USM's Andrew Kiezulas was honored as "Collegiate Recovery Student of the Year" on July 12 in Washington.
Kiezulas, a founder of USM's Recovery Oriented Campus Center (ROCC), was attending the national Association of Recovery in Higher Education annual conference at George Washington University and helping to hand out awards when he was surprised with the top honor.
"I had no idea," said Kiezulas. "I was crying and making weird noises."
A moment later, he made a short speech about finding inspiration in his friends and sharing his discoveries with others.
It's a lesson that serves both his recovery and his work as a student.
Kiezulas graduated in May 2017 with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry. He is currently working on his master's degree in Policy, Planning and Management at USM's Muskie School of Public Service.
"I'm talking with people who have different perspectives, opinions and backgrounds," Kiezulas said. "I am developing communication and research skills, better personal and collective awareness and emotional intelligence. All of those things from the classroom apply to the recovery work. And the recovery work, quite literally, makes me a better student. There's nothing but overlap."
The native of Carlisle, Massachusetts says he is happy to share the attention the ROCC has given him.
"I wasn't alone," he said. "We're doing some cool stuff and people are noticing."
Besides Kiezulas, several other USM people made the trek to Washington, including Diane Geyer, coordinator of clinical substance use services; Anna Gardner, the collegiate recovery program coordinator and Micaela Manganello, a work study student at the ROCC.
The ROCC opened in late 2016 on USM's Portland campus as place to build a supportive community for students in recovery from substance use and other mental health conditions.
The Association of Recovery in Higher Education represents collegiate recovery programs and their communities throughout the country.
To be recognized by the organization was a big honor, Kiezulas said.
"This is one of my life's highlights," he said.