Kirby overcomes addiction to graduate with honors

Lauren Kirby

Lauren Kirby

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Katie Quinn

WYOMISSING, Pa. — Lauren Kirby, 32, is a fighter: She has won her battle with opioid addiction and turned her life around. On Saturday, May 4, Kirby will receive her bachelor of arts in communication arts and sciences from Penn State Berks during the college’s commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. She is graduating with the highest grade-point average of any student in the degree program.

After graduating from Phoenixville High School, Kirby enrolled in Montgomery County Community College, where she excelled academically, making the Dean’s List for several semesters. Then she states that she began working nights as a bartender and suffering from undiagnosed bipolar disorder around the same time. She explains that she started to self-medicate when she was 26, the first time she ever used drugs.

Kirby received treatment for bipolar disorder and got clean on April 13, 2015, a date that she remembers well. Soon after, she became pregnant with her son. While she was pregnant, she also took custody of her two nieces, ages 4 and 8. She found herself a single mother with three young children.

Instead of giving up, Kirby decided to go back to school and earn her degree to provide a better life for herself and her children. She was determined to make up for lost time and completed her remaining credits at Montgomery County Community College in less than a year, graduating Magna Cum Laude with an associate degree in liberal studies, before transferring to Penn State Berks.

“I always wanted to go to Penn State,” explained Kirby. She soon found a home in the communication arts and sciences major. During her time at the college, she had an opportunity to work on a marketing campaign for Penn State Health St. Joseph and she presented her work to the Penn State Board of Trustees during their annual meeting on campus in July 2018. She also completed internships for Reading Greenhouse, a nonprofit educational facility.

Kirby was honored with the college’s CAS Academic Achievement Award. She served as president of Lambda Pi Eta, an honor society of the National Communication Association, and a member of Phi Kappa Phi, which recognizes academic excellence in all disciplines.

When asked what her plans are after graduation, Kirby stated that she would like to go to graduate school but for now she is job hunting. Her ultimate goal is to earn a master’s degree and teach CAS at the college level.

“It’s so important,” Kirby stated about the degree program. “I’ve learned so much since I’ve been in the CAS program. Everything I learned can be applied to everyday life. Now, I weigh different perspectives and points-of-view before making a decision. The degree has rewired my brain and made me the person I am today.”

Kirby also received support through the college’s Fran and Gene Curry Trustee Scholarship and The Bernard Osher Foundation Re-Entry Scholarship for adult learners.