Like many recovering addicts, Jennifer Marston (pictured above) had begun her habit by taking prescription pills for an injury. “I broke my neck in a car accident when I was 14 years old,” she said. After undergoing numerous surgeries and developing rheumatoid arthritis, her opiate addiction spiraled out of control. “I was okay using for the rest of my life to deal with the pain she recalled.” At one point she and her son were homeless and living in a subsidized hotel.

But then she turned her life around and wants to help others do the same. Marston, a native of Whitman, is one of six graduates of the Gándara Center’s Training to Work program, a workforce development grant for recovery coaching as an occupation at the agency’s Stairway to Recovery Peer Recovery Support Center in Brockton. The graduates’ achievements were acknowledged in a graduation celebration on June 19.

“I’m grateful to Gándara and I’m proud of myself and how far I’ve come,” said Marston. “There was a time when I just didn’t have any hope to be anyone more than what I was. Now I love what I’m doing.”

This was the program’s first graduating class and would not have been possible without such community partners as Massasoit Community College, where students take courses in its Human Services program, as well as the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (BNHC) and the city’s High Point Treatment Centers, where graduates are now employed as recovery coaches. A new group of 15 students, who will be part of the program’s second cohort, attended the graduation, as well as family, friends, and representatives from BNHC, High Point, and Massasoit Community College.

The 8-to-12-month program provides skills-based training to earn a Recovery Coach certificate and credentials and a 5-to-7-month internship. There are also job placement services and follow-up support for the graduates.

“The program is intense,” said graduate Ginger Morris. “It’s been a long haul. I’m so happy to be here.”

Indeed, the atmosphere at the event was one of pride and accomplishment. “None of this would have been able to happen if we didn’t work together as a team,” said Stairway to Recovery Program Director Efrain Baez. Training to Work Program Coordinator Cindy Brodeur said it was gratifying to see all the hard work pay off for the participants in the program. “The graduates learned a lot and taught us a lot along the way as well,” she said.

The Training to Work program is funded by a Health Care Workforce Transformation Trust Fund FY’17 Appropriation grant through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and is administered by the Commonwealth Corporation. The grant, which targets unemployed people in recovery from underserved communities, helps them build professional skills needed to work in health care, clinical, or human services settings.

For more information, contact Ginny Mercure, Gándara’s Director of Peer Recovery Support Services, at 774-454-9123 or vmercure@gandaracenter.org.