By Jeff Todd
BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - Greg Benton is getting both a Bachelor's and Master's degree when he graduates from the University of Colorado at Boulder this weekend.
The ceremony he's most excited about is on Saturday with the other mentors he's worked with at the Collegiate Recovery Center.
"Essentially, failing out of college twice and moving across the country and getting sober at 20 years old is not necessarily an experience everyone at CU can relate to. But, you can walk into the CRC and say, 'Hey here's my story and this is where I am now.' And immediately, people understand where you're coming from at least on some level."
Benton transferred to CU after successfully getting treatment for substance abuse in Carbondale. One of the reasons he picked CU is because of the community of support from the CRC.
"I had a major problem with substances, and I wanted to stop at times, and I couldn't stop. And I didn't know how. And I didn't have a community that were also interested in living that life," Benton said. "I've been to college and kicked out. I've been to college and failed out. I've been to treatment a couple times. And what it means now, is I've been able to re-stabilize and digest what is really important to me and at CU be really successful academically."
Benton's degrees are in Applied Mathematics. He'll start his Ph.D. in Statistics at Cornell later this year. He credits his academic success to the support he's received from peers.
"The crux of the program is the community. The community of students who hang out here and become really close, and celebrate each other in a very different way," said Danny Conroy, the Director of the CUCRC.
"We have students who come to the University of Colorado, now, because we have such a strong recovery program," he said.
The CRC held 282 sessions during the 2017-2018 school year and helped around 1,500 students. The program started five years ago and now includes a sober residential hall.
"It shows if you provide the space, people feel comfortable, and they'll reach out for help," said Conroy.
On Saturday, Benton will be honored with eight other graduates for their involvement in mentoring, called CORE Members, at the CRC.
"Part of the significance is, these are the people that know me best without a doubt. They've seen a much more intimate side of the struggles I've faced; they've seen a much more intimate side of the successes I've had," Benton said. "It's not always a four-year journey. For a lot of us, this is the culmination of a lot of failures and then a pretty significant time of success. To reward that, that's really exciting."
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he's been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.
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