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2016 StepUP Gala

This past Saturday, over 500 students, staff, alumni, parents, and supporters gathered in Augsburg’s Si Melby Hall for the renowned StepUP Gala. We celebrated the StepUP program with an evening of inspiration, entertainment, and fellowship.


StepUP Gala 2016 at Augsburg College Saturday Oct. 29. (photo by Courtney Perry)

Barbara and Skip Gage and family were honored with the Toby Piper Labelle Award, a prestigious award given out each year to a person or family that continuously supports young people in recovery. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation received the inaugural Keystone Award for their 20 year partnership with the StepUP program. Senator Amy Klobuchar shared her experience and knowledge about the opioid epidemic in a special guest appearance.


The highlight of my night was the alumni speaker. StepUP graduate Peter H. did a great job of conveying how supportive and loving the spirit of our community is. He also showed the whole room an example of a great success story of a StepUP graduate. Peter’s story was inspirational and had many people in tears.


I also really enjoyed the alumni video about HOPE. A current student, Ricky T., did a tremendous job putting the video together. Seeing my friends and former students talk about their success stories gave me goosebumps. It is clear that StepUP has been a powerful experience for many.


If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend this year, take a moment to read some reflections on the event from staff and students:


“The Gala was absolutely beautiful. It was encouraging to see so many people there who were not a part of StepUP or even Augsburg College, but were there to show support, like Senator Amy Klobuchar. I had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go again next year.” -Bridget D.


“My Mom was able to come for the first time in 3 years. It was brilliant to see her meet my favorite professors whom I have told her so much about.” -Dan M.


Alumni and current students joined Patrice S. on stage at the Gala.“The StepUP Gala is always an incredible experience. It reminds us of the reasons why the StepUP program is essential and benefits the world. Also, hearing from an alum (Peter H.) about the everlasting support the StepUP program gives feels very reassuring when I think of my own future.” -Blake H.


“I attended the StepUP Gala for the first time this year, and as a new counselor, I can say that it was a very powerful experience for me and my husband. It was great to meet so many students’ parents and family members, as well as StepUP alumni. The most moving moment, for me, was Peter H.’s speech. It was so powerful, inspiring, and courageous. There were many tears shed around me, including my own. The event was a fun experience and it was great to see so many supporters and advocates for the StepUP program.” -Thenedra R.


Listening to the speakers on Saturday night and witnessing the incredible support there is for StepUP made the Gala a powerful experience. It is easy to forget how lucky I am to be a part of this community. Even though today might seem like just another day of classes and homework, it’s also another opportunity to further realize that recovery and college life can coexist and feed off each other in truly beautiful ways.” -Chad B.


Many people put a lot of work into making the night successful beyond expectations. Thank you to everyone who came out the night of October 29th to support the StepUP program. See you next year!


-Connie K.


Largest StepUP Gala Ever Celebrates Hope

The StepUP® Gala on October 29 was a night of celebration for the StepUP Program, with a record-capacity crowd, a special guest appearance by Senator Amy Klobuchar, and generous support for StepUP’s students and the future of the program.

This year’s Gala generated nearly $500,000 for the program in one evening – with $150,000 raised from the Fund-a-Need. Thank you to the StepUP Board, the Gala committee, and co-chairs Gina Gage and Cindy Piper, for an evening to remember, which included some notable highlights:

• 500 guests in attendance
• 100+ StepUP Program alumni and students
• Barbara and Skip Gage and family received the Toby Piper LaBelle Award
• The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation received the inaugural Keystone Award
 Alumni speaker Peter Hubbard ’10 shared his experiences connecting students with alumni

Thanks to all who attended and made the event such a success!


Seasonal Affective Disorder

          When you look outside this week, you are sure to notice the bright yellow, orange, and red leaves illuminating the trees around our beautiful city. The transition of the leaves symbolizes the transition to winter, which brings it’s own share of ups and downs. Winter means snowflakes, Christmas, skiing, ice fishing, and so much more, but for some of us, winter will bring a much different struggle. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect over 10 million Americans, and it’s said that the farther north you live, the more likely it is to affect you.¹ Considering we live in the northernmost state of the lower 48, I have a suspicion that some of you might relate when I say, I feel a little more down than usual in the winter.

          For me, my SAD brings along symptoms like lowerTwo people holding hands. energy, sadness, fatigue, low motivation, and poor appetite. For others, it can look like hypersomnia, oversleeping, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, irritability, isolation and anxiety. The cause of SAD is not known, but it might have something to do with complications caused by the lack of sunlight during the winter months.¹ Becoming aware of the possible diagnosis of SAD in myself has helped me think more in depth about what I’m going to do this winter to take care of myself. My body is already starting to feel more drained than usual, and my mood just a little more down. Luckily, as always, there is hope. It’s hard to see when depression seems consuming, but we’ve made it through winter before, and we’ll make it through again.

          I think something that will help me this winter is making sure I have events and activities to look forward to. I always look forward to Christmas. I love all the decorations and all the family time, but right after Christmas is the time when things start to get worse for me. It seems like the next thing my subconscious gets excited for is when the snow starts to melt. Instead of being miserable for those months in between, this year I’m going to challenge myself to fill that time with productive, fulfilling activities, instead of isolation and depression.

