Degree: Master of Science in Psychology
College/School: School of Integrated Science and Humanity, College of Arts, Sciences & Education
Thomas Guerra lived part of his life in the grips of temptation and addiction. Today he’s in recovery and is working to give fellow students the opportunity to conquer their demons.
As a teenager, Thomas suffered from depression and anxiety. To cope, he abused alcohol and drugs. The once straight-A student struggled to graduate from high school. After joining 12-step programs and regularly attending meetings, he got sober. He attended Miami Dade College and later FIU in pursuit of a psychology degree. He stopped attending 12-step meetings. Feeling the pressure of his studies, job and birth of his first child, Thomas started drinking again. He lost his job, stopped studying and his daughter’s mother left. He hit rock bottom and stayed there until he finally listened to friends who urged him to get help. He did, returned to school, finished his bachelor’s degree and returned for his master’s.
It was in psychology professor Paige Telan’s class where Thomas was challenged to come up with a project that would make the community a better place to live. Thomas founded Panthers in Recovery, a student group that supports FIU students in their battles with addiction. The organization hosts two weekly meetings, sober tailgates and events that let students know how they can seek help. For his efforts, Thomas recently won a Student Life Shining Star Award.
Now Thomas plans to become a substance abuse counselor and help transition the student-led recovery group into a professionally led university-supported program.
By Chrystian Tejedor
Account Manager, College of Arts, Sciences & Education