Photo by Diana Conard. At age 60, Ricky Cecero started setting goals. He has checked off each one of these including getting a high school diploma. Recently, Cecero completed all requirements at Haywood Community College’s College and Career Readiness Department to receive an Adult High School diploma.

When Ricky Cecero was 18 years old, he would head out in the morning like all other teens his age but instead of going to the classroom to learn, he would head to the bar where he would spend his day. Drinking alcohol was his life for many, many years. One day he woke up and reached for the phone to call for help. Number after number told him the same thing, without health insurance, there was no help for him. Finally, he found someone who could help.

Cecero started recovery and started setting goals. These goals were basic steps to get his life in order. The list consisted of getting a place of his own, getting his license, being allowed to see his grandchildren and getting his high school diploma.

Now at age 60, Cecero has got rid of his ‘friends’ and is in a safe environment. He has checked off each one of these goals and is setting out to help others.

“If I can do it, anyone can,” Cecero explains. “I’ve had a complete turnaround. If you want something, you have to be persistent. You have to work for it.”

Recently, Cecero completed all requirements at Haywood Community College’s College and Career Readiness Department to receive an Adult High School diploma. After 40 years away from school, he returned to the classroom and worked his way through all the requirements.

“The more work I did at HCC, the more I improved. I enjoyed it once I figured it out. If I had questions, I asked them and the instructors were there to answer them,” Cecero says.

Of his goals, Cecero says getting his high school credential was one thing he wanted to do to prove to himself that he could. Another reason was to become a peer support for others that are still in the same place he was in. Cecero explains that as a recovering alcoholic, he sees a lot of things that people that have not gone it don’t understand. “I want to help someone who is drowning in sorrow.”  

For Cecero, coming to class was a way to cope. It was also a confidence booster. “I started seeing how good things could be,” he explains. “I got to know some good people. I learned that I’m able to do what I say I will do. Before when I said I would do something, it was all talk.”

Now Cecero stays focused on recovery and taking steps to achieve all his goals.

“I’m still Rick, just not the old Rick. I never thought I’d drive again, see my grandkids again or be a person again. I want others to know there is a real life after alcohol.”

For more information about HCC’s Adult High School Program or other options available through the College and Career Readiness Department, please call 627-4648 or visit haywood.edu.