          I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, but I can brainstorm a little with you right now. As for filling my time with productive, fulfilling activities, it’s difficult because most things I like to do involve being outside, but being outside in the cold is miserable for me. I love hiking and walking on pretty trails and near waterfalls, so maybe I’ll push myself to still do that, even in the cold. I’ve loved snowboarding since freshman year, so I’m going to try to do a lot more of that this winter. I think I would enjoy going to open mics at different locations around the city, as I love music. I’m going to try to paint and draw more in my down time, instead of sleeping. I could attend more meetings, as I always leave them feeling better than I came. Spending time with people I love will help a lot, too, especially if I replace the time I spend isolating with time with my family or close friends.  

           Hands holding ripe strawberries.Maintaining physical health is very important as well. Continuing to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week will be a must; by the way, did you know that regular exercise can be as effective as depression medication?² Another essential is treating my body right by not eating processed foods and incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into my regular diet.

          There are many things you can do to help reverse the effects that lack of sunlight has on our bodies, as well. Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially in people living at higher latitudes or who get little sun exposure. Doctors recommend that taking a Vitamin D supplement could help reduce health problems that come along with living in a state with little sunlight, including SAD. Another highly recommended treatment and prevention strategy is use of a light therapy lamp or “happy lamp”. Light therapy lamps have been linked to a decrease in depression in 85% of cases.³

          It is estimated that 1 in 10 Minnesotans experience seasonal affective disorder. Remember that although you may not be able to cure it completely, there are always things you can do to reduce symptoms and improve your well-being. You can take my ideas or leave them, I just hope that something I’ve said has sparked a thought that will help you this winter. Surround yourself with people who love you, and find happiness in the little things. Thank you for reading!


-Connie K.


[¹] Seasonal Affective Disorder

[²] Prescribing Exercise to Treat Depression

[³] Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment: Choosing a Light Therapy Box


New StepUP Counselors: Meet Thenedra and Shane


Tell us a little bit about yourself.Thenedra as a kid with a bunny cake, then as an adult with the same type of cake.

My name is Thenedra Roots. I studied human services in college for two years in Austin, MN, then took three years off to travel the country. When I returned, I graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science in alcohol and drug counseling.

What are some of your passions?

I love traveling, I want to travel the world. I want to go to Africa and see the elephants. I love high end restaurants, I love hole in the wall restaurants, I love all different kinds food. My winter activity is crocheting, I’m getting excited to get some yarn and crochet this winter. Also, I love people. You could say I’m a social butterfly. Part of the reason I want to be in this field is because of the people; everyone has such an interesting life and an interesting story.

What kind of music do you like?

I truly do like all music. I could be in my car listening to The Current one minute, then classical music, then I could be jamming out to Kanye West; it just depends on my mood. Usually when I’m driving home from work I like rap music, and on the way to work I’ll listen to classical music.

Why did you choose this field?

I was born into an alcoholic and addict family. I have several family members in active use and it has greatly affected me throughout my life. So that is how I developed an interest in this field and in recovery.

What’s your favorite part of working at StepUP so far?

My favorite part has been meeting all of the students and working with students who are very motivated in their recovery. It’s been fun getting to know people. It’s really cool that when my door is open, people will just come in and talk with me. I still get amazed every time I hear someone say they’ve been sober for consecutive years. Seeing people live their lives of recovery; that’s what I love about this environment.

What are you looking forward to about working here?

I’m excited for the Gala and to see what that’s about. I’m also looking forward to  learning how every semester is different, and how my job changes as the semesters change. I’m excited to start going out and telling others about StepUP, and spreading the word about the program.

Anything Else?

I’ve appreciated everyone that’s come into my office and introduced themselves. I’ve appreciated everyone that has taken the time to get to know me, and allowed me to get to know them. It’s made this transition really easy.


Shane J. with his daughter on a snowy trail in the woods.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Shane Jensen. I’m from Vermillion, South Dakota. I went to school in Mankato, where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Then I fulfilled my internship and began working as a counselor out at  Wilderness Treatment Center in Montana.

What are some of your passions?

Anything outdoors, I absolutely love the outdoors; that’s what I’m all about. A huge part of my spirituality is being outdoors and being in nature; hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, canoeing, etc. Living in Montana, there’s obviously a lot of outdoor pursuits out there, which I miss dearly, given all the mountains, lakes, and wilderness. I enjoy anything outdoors, anything hands on, and anything that keeps me active.

What kind of music do you like?

I would say one of my favorite bands is the John Butler Trio, but I like basically any kind of music. I can usually find the positive in most kinds of music.

Why did you leave Montana?

I loved Montana, I still love it, but family takes priority now. My wife is from the Twin Cities area and having our kids closer to family is important. We have a Daughter (Edith) who is 20 months and a Son (Everett) who is 6 weeks old.

Why did you choose this field?

I was going to school for Psychology. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it at first. I did an internship, and started working with young people in very early recovery. It was awesome to watch the change happen. It was very rewarding to see what recovery has to offer young people.

What’s your favorite part of working at StepUP so far?

My favorite part has been seeing young people that are living a life of recovery, experiencing the promises, and contributing to society. It’s been really rewarding meeting young people that have years of sobriety as opposed to kids that really only have a couple months. It’s really cool to see young people in recovery giving back.

