By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - Almost 400 Columbus Tech students will walk across this stage at Thursday's graduation.
But for 51-year-old Cynthia Jenkins, those few steps are nothing compared to the journey she took to get here.
"There were things in my past that contributed to me feeling insecure, doubtful and in great pain and lead to substance abuse," Jenkins says.
Jenkins, who served in the Marine Corps from 1981-1985, says she struggled with drug abuse for two decades. But that all came to an end one day in 2009.
"Eventually God reached out to me and let me know he was still there. I felt this desire to get out of the rut," Jenkins says.
Jenkins started with in-house drug treatment in Tuskegee, Alabama. When she returned to Columbus she was able to get a job and began staying at Open Door.
"I was beginning to feel like Cynthia again," Jenkins says.
Jenkins decided the next step was education and enrolled at Columbus Tech. Her journey began there at the CARE Center almost three years ago.
"When she first came in she was larger than life in stress that was larger than life. She was scared and nervous," CARE Center Coordinator Meg Burkhardt says.
The CARE Center helps students overcome various hurdles. For Jenkins, who hadn't been in school for 30 years, that hurdle was technology.
"Classes in large part are delivered through the computer," Burkhardt says.
"They got me focused because I was scared as such an older mature person. Everyone I looked at seemed like children," Jenkins says.
Jenkins' educational journey was also a physical journey, taking multiple buses to and from class each day. "I never felt despair about that because I felt like I was paying my penance getting back to society," she says.
Thursday, all of the bus rides, studying and hard work will pay off. Jenkins will receive technological certificates in health sciences and central supply.
"I wanted to go into the medical field. I wanted to use my 12th step to give back to the community," Jenkins says.
"What Cynthia is a living example of is perseverance. And what she has done is remarkable. She is remarkable and she glows," Burkhardt says.
Jenkins says she is almost positive she will be offered a permanent job at Columbus Regional. She has also moved out of Open Door into her very own apartment.
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