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Vendor Profile: Roosevelt Harris, A student learning to make a difference

Fri, Sep 7, 2012

Roosevelt Harris

Sobriety is a daily battle, a battle Roosevelt Harris is familiar with. Roosevelt is a recovering addict who wants to share his experience with others. “Once I realized I was ready to stop and couldn’t do it alone I sought help. That’s when my battle became easy.”

Roosevelt says his greatest challenge as a recovering addict is maintaining his mental health. “Sobriety isn’t just quitting alcohol and drugs. It’s changing the person.” Roosevelt is trying to increase the amount of exercise he gets. He believes this will help him not only maintain his mental health but will also fight his asthma.

He says the turning point in his battle was when he realized every day wasn’t going to be “peaches and cream.” Roosevelt wants to help others fight their battles now. “The people that are most willing to help others are those that are aware of the struggles of life.”

Roosevelt is definitely aware of these struggles. He’s been living in the apartments on Kimball and Argyle where he said, “A lot of things happen that make it easy to fall back into my addictions. Having no real hobbies makes it difficult to occupy my time, but I use my employment at StreetWise to fill the void.”

Roosevelt is attending Harold Washington College. He is studying addictive studies and hopes to become a drug counselor. He believes his personal experience with addiction will help him help others. Roosevelt shares one of his secrets. “I think the main thing is to stay aware that I can’t change a person. There’s nothing I can say to convince a person to stop using or stop drinking, but that my main focus should be showing them that the ability to change is inside them.”

He is currently taking classes at Truman College before returning to Harold Washington College. His classes at Truman range from mental health, social service, human growth and development, and psychology. Roosevelt says his favorite classes are the human growth and development ones. His coursework includes presentations and papers, “lots of papers!”

Once he finds an internship, Roosevelt hopes to graduate with his associate’s degree next June. His plan is to find employment before returning for his bachelor’s degree. He wants to gain as much experience as possible before entering the job market. “I can’t rely on my personal experience for everything,” said Roosevelt.

Roosevelt has a lot of family support behind him. His family affectionately calls him ‘Junebug’. “It’s a family name from the south.” Most of his family now lives in Minnesota. Roosevelt has 10 siblings; he is the fourth oldest and the second oldest male in his family. “Being one of the leaders in my family has motivated me to stay clean. I know I have a lot of people counting on me.”

Roosevelt’s strong desire to help others came from StreetWise. “When I first came to StreetWise I immediately felt the love. I want to share that love now.” Roosevelt says he wants to help both customers and those facing homelessness. “There are guys I know who I constantly ask to come to StreetWise. I was panhandling at one time and StreetWise has given me a sense of wanting to help others now.” You can find him vending near the CVS Pharmacy on Broadway and Barry.

Adrian Villalpando, StreetWise Intern

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