What are you looking forward to about working here?

Helping young people in recovery see more of the solution, what leads to a fulfilling life, and what leads to them feeling good about their life.  There also seems to be freedom in my position to run with whatever I am passionate about and that is really exciting.

Anything else?

I’m open to talking to and working with anyone. There’ve been a couple people that have trickled in this week who asked if I’d be open to working with them, and the answer is yes, I’m open to working with anyone. I enjoy learning through the experiences of others and hope to do some teaching through those interactions as well.

9 Things To Do This Fall

          September 22nd officially marked the first day of fall. I’ve always loved the cool air, changing leaves, and pumpkin spice lattes that come along after summer ends. Many of us know, the transition to autumn means the blistering cold and snowstorms of winter are not far behind. I took some time to make a list of things that we canTall tree with orange leaves. all do to celebrate fall and enjoy the beautiful weather before it’s too cold to be outside. Some items that made the list are traditional fall activities, but I tried to incorporate some activities in the area that maybe you’ve never heard of, to encourage new experiences. If you ever find yourself not studying for tests, reading textbooks, or writing papers, you may find yourself wanting to participate in one of the following fall festivities. Here’s nine things you should do this fall:

1. Scarecrows in the Garden. 

September 16th through October 31st, Minnesota’s Arboretum places hand-crafted scarecrows, by experts from Bachman’s and the Arboretum’s staff, throughout their fall displays. I might label it something of a “Scarecrow Art Gallery.” There are more scarecrows made by visitors and staff surrounding a pumpkin house decorated for the season. A few blocks away, there is also a sculpture garden that you could check out. The Arboretum’s website has all the information you need on the event.

2. Renaissance Festival.

The Minnesota Renaissance Festival is a long-standing tradition in Minnesota, this being it’s 46th year. The live armored jousting, 7 themed weekends, 16 stages of live entertainment, 250 artisan booths, food fit for a king, mermaids, fairies, and more, attracts an annual crowd of over 300,000. It’s open through October 2nd; which is this coming weekend.

3. Fall Leaves.

Everything green is soon going to be all different shades of red, yellow and orange. People come to Minnesota from all over the country to see the changing autumn leaves. We have tons of walking trails, state parks, and waterfall locations that are perfect for experiencing the transition of the trees. Minnehaha Falls would be my go-to spot, living in Minneapolis and all, but some other places in the area I would recommend are Shadow Falls Park, Witch’s Hat Tower, and a trail in Minneapolis called “Quaking Bog.” Also, here are some places to check out that are a little farther drive; Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Taylors Falls, and Willow River Falls.

4. Bake.

It’s the season of apple pies,  banana bread,  caramel apples, and pumpkin everything! Pumpkin pie, cookies, bread, lattes… You could bake with your family, bake alone and share with your friends, bake with your friends and share with the beautiful people that work in the StepUP office, etc., etc.

5. Apple Orchard.IPhone taking a picture of fall leaves.

Fall is apple season, and there is no better apple than an apple fresh from the orchard. In my experience, apples from the orchard are bigger and tastier, and there is a huge selection of apples you may have never even heard of. I grew up in Lindstrom, and one I always went to was the Pleasant Valley Orchard. A Minneapolis website put together a list of apple orchards near Minneapolis.

6. Pumpkin patch.

Pumpkins are the mascot of fall, and going to a pumpkin patch is a tradition you don’t want to miss. Picking out your pumpkin, decorating it, carving it; it’s all a part of the spirit of autumn. There’s also a matching list the pumpkin patches near Minneapolis.

7. Football.

We do have that new U.S. Bank Stadium you could go catch a Vikings game at. Although, I heard tickets are super expensive so it might be cheaper to order food and watch the game at home. Also, Augsburg’s football season runs through November. You could attend a game to show school spirit and watch some football. The Auggie’s football schedule and stats can be viewed on the Augsburg Athletic’s website.

8. Stock up on sweaters.

It’s time to put the bro tanks and crop tops away; it’s sweater season. Sweaters are quite literally the perfect outdoor fall attire, while simultaneously being the perfect indoor winter attire. You could go pay full price for a nice sweater, or you could do what I do and go thrifting. For some reason, thrift shops always have the biggest, comfiest sweaters. Don’t wait too long to update your fall wardrobe, all the good ones might be gone!

Close up on several pumpkins.9. Haunted House.

It is a little early for Halloween, but it’s never too early to pay for people to scare you. Minnesota has tons of attractions that do just that. The Soap Factory’s haunted basement starts September 30th and runs through Halloween night. It’s in downtown Minneapolis and I’ve heard it’s the best haunted attraction in Minnesota. Some others include Valleyscare, Pine Haven’s Haunted Hayride, Trail of Terror, and Fright Farm.


-Connie K.


September is National Recovery Month!

          It’s Recovery Month! As defined by SAMHSA, “National Recovery Month (Recovery Month) is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life.”

Caleb K. speaking at National Recovery Month's spirituality breakfast. Photo by Ricky T.
Caleb K. speaking at National Recovery Month’s spirituality breakfast. Photo by Ricky T.

