Erick Pina: Phoenix Scholarship

TRANSCENDING ADDICTION TO RISE TO THE DEAN'S LIST

Erick Pina doesn’t have to think back too long ago to remember his darkest days.

“Just a few years ago, I had no direction and felt like I had no purpose,” remembers Erick.

Things have changed a lot in a short amount of time. That’s a testament to the power of education – along with Erick’s ability and drive.

“Now my life is significant because education has given it meaning,” says Erick. “Going back to school has reconstructed my whole life and helped me become a more determined and successful student.”

Before rediscovering education and meaning in his life, Erick spent a lot of time adrift and depressed. Addiction gripped him at times. He wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn.

“During my 13 years of drug addiction, I lost nearly everything, including my daughter,” recalls Erick. “My life was out of control, but I was given one last chance to redeem myself and seek recovery.”

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Erick seized that chance, and aggressively pursued a series of life-changing goals.

“In December of 2016, I decided to stop doing drugs. I had finally had enough of the cycle of addiction that I had created. So I created goals for myself to complete within four months. My top priorities were to return to my daughter’s life and get back in college.”

While also working two jobs, Erick returned to school by enrolling at Ventura College. He struggled at first, but eventually earned A’s in class, which he admits brought him “tears of joy.”

Now, the 31-year-old recovering addict, Sociology major and doting single father is a passionate student who’s flirting with a 4.0 GPA and on track to graduate from Ventura College in the Spring of 2020. He’s even found a spot on the Dean’s List and is also deeply involved in Ventura College Circle Kiwanis International Club.

Erick is grateful for everything Ventura College has meant to his dramatic turnaround. In addition to receiving Heizer Family Phoenix Scholarship funding through the Ventura College Foundation, he has never shied away from utilizing the college’s various facilities and resources.

“Despite my challenges, I learned to overcome them by using resources available to me here,” says Erick. “Resources like the Stan Weisel Tutoring Center have been extremely beneficial to my academic success.”

Erick became so familiar with those resources that he decided to serve as a Ventura College Foundation Student Ambassador and peer leader for the First Year Experience (FYE) program.

“I’m able to help students come to campus, help them with the resources that we have, and show them what’s available to help them be successful,” explains Erick about his peer leader role. “I also lead campus tours and just let them know we’re here for them if they need us. If they ever need someone to talk to, or to answer any questions they may have, we’re here to help them become successful on campus.”

Erick looks forward to giving back and “paying it forward” down the line. His next educational and career step is to enroll in a UC system school (and later law school) and become a paralegal or lawyer – with a focus on assisting in the welfare of children and families.

“As one who has experienced both sides of the court system, I’m determined to be a positive influence in my community and help those who need it the most,” explains Erick. “Because of my daughter, my career goal is to work in a court of law where I can use my skills and knowledge to defend children undergoing abuse, violence and neglect. One day, I plan to give back to my community and make an impact in the lives of those around me with the knowledge I’m gaining now.”

He’s forever grateful for the opportunities, assistance and connections he received from the Ventura College Foundation.

“To me it has meant a whole new life,” says Erick. “A whole new way of seeing life through a different lens. It’s completely changed who I am. My family sees me as a different person. Anyone who sees me who knew me in the past is very proud of me now.”