by Marlene Gerber –
DIANA COWAN, SHOWN here in front of an ARC truck, is the first graduate of the San Diego ARC’s education project and the ARC’s first woman truck driver.
It’s never too late to learn. Just ask Diana, a recovering alcoholic. Just ask Mike Zazorskey, her teacher in a special program at the San Diego ARC that prepares adults for high school graduation. After dropping out of school 26 years ago, Diana has finally earned her diploma. There is probably no 18-year-old who’s as thrilled as she is about this deferred accomplishment.
School was always a struggle for Diana. She was in special classes for the handicapped due to a severe hearing impairment. She developed speech problems that further inhibited the learning process. Discouraged, she left school. Many years of despair followed, as alcoholism took its toll. She lost her job, her marriage, her health and her home.
After being in and out of hospitals and failed rehab programs, Diana’s life began to change when she entered the ARC last year. As she achieved sobriety by working a rigorous recovery program, she began to gain confidence, for the first time in her life. So when she heard about the opportunity to earn that long-lost diploma, she found the courage to confront the once-dreaded schoolwork. “God opened my eyes and made me stronger,” she marveled.
Enter teacher Mike Zazorskey. He directs the education project for the San Diego Center, through an arrangement with Millard Charter School, which contracts with ARCs throughout California. With just 1-2 classroom sessions a week, an amazing amount of study and work is done independently by the 25 students in the San Diego program.
It’s particularly challenging since residents in rehab have full-time work therapy assignments, in addition to 12 steps meetings, special addiction-related classes and psychological and spiritual counseling sessions. Earning credits in English and Economics, Diana also completed the equivalent of two years of science in just three months. Not only was she the first of the San Diego group to graduate, Zazorskey said she was the best student he’s had here.
The determined 44 year-old also got her old job back, as a professional truck driver. But now, she is employed by The Salvation Army—becoming San Diego ARC’s first woman driver.
“Diana has overcome a lot of adversity, and has made the most of her second chance,” Major Doug Williams said at her graduation.