          This week, I reached out to students in the StepUP community to uncover different perspectives of what recovery means to different people. We have a lot of amazing students in our community with amazing stories, and it was a good opportunity to learn more about some of my classmates. Here is what the community had to say:

          “Recovery, to me, is an essential part of my life; I strongly believe I would be dead without it. Recovery means becoming close with fellows and becoming a part of a family you will never forget. Recovery most of the time looks like love, serenity, and freedom. Although I do have my bad days, I would never trade what I have today for anything.” -Emma S.

          “Recovery, to me, is being able to participate and be a role model in society. It means living a spiritual life and adhering to my buddhist vows. It’s also not relying on any external sources for my happiness; like people, drugs, or grades.”-Kaleb N.

          “The healing gift of hugging my grandparents without feeling like a fraud; the quiet joy of sharing a genuine smile with a passing stranger; this deep stillness in an ever-turbulent world– how could I truly say what recovery has done for me?” -Chad B.

          “Recovery to me is not just being sober. It is bettering myself and improving my self awareness. I also see recovery as being a part of a bigger picture in life, and I need to be of service to that larger picture as best I can. Under the watch of my Higher Power I need to be helpful, insightful, loving, and understanding to and of all other things in my life, so I can live life happy and on life’s terms.” -Matt K.

No one should have to choose between recovery and a college education.
Patrice S.’s (Program Director) quote about recovery.

          “When I first got sober, I liked to think of recovery in the most literally sense of the word.  I am living in a such a way where I am recovering from this disease of alcoholism that I have.  Recovery isn’t about just stopping the use of drugs and/or alcohol.  I realized very quickly after I got sober that even when I am not drinking, I am still a very sick individual. Until, that is, I applied the principles of AA into my life.  The biggest thing recovery has done for me is giving me a completely different perspective and outlook on life.  Before I got sober, my life was very black and white, I always had an excuse for everything, and it was always someone else’s fault.  I never took responsibility for anything in my life.  If something bad happened it was quite literally the end of the world.  Today, I have the ability to be less reactionary to the things that life throws at me. I have the ability to take a step back, assess, and make rational judgments and then actions for what I am experiencing in that moment. Recovery has also given me the ability to show up in life.  As a daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, student, employee, etc.,  I no longer feel the need to hide from life, but enjoy being a functional member of society.  I have been sober for almost five years, and my recovery is definitely not perfect and has ebbed and flowed.  When I am working a program, it is going to meetings, working with my sponsor, being of service, and showing up in other aspects of my life that don’t fall into the category of recovery.” -Elle A.  

          “Recovery, to me, is getting a second chance at life. I feel like a child trying to figure out who I am; what I enjoy and what I don’t. Recovery is trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone, failing and learning from my mistakes. It’s about bettering my mind, body, and soul. Recovery is about safety, it’s about love, it’s about giving back to what was so freely given to me. Recovery to me is living each and every day with grace and dignity. It’s about leaving this world a better place.” -Kate E.

“What recovery is to me is so much more than just solving a substance abuse problem.  It’s solving a living problem.  Being in recovery has given me the opportunity to evolve into the person I always wanted to be.  It has allowed me to express gratitude for everything my loved ones have done for me, and I’m blessed to be able to reciprocate that and show up in their lives when called upon.  Most of all, recovery has allowed me to be a son, a brother, an uncle, and a friend again.” -John M.

          “My addiction crippled my life. Everything that I knew was revolved around using. I lost myself. Recovery has helped me find myself. I took my greatest weakness and made it my greatest strength. Recovering has taught me that I am so much more than an addict and that if I can recover from drugs, that I can do anything. I am currently a Junior at Augsburg College, studying clinical psychology. I want to spend the rest of my life helping people who are suffering like I did. I have learned that I am never alone. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the people I have met in recovery. They have helped me save my own life. Recovery has given me purpose and a reason to live, and for that, I am forever grateful.” -Neil K.

          “When people ask me if I am in recovery, of course, I answer the question without hesitation and with confidence. However, it is not that black and white for me. Answering that question with a simple ‘yes’ does not rightly and accurately describe what that means to me. When I hear the word ‘recovery,’ it tickles something deep down inside of me in which I am passionate about, and words will never meticulously depict the magnitude of how imperative it is my daily life.

          Recovery is not just abstaining from drugs and alcohol, I would call that surviving. Personally, I strive to thrive in my recovery, which is so much more than just abstaining, and in my opinion I thrive in recovery every single day. Recovery touches every aspect to my life. However, it does not define me. Being in recovery allows me to be the best version of myself, and that is what I expect.

          Since making the most vital, life-changing decision I have ever made at 18 years of age, my life is nothing that I thought it would be. In fact, it is indescribable. Firstly, I have the freedom to be me. Secondly, I am able to be the absolute best son, friend, brother, cousin, role model, and student I am able to be.

          Because I am sober and in recovery, I have found hobbies and activities in my life that I would not have found if I was still using. For example, I have fallen in love with yoga. Yoga allows me to calm my mind and truly be in consciousness, and be not only physically present for my life, but also mentally and spiritually present. Also, I enjoy physical fitness, such as working out, running, obstacle races. Physical fitness pushes me to places that I hav
e never gone before mentally. The mind is incredible, but is like a muscle and it takes practice and practice mastering it.

