Like many other CCV students, Corey Harman’s journey to a college degree wasn’t easy, and it didn’t follow a linear path. Yet at 38 years old, Corey is proud to say that he is a college graduate working in a job he loves. “CCV was a huge part of my story and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “It took me seven years to get a two-year degree, but I did it.”

Corey graduated from South Burlington High School in 2003 and planned to take a gap year before attending college. But during that year his life took a turn and he started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Over the course of ten years Corey was in and out of jail and institutions and experienced homelessness.

His life changed when Corey simultaneously found out he was having a baby and got sentenced to six months in jail for a drug-related offense. As his young son was coming to visit him in jail, Corey experienced a turning point. “I missed a very important time in his life but that was really the time I needed to take and reflect on the life choices I had made up to that point and what kind of role model I wanted to be for my kids,” he said. “I got out in March 2018 and decided to really pursue my education and start looking for a real career.”

Corey pursued a CCV associate degree in human services and a certificate in substance abuse services when he recommitted to his education after his release. Corey always knew that he wanted to get a college education; one reason was to be the first with the Harman name to graduate from college. “It was important for me because my father was an alcoholic and not a great influence…my main motivation was to be better than my father so that hopefully I could give better to my kids and show them that education is important,” he said. Additionally, Corey was having a hard time finding a job with only his high school diploma and felt that a college degree “creates so many more opportunities and opens more doors.”

For Corey, choosing CCV was a no-brainer. “From the moment I met with my advisor we made it work for what I needed,” he said. “I didn’t entertain looking anywhere else.” CCV worked for Corey because “it was super flexible to be able to work around my schedule and what I have going on, having kids and trying to manage a job.” He was also able to utilize the resources CCV had available at the Winooski academic center. “Having the computer lab open for people to come and get their work done and seek out one-on-one support was huge,” he said. 

CCV was also instrumental in helping Corey land his current job working in pretrial services with the Burlington Community Justice Center. He started work there through an internship, and after graduation it turned into his full-time job. “The goal is to help [people] connect to treatment and case management resources that will help address their underlying issues so that they don’t continue to come back through the criminal justice system. I love it, I love my job,” Corey said.

For Corey, two factors have influenced his success: his CCV education and his lived experiences. “CCV classes helped me to understand addiction and substance use and mental health in a way I couldn’t understand before. It’s totally different experiencing something first hand and struggling, and then learning about it and understanding the psychological piece,” he said. He also acknowledges that his past experiences “give me a unique perspective to really be able to relate to the people I work with…I’ve been there, I know what they’re going through.” He added, “I know that I would not be as effective in my job if I didn’t have that experience behind me.”

Corey continues to look to the future, while also appreciating the start that CCV gave him as a nontraditional student. “I think it’s a great place for anybody to come back and get an education without fear of being judged…It’s really welcoming to everybody,” he said. Corey plans to continue his education and earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. “I got into this because I want to be a licensed drug and alcohol counselor and I still want to do that. It might take a while but that’s ok. I’m going to keep pushing towards it and one day I’ll get there.”

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