ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This summer Tous Jumper Young Sr. will fulfill a childhood dream when he attends Harvard University.
A sophomore at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a major in abnormal psychology, Young will take four psychology courses at the Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts and earn 16 credits toward his degree.
“My dad used to tell me the worst anyone can do is say no, so I applied,” said Young, 39. “I would have never known if I hadn’t taken a chance and shoot for the stars. No risk, no reward.”
Young will live in a dorm on campus during Harvard’s summer session, which runs from June 20 to Aug. 8. He will take classes in abnormal psychology, memory, cognition and trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
With a goal of working with the Tribe as an addiction and trauma counselor, Young also hopes to someday open a residential substance abuse center for all Native Americans. He has firsthand experience with substance abuse and plans to use his education and his knowledge to help others.
Young’s first attempt at college ended when he dropped out because of alcohol and drug abuse. He spent the next 15 years as an addict.
“It separated me from my wife and kids and alienated me from my Tribe,” he said. “I became a social pariah and an outcast. I knew there was a better way.”
Through hard work Young overcame his addictions in part by getting rid of unhealthy relationships and accepting encouragement from those who really cared about him.
“I got out of the dark period through a lot of prayer. I prayed the Lord would free me from that bondage,” he said. “Looking at the glass as half full instead of half empty and falling back on my family who loved me really brought me out of that.”
Young believes his intimate understanding of addiction will be an asset to others. As someone who overcame it, he can offer hope and serve as a role model.
“Getting back to my roots and culture got me out of the black hole of self-doubt,” he said. “I can help others who are going through it and guide and encourage them to get out of that hole their lives may have taken them to.”
No longer hampered by a sense of failure or lack of self-esteem, Young now enjoys a deep appreciation for life.
“I have an attitude of gratitude,” he said. “I am thankful for those dark times that helped me grow and experience life as it was meant to be.”
Although his path to Harvard was untraditional, Young is ready to tackle the experience of a lifetime.
“It’s taken me a roundabout way to get there, but it doesn’t matter how old you are or what you’ve been through,” he said. “If you have confidence and believe in yourself, you can always overcome challenges.”