by Lynda Myers
Jennifer Nauert of Lakeport recently won two Mendocino College Foundation Scholarships: the Lake County Friends of Mendocino College award, and a Mendocino College Foundation Academic Excellence scholarship, for a total of $2500.00. In addition, she received the Academic Excellence Award for Human Services and Highest Honors for her 4.0 Grade Point Average.
Nauert's life has not always been so stellar. An IV drug user at age 18, she went to prison at age 19, became sober, relapsed, and at age 26 had two massive strokes that left her permanently disabled. “Three-fourths of my left brain is dead, so I now operate on 5/8ths of my total brain,” she said. “Because I became disabled so early in life, I didn't want that to be the end of my story. I wanted to give back some of the love and compassion that was given to me as I struggled to recover, so I set my sights on a career as a substance use counselor.
“It had always been a dream of mine to attend college, and when I started researching possible programs, I was excited to find out that I could take many of my classes at the Lake Center in Lakeport. It was a wonderful choice! I love all my instructors. I love the Human Services Program, and I love how much the instructors and staff really care about students and our achievements. They have helped me get accommodations for my disabilities that made it possible for me to achieve more than I ever expected. I have never felt “less than” anyone because the staff and students are amazing.”
Among the many who have helped her along the way, Nauert mentioned Dan Jenkins, Carrie Vidal, Jim Mockel, Trilby Kerrigan, Christine Price, Cristina Cruz, Helen Falandes, and Jeff Brunner, as well as Nancy Heth, Tascha Wetzel, Susan Orozco, Merie Holl, Rhea Hollis, John Griffith, and Liz Weiss.
While attending Mendocino College (MC), Nauert's greatest challenges have been juggling her three kids among family members and getting to classes in Ukiah. “My car was on its last leg, so that made it very stressful for a while. Thanks to MC Foundation scholarships, I have been able to purchase a newer, more reliable car, knowing I have the resources to make the payments.
“Before I started college, I used to work out like a mad woman, every single day, to become physically stronger. Now that I am working my brain in school, I can see myself growing stronger in other ways. I am excited to put my skills to good use and to keep on learning.”
Nauert started a new club on campus called Students for Recovery. It is dedicated to breaking down stigmas surrounding behavioral health recovery issues and implementing formal and informal recovery support services for the MC student community. “We intend to demonstrate how higher education, and the support and fellowship it provides, can aid one's path to recovery.”
Nauert's plans for the future include graduating from MC with an Associate of Science degree in Human Services in 2019, then transferring to Humboldt State University to earn a Bachelor's Degree, then a Master's Degree in social work. “I am thrilled to be starting my human services career with an internship at Hilltop Recovery in Lucerne this Fall,” she said, beaming.
When she is not studying, Nauert enjoys spending time with her kids and enjoying the outdoors. She finds painting relaxing and therapeutic as well.
Her advice to other students? “Set a goal and never give up! Be relentless in chasing your dreams!”
For more information about the Mendocino College Foundation or to donate towards any of their programs, call Katie Fairbairn at (707) 467-1018.