Judy Ortiz has come a very long way to arrive at her 2023 winter graduation. When Ortiz started at Northampton Community College (NCC) at age 49, she had already overcome many things. She changed her life completely by moving to Bethlehem from NYC, deciding to leave her addiction issues behind.
Ortiz got herself into a substance abuse treatment program as soon as she arrived in Pennsylvania. Thereafter, she decided to go to college and chose NCC for her social work studies because it was a local community college close to her.
Ortiz began classes in the spring of 2014 but struggled both academically and personally since then. She had to retake classes, had transportation issues getting to class, faced technology challenges during the pandemic and lockdown, and had to take time off to care for her mental and physical health, including being faced with breast cancer. Through it all, Ortiz has stayed focused on school and focused on her recovery.
“Anything is possible at NCC,” is what Ortiz says she learned even in the face of adversity.
In 2015, Ortiz was part of a focus group here which led to the creation of NCC’s Collegiate Recovery Program later that year. She’s been an active member ever since. The group was formed as a collection of NCC students in recovery who support each other’s educational and recovery journeys.
“CRP has been a great support at NCC. It has helped me in my journey with all the setbacks I came across in my personal life. It helped me to believe in myself and that nothing could stand in my way unless I let it.”
Upon graduating, Judy is set to become a case manager at a halfway house. She looks forward to what the position brings and is considering becoming a Certified Recovery Specialist to specifically help others who still struggle with substance use disorders.
After 12 years sober, and after beating cancer, she is a living example of what a person can overcome when they won’t let anything deter them.