          Recovery fills me with love, truth, kindness, affection, and some more love.” -Jordan L.

Sara M. sharing her experience with spirituality at the spirituality breakfast. Photo by Ricky T.
Sara M. sharing her experience with spirituality at the spirituality breakfast. Photo by Ricky T.

          “One night when I was a little girl, long before my addiction and depression took over, I remember praying that one day I could have a close relationship with God. I prayed that I wouldn’t go my whole life putting off having a relationship with my higher power. As a 20-year-old college student in recovery, I reflect on that night often. I was probably in elementary school when I made that prayer; it was the purest, most genuine thought I could have had at the time. I sometimes feel like my whole life after that was God answering that prayer. If I didn’t go through the terrible times my use and depression caused me, I wouldn’t feel the overwhelming gratitude for the little things today. I never would have been in recovery, which ultimately led me to a relationship with God that I could never be more grateful for. I would be completely lost in this world without recovery. It has taught me how to live, it has taught me how to love people, and it has taught me how to love myself.” -Connie K.

          “Recovery means being better than I was.” -Caleb K.


-Connie K.


Student Spotlight: Hilda A.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Hilda A. I’m 32 and I was born in Iceland. I lived in Wisconsin for 7 years, then moved back to Iceland when I was 12. I spent a year in Mexico; that’s where I want to move in the future. My major is Spanish and my minor is Medieval Studies; I’m not really sure what I want to do with that degree yet, I’m just taking classes I like and seeing what happens.

It's important to me to live somewhere where I feel like I belong.Do you have any plans for after graduation?

Not yet, but I have an idea of where in the world I want to live. Mexico is my first choice, and Italy is my second choice. It’s important to me to live somewhere where I feel like I belong. In Mexico, I really felt like I belonged, even though it didn’t look like it. I fell in love with Mexico when I was there. I love the culture. I also love Italy; it’s my favorite vacation spot. I’ve been there a couple times.

What do you like so much about the culture?

They’re the opposite of Icelanders in a lot of ways. I just never fit in in Iceland. They’re all laid back. I’m not very punctual, and they’re all laid back with time and stuff. Their food is freakin’ great. They’re big on family, they’re very passionate. When I was in Mexico, it was just very easy for me to love life and love the little moments; it’s hard to describe. I felt like it was a lot easier for me to be myself when I went there. Before this I completely had no social life, hated myself, no self esteem; but in Mexico it was just so much easier to be the way I wanted to be. I feel like they’re a lot more accepting

What brought you to Augsburg?

 StepUP. I’d never heard of Augsburg or StepUP until I came to Minnesota for treatment, and ended up going to Fellowship Club. They told me about StepUP, and I came in for a tour. Originally my goal was to stay in the area. I realized I could do that if I got a student visa, and that meant I had to go to school. When I came to Minnesota, I had no idea what I was going to do. All I knew was I was going to treatment, but after that I had no idea. I never really made plans for the future, because I didn’t think I would have one. Choosing Augsburg was a way to stay in Minnesota and also get a college degree, while having a supportive recovery community – it was a future.

What is your passion?

I have a lot of hobbies, but family and friends are the most important thing to me; and my dog. I’m obsessed with my dog. I like animals in general, though, too. I’m a ball freak; basketball, soccer, snowboarding, pretty much any sport that involves a ball. I was a total tomboy growing up. I also love reading and traveling.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Going to Mexico was a really big deal for me because I was so socially phobic. Going to another country by myself, for a year, not knowing anyone, not knowing the language; that was completely out of character for me. It was one of the best things I’ve done, besides going to treatment and getting sober. I try to challenge myself everyday to do something that is kind of scary; it’s been the only way to improve my social phobia. You would not have recognized me 15 years ago; now I just talk and talk! I still get anxious, but for the most part it doesn’t stop me from functioning like it did before. I did not have a life, I couldn’t do what I needed to do. I’m proud of the little things I’ve done, like going back to school even though it was difficult, or rapping at an Indian engagement party; I still can’t believe I did that! Also, I was in the school spelling bee, which was very out of character for me. I’m proud that I do things even when they scare me, because otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

Why do you stay in StepUP?

In order to be in Minnesota, I have to go to school, because I need a student visa. And in order to be in school, I need to be in StepUP. It’s not a choice; I have to be in StepUP or I can’t be here. It’s all connected. I don’t think I’d be able to get through school if I didn’t have StepUP; I’ve spent 10 years in and out of school trying over and over again and it just doesn’t work when I’m drinking. I need to be sober, otherwise I would probably be dead now. The community I have here help keeps me sober. Minnesota has such a strong, supportive sober community; whether you do AA or not. Being away from Iceland helps a lot, but also I’ve never been intoxicated in Minnesota, which helps, too. This is the only place I can imagine being right now. I would love to live in Mexico, but if I lived there right now, I don’t think I would do well.Everyone here has positively influenced me in some way.

Has anyone in StepUP positively influenced you?

Yes, a lot of people, and the community as a whole. You can’t necessarily be best friends with everyone but I care about each person here, and everyone has positively influenced me in some way.  My roommates especially, Collins and Sarah; they help me a lot.

