HAMMOND, La. — One college in Louisiana is now home to the first collegiate recovery program in the state for students battling addiction. Southeastern Louisiana University launched 'Lion Up Recovery' last month.
"That was the biggest goal of mine, to get a college degree," said Madison Nyquist, who founded the program.
Her story begins before her time at Southeastern. When she started college at a big school, she had the grades and ambition all pointing towards success.
"I got early admissions into an architectural engineering program, everything looked really good and then basically my drinking and drug use took off my freshman year," Nyquist said.
Because of her struggles with addiction, Nyquist dropped out her freshman year and entered a year long treatment program. Then after three years of sobriety, she wanted a fresh start and enrolled at Southeastern.
One problem she found though, was there wasn't a support system on campus for students like her. She decided to change that for students who were sober and in recovery from drugs, alcohol, or any other addictions, but needed support.
"About 225 student identify as in recovery at Southeastern," a 2018 survey revealed, according to Madison Allen Evans, Coordinator of Collegiate Recovery.
'Lion Up Recovery' launched last month and is the the first and only collegiate recovery program in the state. It's already been recognized, earning the title of 'Program of the Year Award' for the Louisiana Association of College and University Student Personnel Administrators.
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"We don't want them just coming to school and leaving to get their support, why not get that support here on campus?" Allen Evans said.
The free, voluntary program offers students weekly support groups, monthly celebrations, academic advising, and scholarship opportunities. They also hold socials like sober tailgates.
"It's a lot of kids that could use this," Nyquist said. "It's not easy to get sober on a college campus. It's actually really hard, so if we can build a community that doesn't stigmatize this and actually supports it, then we'll have a lot less students dropping out because of drugs an alcohol."
In 2018, Nyquist graduated Southeastern in business and is now the marketing director for an addiction center. Now students like her will have that extra support to fight through recovery and towards their goals.
So far, four students have joined 'Lion Up Recovery.' Dozens more are expected to join over the next couple years.
The next 'Lion Up Recovery' event is a sober tailgate at Homecoming Saturday.