Student Feature: Overcoming Adversity & Striving for Change with Rising Tide Scholar, Sean Jacobs

“Ask for help because there’s so many available resources, whether it’s mental health counseling, career counseling, guidance counseling—there’re so many resources out there that if you ask somebody, they will be able to get you to where you need to be successful.”

young college student talking with a college counselor

It takes strength, perseverance, and resilience to transform your life after homelessness and addiction, but once you do, the results of your hard work to get yourself to a place of success prove to be fruitful. This notion is illustrated in the story of Coastline student and Peer Mentor, Sean Jacobs. After getting clean and sober from various addictions, Sean became certified as a drug and alcohol counselor and came to Coastline, where he became a Rising Tide Scholar Peer Mentor last year.

Today, Sean works at his recently acquired job with Hoag Hospital and plans on graduating from Coastline in the spring, continuing to pursue his education and potentially get his PsyD to fulfill his goal of becoming a public speaker or a career coach, as he hopes to make an impact on and improve the drug treatment industry.

Sean’s inspirational story and work with system-impacted students is a testament to the worth of persisting after past struggles and helping others overcome the same barriers. Read on to learn more about Sean’s story, his work as a Peer Mentor, and his wisdom for system-impacted students!

Coastline College student and Rising Tide Scholar Sean Jacobs
Coastline College student and Rising Tide Scholar, Sean Jacobs
(Image provided by Sean Jacobs)

Sean’s Journey

“I have a sobriety date of December 13th of 2018,” Sean begins. In a little under a month, he’ll be celebrating five years of sobriety, but before this date, he had spent four years living homeless on the streets of Anaheim. “I wasn’t changing my clothes, and I was begging for change in front of a donut shop. I was addicted to heroin and methamphetamine. I was pretty much addicted to everything.”

After getting sober, he began working in treatment and became certified as a drug and alcohol counselor. “You can only go so far with that certification.” He says. “It’s a vocational school. So, I sought out Project Rebound.” Project Rebound is a program that assists formerly incarcerated individuals in reintegrating into society and pursuing a higher education. After speaking with some guys in Project Rebound, they recommended Sean go to a school that has a Rising Tide Scholars program. “I ended up applying for Coastline since I’m here in Fountain Valley.”

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Becoming a Rising Tide Scholars Peer Mentor

From there, he became a Rising Tide Scholars Peer Mentor at Coastline. Much like Project Rebound, Rising Tide Scholars is a program committed to aiding system-impacted students as they face barriers to their education. “As a Peer Mentor, I was able to work with individuals that were formerly incarcerated, and system-impacted and helped them navigate the college system by helping them find resources and setting up workshops.” These workshops were based on financial literacy connecting with Rising Scholars and Project Rebound, finding jobs, and working on getting access to resources such as CalWORKs and food stamps, etc. “Individually,” he says, “we help guide them through the system—connecting with admissions, records, counseling, career services—all that stuff.”

Before starting at Coastline, one of Sean’s first jobs in his recovery was as a behavioral health tech in an inpatient treatment center, and he decided to go to school while working there. After his most recent position became unsustainable, he started looking for work and applied for Hoag Hospital, where he now works. Throughout the process, he sought career services where he received help from Dr. Paolo Varquez, whom he’s guest lectured for in his classes at Cal State Fullerton. “I definitely see him pretty much like once a month! He’s definitely helped me to apply for different jobs that weren’t on LinkedIn. He’s been phenomenal in helping me navigate this whole process.”

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Navigating Career Services

Sean recalls reaching out to Career Services at the beginning of his start at Coastline to ensure he was on the right pathway to fulfill the goal he’s working toward, which is to get his Ph.D. or PsyD. “I want to help revamp or make sustainable changes to the drug treatment industry because as of right now, there’s a lot of recidivism and not a lot of growth. I would be in contact with career services a lot of the time to make sure I was going in the right direction, had the right classes, and explored other options. Like, what happens when I leave Coastline? What school am I going to go to? What good programs would fall in line with the goals that I have in place?”

Other resources he’s noted as helpful are Coastline’s Mental Health Services and the Coastline Library. “My secret weapon when it comes to schools and classes is the librarians. Shout out to them. They are the most amazing team that has been my clutch when I’m panicking with a paper due in a week. They’ve been able to help guide me.”

successful graduate celebrating with hands in the air

Advice to Students

Throughout his journey, he says the biggest thing he’s learned is indomitable spirit. “The ability to face any challenges and not allow them to have an impact on my emotional well-being. Because it’s been different, just outside life and then school life on top of that. You must be able to learn how to be fluid and not get emotionally attached to negative situations.”

For system-impacted students, he says it gets easier, and to reach out. “Ask for help because there’re so many available resources, whether it’s mental health counseling, career counseling, guidance counseling—there’re so many resources out there that if you ask somebody, they will be able to get you to where you need to be successful. And Coastline is still laying this foundation, especially in the turbulent times that we’re in today—it’s very important to continue and grow in your education.”

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