What advice would you give an incoming student?

Talk to a variety of different people, don’t just get caught in a clique. Try to get to know everyone. Be open to new people and new things. Ask for support when you need it; don’t keep it to yourself. I’ve gotten so much support here. The one time I kept everything to myself and didn’t ask for help, I ended up relapsing. Participate as much as you can. Embrace the community and use it for support.

Would you like to add anything else?

StepUP literally gave me a second chance at life. If I had gone back to Iceland after treatment, I would be drinking again. If I hadn’t had something to get up in the morning for, I might be drinking again, too. I’m really grateful StepUP accepted me, even though I’m older than most students. StepUP isn’t perfect, but nothings perfect. I’m just really,really grateful for StepUP, Augsburg and everyone here. Most importantly, I’m grateful for having a second chance at life. It’s corny, but I’m just really, really grateful to be here.


Thanks, Hilda!

4 Valuable Things I’ve Learned This Summer

          This has truly been a summer of growth for me. I can’t pinpoint exactly what has been different, as many things have changed. This is my first summer with a job (two jobs even), my first summer actively working with a sponsor, and the first summer I’ve made the decisions and effort to want to grow. Last summer I was sober and in recovery, I was just living out of state with my sponsor still living here in Minnesota, and I was still stuck in a deep depression. With this summer looking up for me a little bit, I decided to take advantage of my heightened energy and more optimistic outlook on life.

Here’s four things I’ve learned this summer on my quest for personal growth:

A bed with white blankets under a large window.The importance of not sleeping too much (or too little).

This is a big reason I’m grateful I got hired for the student position in the StepUP office. Upon hire, I agreed to come to work every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 9am. In my years of college, I had been accustomed to going to bed late and waking up even later. I would oversleep almost everyday, and spend the rest of the day feeling fatigued, probably due to oversleeping. It was a very bad cycle to be caught in. Here’s a cool article that supports my thought that constantly oversleeping is not a good thing. But as I realized how much I enjoyed coming to work, waking up at 9am got easier and easier. It also made me get tired earlier, which means every night I’ve been getting about 8 hours of sleep.

The simple task of changing my sleep pattern has changed a lot for me. I no longer feel drained throughout every day, I have tons of motivation to do things I love, and it has lifted my mood drastically. The point I’d want to stress is my increased motivation to be productive and do the things I love. I am extremely grateful for this change in my perspective, which I directly associate with not oversleeping all the time. I’ve also learned, though, the importance of getting enough sleep. I have had nights where I stay up really late and go to work early, on only a few hours of sleep. Those days I spent intellectually foggy, overly irritable, and mostly out of it. Learning to get the right amount of sleep has truly been life changing for me. I know to some it may seem like a simple thing, but anyone who has struggled with depression knows how hard it can be.


Four girls laughing in a green house.The importance of human connection and perspectives on personal growth and happiness.

What I mean by this is, I realized the importance of meeting new people, spending time with an array of different people, and having genuine conversations. We spend so much of the day having quick, surface level conversations, with people we don’t know very well. To me, there is great value inhaving a genuine conversation. On days I have a genuine conversation, I noticeably feel more happy. Seriously getting to know someone, I believe, is one of the most important things you can do in life. Learning about their interests, thoughts, and perspectives, can give you new perspective on your own life. In your mind, all you know is your own story, experiences, and thoughts. But you can open that gate and learn from what’s going on in other people’s minds. Along with this, it has been important that I spend time with an array of people.

I get hesitant to make plans with people I don’t really know, or old friends, because I get anxious when I don’t feel 100% comfortable with a person. I’ve pushed myself this summer, though to hangout with old friends and make plans with new people; even family that I don’t spend much time with. I’ve learned a lot from every person I’ve spent time with this summer. It’s hard and scary for me at first, but in the end it is always a good experience. Every person is unique and has something different to offer. It genuinely makes me happy to learn more about people; it could be a personal thing, but I think that everyone can benefit from getting out of their shell. I also believe that my higher power has a way of working through people, and the more people I’ve interacted with, the more opportunities I’ve had to experience God.


A human heart pained on the side of a building.What self-care looks like and how to maintain a balanced approach.

I don’t think anyone has ever told me what self care looks like; not that it has ever been anyone’s responsibility. In the past, I have looked at in a physical way: Self-care is exercising, eating well, and sleeping enough. Then when I would do those things, I would get frustrated when things wouldn’t start to get better. But just recently I read a super insightful article, thanks to Kristin, which explained clearly that self-care is more than physical aspects. It involves spiritual,emotional, physical, intellectual, and relationship needs. After reading, I wrote a list for what MY self-care looks like in each category, because everyone is different.

Overall, it involved things like praying consistently, attending regular AA meetings, spending time alone, spending time with family, exercising regularly, setting boundaries, having a regular job, helping others, etc. Writing it out helped me a lot, because when it was floating around my head it seemed like a bigger task than it actually was. Plus, sometimes I feel “too busy” to be taking care of myself, when in reality I’m really not. Also, having an addictive personality, it has been hard for me to live a life of balance. I either do too much of something (i.e. exercising), or too little. So it’s been important for me to work on my self-care in a balanced way. It’s only been a few weeks, but it’s already started to make me feel a lot better.


