Winter Commencement Speaker Graduates as Example of Strength and Perseverance
Holly Porter entered her first drug addiction treatment program at the age of 17.
“My father struggled with addiction (he is almost 20 years sober now), but he became an alcohol and drug counselor when I was 12, so when my parents found out about my alcohol and drug addiction, it was pretty easy for him to help me get to treatment,” she said.
That first treatment program was followed by three more.
“I wanted so badly to be sober, I just couldn't find myself maintaining long periods of sobriety,” she said. “Each treatment helped me to find a piece of myself, and by the age of 20, I had slowly begun making positive changes.”
When Porter was 23, she found out she was pregnant with her son. Once he was born, she knew she needed to continue a life of sobriety.
She enrolled at Metropolitan Community College for an associate degree in chemical dependency counseling, which she earned in 2018 while working at an outpatient substance use facility as an administrative assistant.
“Somewhere in all of that, I still had a belief that I could drink like a ‘normal’ person,” Porter said. “I relapsed on alcohol when my son was six months old. When he turned nine months old, I realized that in order for me to live the life I wanted, and the life both him and I deserved, alcohol could not be a part of it.”
That day was October 6, 2016. Porter has not had a drink since.
Since earning her associate degree, she’s served as a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, working with individuals in group therapy and facilitating intensive outpatient programming.
“Helping people to recover and live lives they are proud of, lives they do not have to escape from, is truly remarkable,” Porter said.
She also recently graduated from Bellevue University with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science.
I never once felt disconnected,” she said. “While I did not complete this program in class, I still feel I gained experiences that will help me continue to grow professionally, personally and in my education.
“I chose Bellevue University because the cohort program seemed like the best fit for me and my schedule,” Porter explained. “I needed something that allowed me to still be a full-time employee, a full-time mom, and now a business owner (I just launched my new private practice at the first of the year). Bellevue caught my eye because they are flexible, they have resources, and I wasn't the only non-traditional student.”
Even though she did her studies fully online, Porter had great experiences communicating with both her peers and professors.
“I never once felt disconnected,” she said. “While I did not complete this program in class, I still feel I gained experiences that will help me continue to grow professionally, personally and in my education.”
Porter will also speak at Bellevue University’s winter commencement.
“I never imagined I’d be chosen for such an honor,” she said. “For me, being the commencement speaker is about change. It’s proof that someone with a background such as mine can accomplish more than ever imagined. It’s an opportunity to share hope with every single person who is graduating and let them know that change is possible.”
Moving forward, Porter has her sights set on pursuing a master’s degree in clinical counseling followed by a doctorate in psychology.
And while life has thrown many challenges Porter’s way, she’s proud of how far she’s come. Now, her peskiest obstacle is elementary arithmetic.
“Today, as a 30-year-old woman, I can honestly say that one of my biggest struggles is doing first grade math before bedtime,” she said. “For some, that may seem silly, but for a person who wasn’t sure she would ever have children or live a life of sobriety, being able to help her son with his math is a beautiful blessing.”