my addiction, another way to make sure that well never ran dry. Which is why I went in the first place. I made it less than six weeks. I think it’s an achievement to fail out as fast as I did. When the mental fog started to clear up as I transitioned out of treatment, someone mentioned college as a potential opportunity in my future. Only this time, I associated it as a place of learning as opposed to a place to drink. That shift in mindset is what has, so far, propelled me all the way up through my Sophomore year. The lessons that have been deeply engrained in me through my program have made a dramatic difference in the way I show up as a student. Free of that presence that followed me for so long, my decisions are now dictated by what’s best for me as a person in recovery, as opposed to my anxieties. I was also lucky enough to stumble into a collegiate recovery program at Augsburg University called StepUP. My success as a student is compounded by a combination of recovery and community.

I mention all of this because I hope that it helps people recognize that hiding under the rough exterior that is addiction is something beautiful. There was nothing that happened in my life that made me an addict, nothing I did, or anyone did to me. I’ve been an addict since the day I was born. It’s something that’s followed me around everyday, sun up to sun down, and my various attempts to escape it, took everything from me. It stripped me of my character and potential and reduced me to a person people lock their doors and hide their valuables around. But through a moment of clarity, a little bit of luck, and a tremendous amount of support, I’ve been able to reconstruct my life into something I’m proud of, a life of counted blessings, a life where there is no more day to day negotiation between responsibilities and feeling good, a life where my hopes and dreams are no longer collateral damage in my struggle for peace. But getting here took a lot of work, personal growth, and self acceptance, the kind of work that needs to start happening on a macro scale in our country. We aren’t just going to all wake up one day to the problem mended and the pieces put back together. Clawing our way through that rough exterior to the beautiful core means work, it means taking a firm stance and looking the problem right in the eye and acknowledging it’s there. The dissemination and distribution of information are our most powerful weapons in combatting the stigma that follows the word “addict.” For every life touched by this epidemic, there is a person with unlimited potential. On the other end of that statistic is a person with hopes and dreams waiting to be realized, and the resources to help them along the way should be a given. There is a wonderful future on the other side of this epidemic, but we have to work to get there.




2019 Fall Dean’s List

Kudos to the StepUP students who made the Deans list fall semester of 2019. The Deans List recognizes full time students who achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher. This past semester a number of our students achieved just that. We offer you all a wholehearted congratulations, keep up the hard work! If you’d like to see the list in its entirety, visit the 2019 Fall Dean’s List

Logan D.

Kramer D.

Evelyn D.

Simon E.

Savanna F.

Cole F.

Sam G.

Colin G.

Rochfort K.

Ben L.

Erin M.

Annie M.

Sam M.

Alexa N.

Michael P.

Anthony P.

Maty R.

Tucker R.

David R.

Patrick R.

Isabel S.

Tyler S.

Abbey U.

Joey W.

Tommy W.

Student Spotlight: Sam G.

The student spotlights are not only an excellent way to depict life among the current StepUp collective to alumni, family and friends. Above that, they also have the potential to show another young person in recovery that someone just like them is thriving in a collegiate environment.

For this month’s Spotlight, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sam G. If you’ve spent much time on the Augsburg campus, or more specifically in OGC, you may have seen Sam around. If you’re a StepUp student, there’s a good chance you know who he is. Not only is he part of leadership team, but he is also the advisor for the men’s flat. Sam was born and raised in the greater Saint Paul metro area, attending Cretin Durham High School and following that with a brief stint at Saint Thomas University. This was all prior to getting sober and enrolling at Augsburg. Now, he is 23 and has been a stellar example of recovery throughout his three years at StepUp and Augsburg University. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have sat down with him.


“Did you find that there was a lot of use at Cretin? As a Catholic School?”

Yea, I would say there was a pretty big group of us. I guess I don’t really know what it’s like compared to other high schools, but it definitely wasn’t hard to find a group of people to party with.


“How did you do in high school?”

I did okay, I was a pretty smart kid, at least early in high school. But, I gradually started to not do as well over time. I don’t remember what I got my senior year, all I remember is that I didn’t get my diploma when I walked. They gave me an empty frame when I got to the podium. I ended up having to put in 90 hours of work, like cleaning. We didn’t have truancy, so each day of school I skipped, I got two or three hours of detention.


“Do you feel like the decline in grades overtime correlated with your use?”

Yes, definitely.


“How long were you at college originally?”

I was at St. Thomas for two months, that’s all it took me, two months. Some might say failing out after two months is harder than getting a four year degree. It was the one school I applied to. I spent most of my time with my friends from high school in Saint Paul.


