Catholic Charities West Virginia

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Back to School: A ‘Second Chance’

Like many students, Jamie Williams goes back to school this month. Through perseverance and hard work, Jamie is enrolling in college for the first time, at age 30, as she recovers from addiction.

“I thought I was so dumb,” said Jamie. “Then someone came along to encourage me.” That someone was Michelle Montz, Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa) Adult Education Instructor.

Michelle Montz, CCWVa Adult Education Instructor (left), and Jamie Williams, CCWVa adult learner (right), discuss Jamie’s educational goals.

“It’s impressive how Jamie is always able to overcome any obstacle thrown her way,” said Michelle. “She is diligent in her endeavors and maintains a positive attitude in all she does.”

Jamie was introduced to drugs by her mother at the age of 13 and has struggled with Substance Use Disorder since that time.

In December of 2020, Jamie lost her husband to an overdose. Three months later, her mother overdosed, and sadly did not survive. Jamie said that was her ‘wake-up call’ to get sober.

“Seeing my kids at their dad’s funeral – that’s not fair to my kids,” said Jamie. “So I’m not going to cause any more hurt.”

Jamie entered the Sound Mind sober living program and enrolled in classes as part of her recovery. She said in the beginning, she did not understand the purpose of education in recovery.

Jamie Williams says CCWVa’s adult education courses have provided a ‘second chance’ for her.

“Why are y’all trying to teach us school; we’re trying to get off drugs,” Jamie joked. “Now I see; if you want a better life, you have to learn.”

CCWVa’s Adult Learning program provides free classes to any adult who wants to work toward a high school equivalency, earn a certification for work, or gain skills to pursue a new career or higher education. The program is offered in Mullens, Huntington, and McDowell County.

Research shows not only does adult education have a positive impact on learners’ employability and income; it also helps individuals acquire a renewed sense of self as well as an improved quality of life.

Education helps you excel in life, not just in your recovery. – Jamie Williams

“Up until recently, I always thought my life was destined to be terrible,” said Jamie. “But now I have a purpose. Education helps you excel in life, not just in your recovery,” said Jamie.

At CCWVa, all program staff are trained in Adverse Childhood Experiences and trauna-informed care techniques to provide the highest quality care possible to vulnerable West Virginians.

Jamie Williams recently began a job as a construction flagger on her path to recovery.

Jamie is hopeful for her future and glad to break the cycle of addiction for her children. While she no longer has custody of her children, she says she is more present in their lives than she has ever been.

“I had kids and I raised them all the wrong way; so God stepped in and put them in a good home and shown me what real family is supposed to be,” said Jamie. “I get to see that and be a part of it – not many people get that when they lose their rights. It’s really a blessing. And my kids will have a better life.”

Jamie said she advances her education every day. She has earned multiple certifications through the CCWVa Adult Learning program.

“The hustle of going out and finding dope daily is stressful; it’s overwhelming,” she said. “So why not stress yourself out with knowledge and hard work. I’d rather struggle in a positive way than in a negative way.”

Jamie recently began working as a construction flagger, and she plans to pursue a career in psychology after college.

“My passion now is to help others,” said Jamie.

Donate to Help Others Like Jamie

By Katie Hinerman Klug, CCWVa Marketing Communications Specialist