Hands making a heart surrounding the sun.There really is so much to be grateful for.

When life starts to get hard and I start to feel down, it gets very hard for me to find things to be grateful for. I have started doing daily gratitude lists with a friend. At first, it was hard for me. As I continued daily with this, it got easier. I started to realize there was an equal amount of bad and good in every situation, and I’ve begun to be grateful for the good. Seeing my friend’s list every morning has gotten me closer to her, but also helped me realize more things that I should be grateful for. It’s important for me to recognize what I’m grateful for because when I’m grateful, I’m happy. And when I’m happy, I can help people more, and I can spread my happiness to others, which ultimately is my goal.


I hope that in some way, my experiences this summer have helped you, as yours have helped me. Thanks for reading!


Meet the Artists of StepUP

While brainstorming an idea for a blog post, the thought of art continued coming up. I wasn’t sure how to incorporate it into a blog post that the whole community would enjoy, though. Then I realized how many talented artists there are in the StepUP community and I thought making a post briefly showcasing everyone’s art would be a really cool way to get to know everyone a little better. I told everyone interested to send me 3 pictures of their work and a brief artist statement or paragraph about what art means to them. So, here it goes. Meet the artists of StepUP!


“I am so grateful for the ability to embrace creativity and produce art.  Art allows me to wind down after a long day, process my thoughts and emotions, and challenges me to discover my boundaries and limits.  Art has taught me lessons of patience, acceptance, and gratitude.  I hope to learn much more about myself and others through art in the future.” -Lindsay E.

Gold head and orange autumn leaves sculpture.    Lindsay welding pieces of a metal flower.    Lindsay holding up a welded metal flower.    Drawing of a skull with five red roses on top.



“My name is Ricky. I am a junior at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN studying film, graphic design and photography. Over the years, and project to project, I am finding my approach change. As a photographer, I am a silent observer; snapping shots of tiny moments happening around me. As a designer, I resort to 90s era street art, old wood block prints and flashy colors with big letters to draw the viewer in. As a filmmaker, I want to pull my audience in with gripping stories and moments sublime.

Not only do I study these three areas, but I have some training as a drawer, painter, printmaker, different positions in front of and behind the camera and as a student of art history.” -Ricky T.

Ricky has a website with all of his work.

Photograph of a rubber duck with a dinosaur arm coming out of it's right side.Black and White photo of a girl.Photo collage of Ricky with a caption: "Dream Big Kid".


“I am a musician living in St. Paul. Music seems to be the thing that holds me together. My drinking had destroyed me as a person and my creating of music. I thought it was over when I got sober because my addiction was so intertwined in music, but my music just blossomed when I followed the 12 steps accordingly and used patience instead of attacking my dreams with addict-like drive. I even wrote a song about it called “Loop.”” -Isaac H. (Alumni)

Isaac also has a website with all of his music. 

Isaac singing into a microphone.


“During my time at Augsburg College I have reignited a passion for creating artwork. This has allowed me to investigate personal and interpersonal issues. Amongst other mediums, photography has become my primary source for exploring personal issues through artistic expression. The three photos showcased are excerpts from a larger body of work, STILL, that centered around the emotional struggle that ensues at the height of mental illness episodes. Through documenting and creating visual narratives from past and present struggles, my goal as an artist is to process personal issues while fostering dialogue with my audience. I am currently working on a body of work centered on femininity, innocence, and family lineage as it pertains to becoming and being a woman.” -Audrey C.

   Black and white photo of a person tangled in sheets on a bed.        Black and white photo of a person laying in sheets on a bed.        Black and white photo of a girl laying in a bed.


“An important part of my road of recovery, self love, and finding a purpose in this world was, and continues to be, finding things that make my heart happy. I’ve always enjoyed art and creating things, but during my use and my depression, I lost the desire to do anything I loved. This year, I’ve opened up my heart again to my love for art. Creating art is one of the few things that comes very natural to me, and makes my whole body feel comforted when I’m doing it. I get lost when I’m in the midst of a painting. I really appreciate learning about other artist’s and understanding every individual’s unique style. Pursuing creativity has been one of the best things I could have done for myself.” -Connie K.

A painting of a yellow face.  A painting of a man with an afro.  Painting of a girl crying with flowers.     


“My name is David Baboila and I am a photographer born in, and based out of the Twin Cities of Minnesota. All of my photography is on medium format film. It’s shot, developed, and printed by me in a darkroom in Minneapolis. I am extremely passionate about photography, not in a commercial sense but in how it can move people and can evoke a great diversity of emotions, from whimsical and humorous to lonely and scared.

All of my photographs focus  on an aesthetic of the void or vacancy in everyday life in Minnesota and largely the greater Twin Cities metro area. To me photography is a fine art based in concepts.  Currently I am extremely interested in the vacancy of landscapes and buildings as it relates to more rural or suburban areas as well as the death of industry as it was in the 20th century. The area of this I focus on is vacancy in places that used to be occupied but are now idle and disengaged. On a very surface level I personally am inspired with the history of these places and the past occupancy of them and really enjoy presenting them after this period of time. It reminds me of death and the way we sit idle after passing. The stark transitions these places have made create dialogue not only from my personal life to the viewer but also draw on one’s own experience and with this subject matter. My work is very personal but I hope to present in a broader sense what happens societally when we consume and do so too much. It is a sad yet humorous challenge to the way we have been known to operate as Americans.” -David B.