“At this point, had your use graduated to a point of total isolation? Or was there still a social aspect to it?”

I had a roommate at school, who I had known for a long time. But I did isolate a lot, both by choice and not by choice. I wouldn’t say I became a strictly isolated drinker, but there were definitely times I drank alone.


“After getting sober, was another crack at college in your initial plans?”

No, it wasn’t. After getting kicked out of college after my first go at it, I had a huge fear based resentment, where I just resented the idea and talked openly about how stupid college was. Mostly because I was just too afraid to fail again.


“How did you first hear about StepUP?”

I did the traditional Plymouth and Fellowship route. Fellowship still did the StepUp tour at the time, but I skipped it, mostly because I still thought I really wasn’t ever going to try to go back to school. I ended up moving from Fellowship into a sober house and stayed there about nine months. Which gave me time to think about what the heck I was doing with my life.


“Where were you working at the time?”

I was working at Schuler Shoes, and I was making pretty good money, but it just started hitting me that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. Which was pretty cool because for the first time I felt like what I wanted actually mattered. It’s not just that I can go to college, but I deserve that if I want it.


“That’s gotta be a pretty good feeling right? Going from a place of resentment towards college to a place where you felt like you deserved it?”

It’s like a giddy feeling. I have a twin sister who is super successful, my parents wanted that for me. But I just constantly told them no. It felt good to get to that point where I started to feel like not only I deserved it, but I could actually do it. It was an exciting feeling, making that decision for myself.


“What did you find enticing about StepUp initially?”

I had a really close group of friends over in Saint Paul. But out of my friend group, I was the only one that ended up going to college. To me, at that point, it was either live in a sober house and drive to community college every morning or go to StepUp. I mean the most enticing thing was the idea of being able to live somewhere with other people my age in recovery that wasn’t a sober house. It was such an upgrade over that.


“What does your work ethic look like now, compared to when you were in active addiction?”

The anxieties of the first semester back at college were so real. Like the unwarranted “I’m destined to fail” attitude. But it was really just focusing on whatever I was doing in that moment, class or otherwise. Sort of like a refinement of the “Just for today” mindset. Taking it moment by moment, even if it sucked. Figuring out work and school, figuring out what schedule worked best for me. I was in school most of the week and if I wasn’t doing school I was working. I sort of screwed myself over originally. But as time has gone on, I’ve really figured out how to schedule and manage my time better. Which is something I’d never done before. It makes me more productive to have work in my life. What I realized when I first got here was there’s a lot of extra time in college. Before, I would’ve loved that. But now, I need to fill that time with work to keep me productive.


“What have been some of the “highs” of your recovery and conversely, what have been some of the “lows?” Has StepUp played a role in either of those?”

One year was lit. That was an unreal feeling. Anniversaries are obviously all a big deal, but there was something about that one year that was different. Other than that, I would say, getting relationships with my family back. It’s the little things, in the past I had always been careless, but it felt really good to be able to teach my little brother how to drive when he turned 16. A month ago, I got an accounting internship at a pretty big firm in Minneapolis. I kid you not, when I got that call, I screamed in my apartment. Sometimes I start to get that thought like: “What are we working towards?” Then there’s just those glimpses where I feel like everything has been totally worth it.

Honestly, doing generals in school, you don’t always feel like it’s worth it. So, things like this feel really cool. I met with the Stronmen Center people, because they have a program specifically for StepUp students and something that she said that really stood out to me was: “Make excellence the norm.” Like, we all celebrate when people do something cool, which is important, but what if everybody had that opportunity.

For lows, I’d say, a couple years ago my dad got pretty sick. That was hard. The lows for me are the ones that are unexpected. November of 2017, my first semester here, I felt like I lost my mind. I remember that moth as being a big low for me. I was still in school obviously, and the guys in the flat really helped get me through that.

The role StepUp has played, I have class, I have friends in the building that I do stuff with on a weekly basis. So, if I do feel down, there’s always people to drag me out and pick me back up.


“Where are you most likely to be seen off campus?”

Depends on the time of year, in the summer I play a lot of softball and travel for that. I like to play soccer, I like to skate. All things that I’ve got back into over the course of my sobriety. I like to be active.


“Finally, have these activities helped give you a better sense of self?”

A hundred percent, I’ve simplified my life to an extent. What I perceive as other people’s expectations of me don’t really matter to me anymore. The amount I’ve aged from 21 to 23 I feel like is so much more than from 10 to 21. I used to like going out dancing with my friends at 11 pm, but now my back hurts, ya know? My life is busy today, but I have a better sense of my priorities and what’s important to me.