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DeKalb County drug court graduates prepare for 2nd chance

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(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Joshua Walker, 31, accepts his graduation certificate from Judge Robbin Stuckert at the DeKalb County Drug/DUI Court Choosing Life and Ending Abuse Now program's 10th graduation ceremony Friday. He began the program when he was arrested in 2011 after struggling with addiction for 15 years. Walker, now two years sober, was one of eight members to graduate from the program. He currently works two jobs and has plans to start his own business.

SYCAMORE – Two years ago, Alyssa Kruse was living in a horrible situation.

Kruse was financially overwhelmed, doing poorly in school and generally stressed. She tried to resolve her problems by getting high, but it wasn’t the answer. Her problems grew worse, and she was arrested and spent time in the DeKalb Count Jail. 

“It was the scariest time of my life,” Kruse said. 

She entered DeKalb County Drug Court: Choosing Life and Ending Abuse Now program to get a second chance, even though she thought she didn’t deserve it. But after going through the program, she found herself living a better life. She returned to school and uses her time to make herself happy.

“I now know that it’s not about whether or not I deserve this opportunity for my life,” Kruse said. “It’s about making the most of it and not letting past or future hardships stop me from moving forward.” 

Kruse, along with seven other participants of the program, recalled their troubled past with addiction and recovery at the drug court program’s graduation commencement Friday. During the ceremony, participants stood before their family, loved ones and the program’s staff to thank them for their support. 

Marilyn Stromborg, the program’s coordinator, said this year’s graduating class was the largest she’s seen.

“They supported each other toward their sobriety,” Stromborg said. 

The county’s drug court program, which has been operating since 2006, provides treatment and counseling for nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems. Participants who successfully complete the program have their felony charges reduced to a misdemeanor or have them dismissed by the state’s attorney.

The program is divided into five phases and typically lasts more than a year. Attorneys, treatment staff, law enforcement personnel and a court judge help participants rebuild their life. Those who do not comply with the requirements of the program are given sanctions or are removed from the program. 

One of the program’s graduates, Jessica White, remembered that Judge Robbin Stuckert would look at her after every sanction White received and told her she still believed in her. 

“If these people could care so much about my life then why can’t I?” White said. “They must see something good in me.” 

She eventually regained hope and learned how to live life and look for the solution in every problem. 

“Drug court offered me a gift ...” White said. “I’m glad I finally accepted it. That gift is me. A new life and a chance to start over.” 

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