Kevin Champagne never dreamed he would be a college student. Originally from Baltic, he graduated from Windham Tech in 1981 having completed the electrical course program. He spent eight years at Electric Boat, lived in Atlanta, and worked in construction, all the while battling the demons within – addiction, depression, the inability to hold a job. He ended up homeless.
But something inside told him he could get out of the endless cycle his life had become. He was fortunate to find support from local physicians and therapists as he started his road to recovery. He applied for disability benefits and then found a counselor who recommended he consider going back to school.
“I felt like I finally had someone on my side, who really listened to me,” said Kevin. “I was not comfortable with what I was doing with my life. I did not want to live on disability indefinitely. After 17 years in recovery, I wanted to make a better life for myself.”
However, the idea of going to college at his age—more than 36 years after finishing high school—was daunting. “I always hated school,” he said. “How would I fit in? My preconceived notions about college education kept me away. I didn’t think it was possible for someone like me.”
But in late August last year, Kevin walked in the door of Quinebaug Valley Community College, submitted an application, applied for financial aid, and completed placement testing—all within one week. Several days later he was sitting nervously in a classroom..
Much to Kevin’s surprise, he discovered that it was possible for him to attend college and succeed. Starting with two courses in the fall semester, one of which was “the first English class I ever enjoyed,” he gradually assimilated himself into the college culture. “I love the diversity of the student body,” he explains.
Kevin credits his professors, the library staff, and the Student Success Center for providing the help he needed to navigate his first year as a college student. Now in his second semester, he feels “connected” to QVCC and has an extended family of students and staff who provide “a lot of backing and support.”
“Now I know it is possible for someone like me to attend college,” says Kevin, adding, “it makes you feel good inside.” His next goal is to make the dean’s list—in his words, “a big deal.” While he is thinking of transferring into the drug and alcohol recovery counselor program at Manchester Community College, he now realizes that success in colleges means he can do anything he wants.
“When life throws you a curve ball, you learn to hit a curve ball,” he laughs, adding, “so that’s what I’m doing.”