So, middle aged and with few employment options that did not involve manual labor, Dennis decided to go back to school.
Having learned that Diablo Valley College has one of the best addiction counseling programs in California, Dennis enrolled in January 2005. Taking a double major, he was in the program for 2 and a half years, earning Associate in Science degrees in both Addiction Studies and Addiction Counseling.
“DVC was a blast,” he said. “I learned so much from all the instructors I had. Tom Barber, Philip Colgan, Don Travins, Donna Wapner and everyone else -- they were all outstanding. I enjoyed the diversity found in the classrooms and on campus. And the dedication shown by all the staff was complete and total.”
Dennis said he had never thought about college beyond that. “I did not think I could go further than DVC,” he said, “but my counselor, Dr. Stacey Shears, was instrumental in motivating me to continue my education. She convinced me I was capable. I owe a lot to her support and encouragement, because without her I would not be where I am today.”
With that encouragement, Dennis transferred to John F. Kennedy University, where he had a double major, earning a B.A. degree in Transpersonal Psychology and a B.A. degree in Philosophy and Religion, graduating summa cum laude in 2009. He was the student commencement speaker and the outstanding student for the College of Liberal Arts.
He didn’t stop there and recently graduated from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ, with a Master in Science degree in addiction counseling. Long term, he plans to return to school to work on a doctorate.
“I am now a CATC IV–- a Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor-Master Level,” Dennis explained. “This is the certification I received for passing a counselor exam from the California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators (CAADE) and for the level of education I have. I am also now on the executive committee of the CAADE Board of Directors.”
Dennis said his time at DVC helped him to see the value of education coupled with working experience. “It also showed me how much I enjoyed college, and that learning need not ever end,” he said. “I have recommended DVC to others and would not hesitate to do so in the future,” he continued. “DVC has one of the five best ADS programs in California. The faculty is top shelf, the facilities are great, and it is a wonderful learning environment.”
Dennis recently was published with his contributions to Intervention, Treatment and Recovery: A Practical Guide to the TAP 21 Addiction Counseling Competencies by Lori L. Phelps and the California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators. “I contributed Chapter 8–Referral,” he said. “I also work for Anka Behavioral Health Inc., managing a program for homeless veterans with co-occurring disorders.” He is also adjunct faculty in the Human Services program at Napa Valley College, where he teaches “Introduction to Substance Studies,” and recently was awarded a Certified Addictions Treatment Educator (CATE) credential by CAADE.
Dennis’ goal is to become a full-time instructor in Addiction Studies at a community college, and to continue to work part-time with clients who have addiction issues. He also wants to continue to write about addiction-related issues. His ultimate dream is to become an instructor in the ADS program at DVC. Dennis was emphatic in stating, “Being able to come full circle and work at DVC as an addiction treatment educator seems only fitting.”
And beyond his career goals/? “I want to continue to raise my son, see the San Francisco Giants win another World Series, see Ireland, continue to advocate for veterans, and practice spiritual principles in all of my affairs.”