By Mike McKibbin
SPRING VALLEY — It wasn’t easy for Henry Maxwell to get his high school diploma. Sidetracked by drugs and alcohol abuse as a youth, Maxwell was in and out of schools in Basalt and Carbondale.
Through counseling, Maxwell overcame his demons to earn a two-year degree from Colorado Mountain College this week and set a goal of furthering his education and career.
He managed to graduate from Bridges High School in Carbondale, where he took a few CMC classes while in drug and alcohol treatment at the end of his junior year. On Saturday, May 4, he received his Associate of Arts in psychology at one of the CMC Spring Valley campus’s commencement ceremonies.
More than 1,000 graduates are receiving degrees and certificates from Colorado Mountain College May 2-6, at 10 different graduation ceremonies held throughout the CMC district. Graduates from Aspen to Glenwood Springs could choose to participate in ceremonies at the college’s Spring Valley campus.
Now sober and in recovery for five years, Maxwell is a drug and alcohol counselor at Jaywalker Lodge in Carbondale.
Prior to his position at Jaywalker, Maxwell worked at a Basalt treatment center though it eventually closed its doors. He applied for a technician position at Jaywalker Lodge, was hired and became a certified counselor.
“They decided to give me a chance and do some group counseling,” Maxwell said. He helps young adult males, mostly between 18 to 27 years of age. Former addicts serving as counselors is not unheard of, Maxwell said.
He said that psychology concepts he learned at CMC to earn his degree “are used pretty regularly” in his current position.
He praised Dr. Tom Buesch, professor of communications and humanities at the Aspen campus, and adjunct English instructor Denise Barkhurst at the Carbondale campus, as “inspirational. Even though they were outside my field of study, they helped foster my motivations in the field and education in general. The environment at CMC is pretty conducive to learning,” he said.
Maxwell, who lives in Carbondale, took CMC classes at all the college’s locations and campuses in the valley – Aspen, Spring Valley, the Lappala Center in Carbondale and the Glenwood Center – and even some distance courses.
With his associate degree in hand, Maxwell said he plans next fall to apply to an online program to earn a bachelor’s in psychology, and to continue working.
“I’d like to get into clinical psychology or social work, maybe go for a master’s program,” Maxwell said. “So my associate degree is really the springboard to my future education.”
Helping others deal with substance abuse is rewarding work, he said.
“I find meaning in the work and I feel good about contributing in some small way to the lives of other people in positive ways,” Maxwell said. “It just reminds me how important the recovery process is, both for the individual, and for the larger community.”
He said he hopes his experience and achievement lets young people struggling to overcome addictions know resources are available to get help and recover as he did.
“I was 17 when I got clean, so adolescents should know that help is available, and recovery is possible,” he said.