Black and white photo of a brick house.  Black and white photo of a taken apart car.  Black and white photo of an old car wash.


Student Spotlight: Owen H.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Owen Harrison. I’m from New Hope, Minnesota. I’m 19. I’m double majoring in Social Psychology and Studio Art.

What is your intended career path with your double major?

I would do one of two things. After Augsburg, I would either go to grad school and eventually end up in art therapy, or I would go into advertising. I don’t think there’s many colleges that offer grad school for art therapy in Minnesota, so I would probably go out of state. NYU would be my first choice. If I decide on advertising, I don’t really have a plan for that yet.

How do you think you will decide on art therapy or advertising? Do you think it is something you will figure out along the way?

Yeah, probably. Part of it is that in advertising, you make a lot of money, and art therapy has a significantly lower salary. It will eventually come down to how much the money means to me. And as for I really like art. I love taking art classes. I really like doing hands on things.advertising, I don’t know how long I would survive in an office setting. Before graduation, though, I’m going to attempt to hold two internships. One in art therapy and one in advertising, to give me a taste of what that might look like.

What is your passion?

A lot of things. I really like art. I love taking art classes. I think that was kind of the idea behind art therapy or advertising; there’s a lot of art involved. I really like doing hands on things. I work for grounds crew, so getting to go out and mow or landscape; I really enjoy that. I like to be outside. Also, just spending time with people. I like hanging out with my friends. I love to go out with them over the summer; like barbeques, games, whatever.

What brought you to Augsburg?

StepUP. I had a number of friends here beforehand. I had applied to both Augsburg and the U of M. I had already done a year and a half of PSEO at the U of M, so I was questioning whether or not I wanted to continue at a larger institution or go to something smaller. Augsburg offered me the smaller class sizes that the U of M just couldn’t. The more individual attention was a bonus, but StepUP was the icing on the cake. My parents loved it, too. Along with that, all the people I knew that were already current students seemed to really enjoy it, so I thought it was worth a shot.

What was your experience like in college, before StepUP? Were you sober when you were doing PSEO?

I wasn’t sober the first semester I started PSEO. I was living at my parents house, commuting everyday. That first semester, I was barely going to my classes, my grades went down pretty quickly, and I ended up taking a medical withdrawal. The next fall I started back there again, sober this time. My experience with college before Augsburg was very isolating. There was anywhere from 60 to 600 kids in a class. Professors don’t know your name, they don’t take attendance, and you don’t really have to show up. It was super easy to sit in the back and skate by, because no one really cared. But here, it’s not that easy, because there’s 20 kids in a class. Everyone knows each other, the professor knows your name, and that helps me show up. It helps me keep a higher GPA.

What accomplI know that what I have now is so much more compared to the nothingness I had when I was still using.ishment are you most proud of?

My sobriety. I was 16 when I got sober, so I didn’t know how long it was going to last. I didn’t know what I was trying to do, but I knew that if I kept using, I was going to die. I didn’t know if I wanted to live or not. Then, I starting doing just enough to feel better. I started working a program, and I started to feel a little better. I didn’t know what the rest of my life was going to look like, but getting sober and working a program started to show me that there was another way. Now I’ve been sober for two and a half years, and I have so much more now than I’ve ever had. Even on my worst days, I know that what I have now is so much more compared to the nothingness I had when I was still using. I now (most of the time) live my life with a sense of ease , and I don’t have that when I’m using. I’m proud of who I am today, especially compared to who I was then.

Has anyone in StepUP positively influenced you?  

Coming in, it was Blake. He was involved in everything, and he was my StepUP mentor. I knew a lot of people up in the flats, and a couple people downstairs, but helped me connect with the rest of the building so I didn’t feel like I only knew people on the fourth floor.

Why do you stay in StepUP?       

It’s my safe place. I don’t have to worry about coming home to drunk roommates. I know that whatever happens during the day, at the end of the day, I have somewhere safe to go with people that care about me no matter what. I have a lot of really good friends here. It’s the people keep me here.

What advice would you give an incoming student?

Get involved outside of the StepUP community as well. You hear it a lot, but it’s really easy to get stuck in the StepUP bubble. There’s a lot of other people on this campus that have a lot more to offer. I got an on-campus job, where I get to interact with normies, outside of classes, and those are some of my bestMore than anything, it's the people that keep me here. friends today. For me, I have to learn to interact with people who are not addicts and alcoholics because I know I don’t get to survive in the StepUP bubble forever. So getting to learn how reach out, while still having StepUP, has worked really well for me. So, try it out and learn while you have back up, essentially.

Anything else?

You know when you asked why I’m still here? Sometimes I question that, because Augsburg is expensive and the U of M is significantly cheaper. But at the end of the day, I realize, I wouldn’t trade my experiences here for anything. I have friends here I never would have met at the U. There’s a comfort that comes from living here. I always have someone to talk to. If for some reason or another things start to get rough; there’s always someone. And more than anything, it’s the people that keep me here; and I think that’s important to know and to recognize.