TC3 invests in students in recovery

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Recovery from addiction is hard enough, going through recovery while also trying to get a degree just adds that much more stress. To help students of Tompkins Cortland Community College maintain sobriety and thrive at their school, TC3 has opened a space on campus just for them.


Last Thursday TC3 and SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson celebrated the grand opening and ribbon cutting of the school’s new Recovery Space. The school is now the first community college in the state to open a dedicated space for students in recovery or impacted by addiction.


Last year, TC3 created the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) with help from a $20,000 grant from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), which will now have a home on campus in the recovery space. Here, regularly scheduled support meetings will be held and students can find refreshments sponsored by Gimme Coffee. The safe and inclusive space and lounge will be open to any member of the community during the weekdays.


“This is an evolution of everything that is just culminating when we have faculty, staff, and students who are willing to stand up, and stand out, and figure out ways to support one another to be successful at a community college,” said TC3 President, Dr. Orinthia Montague.


Chancellor Johnson started her remarks at the March 28 ribbon cutting by thanking Governor Cuomo and OASAS for the grant money used to create the CRC and the space.


Few colleges have spaces like the CRC. But as the national conversation around addiction and recovery has expanded, services for students in recovery have as well. College campuses, with the reality of college parties and all that go into them, can be tough places for those in recovery and those affected by addiction.


In Cortland and Tompkins Counties, in 2010 there were two deaths per 100,000 residents from opioid addiction, Johnson noted. By 2018 that number had quadrupled.


“This is a very important issue that we’re addressing, and I’m so proud that TC3 is taking a leadership role,” Johnson said. “I’m also proud to say that this is indicative of TC3’s commitment to student awareness of the student services that our students need to be successful, and it’s not just addiction and recovery services. It’s housing. TC3 is number three in terms of providing student housing to our community college students.”


Other aspects of this commitment by TC3 can be seen in the Panther’s Food Pantry and the child care center that is currently under construction on the TC3 campus, Johnson said.


Ashley Dickson is a Recovery Specialist on campus and a recovering addict herself who graduated from TC3 last year. The space, she said, is there for any student, like herself, who needs it.


“Being in recovery and coming back to school was terrifying,” Dickson said. “But I came to this place and found support and found community.”


The creation of the space was a community effort, she said. Buffalo Street Books donated books, Gimme Coffee donated coffee, the administration gave the help and support that Dickson and Sar Watrous, College AOD Prevention Coordinator, needed to bring it all together.


“We are happy to see TC3 tackling recovery in education,” said Tompkins County legislator Shawna Black. “In government, when you talk about substance abuse and addiction, we think about detox, treatment and harm reduction, but rarely do we think about how to accommodate those that are on the other side, in recovery.”


With the creation of the CRC space, those on the other side will find the support they need to maintain their recovery.

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