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Returning Student Addresses Prioritizing Self in Academic Journey

 

Pictured on January 5, 2022, Kevin Fuller has begun using Clark’s resources to help him return to college in order to create a better lifestyle for his child and his service dog. (Mary Guevara /The Indy)

 

Content Warning: substance abuse, addiction, and violence.

Being a student during the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge in itself. Pairing it with battling homelessness and sobriety all at the same time is no easy feat. 

Kevin Quinn Fuller earned his GED here at Clark in 2012. He took his first break from his studies due to some personal issues and partially because he believed he couldn’t navigate through life and was unaware of all the resources that were offered. Now, at age 39, surpassing homelessness with help from his emotional support dog and his son, he’s found solid ground and began again. 

 

The Indy: What resources did you not know existed when you began at Clark? 

Kevin Fuller: A lot, and I’m still learning some that I didn’t know before. 

Would you mind telling me a bit about why you decided to take a break from your studies?

I was in this situation. When I first met you [in January], I was just recently out of a tent and into my car. Since I met you, I went from my car into a group living establishment, where 90% of the people there were aggressively on drugs. I had to sustain living there until I got into my apartment, and the workload mentally between everything, something had to go. And so I chose to have to redo my studies and sacrifice three months to get myself and my son into a better mentally capable establishment.

 

Are there any resources that you used during that time, at Clark, or when you had to make that transition, and before you made that transition?

I have been using the Penguin Pantry and [Workforce Education Services] office. I have been talking to a few different advisors, I can’t remember their departments right off the top of my head to try and help work with this housing transition, which was a big part of it honestly. 

I just couldn’t hold out mentally. In that environment, you have two choices to make, you can survive, or you can go to jail. Okay? That environment is so conducive to most people failing, that when consulting with my counselor, we decided that we had to drop the mental workload until this new housing that was just established yesterday, came available. 

In the amount of time that I was in that Share House and I was in that Share House for less than 30 days, I was the quickest person to enter and exit with a positive outcome. It is a place to try and help people who are homeless get onto the next level. But it is also a big breeding ground for a lot of other things. So like for myself, and again, you know, it was like, I had to make a choice I didn’t want to make, but I am working next week to ensure that I will be there for spring term. 

 

Is there any advice or things that you’d like to say to returning or continuing students if they have had to put their studies on a break?

Sometimes it’s like a skipping stone. Sometimes you may put too much on your plate and you got to lighten your load.

I thought that I was in a position to actually increase my workload because I started off homeless with one class and one assistance program a term. And this term I ramped it up to the hardest classes that I could take because I figured if I got those two classes out of the way in one term, then you know the rest of the classes wouldn’t seem so difficult. I was not prepared to be able to enter into the environment that I did under the circumstances that were there. I was, to be quite honest, oblivious to exactly what it would be like to be in the stage of my own sobriety and turning my life around, and then jumping right back into a house like that.

One thing to say, I guess to the students that may have to do the same thing that I did, [for them] to consider is that financial aid may ask you to enter into programs, to qualify for your successful needs. Make sure that you stay in contact with them because it can cost you your ability to come back.

 

What are the top 5 things you believe students should know if they plan on taking a break from their studies?

Number one thing is you can come back. 

Number two is, if you needed it, it was for a reason, tend to that reason. 

The third is don’t lose hope. You know, a lot of people that I’ve met that have taken a break, they just lose hope. Don’t lose that hope you took a break, there was a reason for it.

So the fourth thing is get back on the horse again. And the fifth thing is don’t give up. Take a little bit less workload than what you think you could succeed [with] because life is still there too. Like, you may have to go to work. You may be in a situation that just comes up, and you think you’re Superman, well be Superman lite, that way you still have extra energy to excel when you need it.

Fuller finds that his dog was one of the main motivators in his success. Photo courtesy of Kevin Fuller

 

Would you say that having a campus and a college that is helpful, was one of the keys to your return?

Oh yes, it is the key to where I am now. I mean, Clark College is kind of like the one-stop-shop with education. Clark’s got clothes available, they got food available, they’ve got people that fix your resumes available, they’ve got, I mean, literally, the only thing they don’t got is housing.

We go to the campus when we’re allowed to be on campus and [my dog, Noggers] is like, Dad I don’t want to leave. And I’m like, bro, it’s 8 o’clock. I was more worried about him being able to make it through. Because he’s, you know, he’s my emotional support animal and [his limit] was maxed out too. But we are itching to get back to school.

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