Investing in oneself, through training and education, often improves quality of life. Having meaningful and purposeful activities that lead steadily toward an achievable goal can be an important element in one’s recovery. Training and education endeavors are some of the top priorities or goals for many people with SUD and mental illness. However, finding supports to assist with costs related to training and education is difficult. Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment (HOPE) is a relatively new, and often unknown, program offered by Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Family Independence that provides key supports to parents who are accepted to or enrolled in higher education training and education activities. Two HOPE students share their experiences, their decisions to seek higher education, and how HOPE has helped with necessary supports.


Justin Barry Justin is leading an active life juggling parenting, college studies, and job searching. As a soon-to-be college graduate who will earn an associate degree (with 3 majors) from Northern Maine Community College, Justin learned in recovery that it was possible to flip one’s thinking and imagine wellness. Earlier in his life, Justin struggled with substance use disorder. Determined to grow and expand, Justin realized the importance of having a focus. Parenting and higher education factored heavily in Justin’s plan. Justin now looks forward to forging a new career with confidence, knowing that anything is possible and that lots of people are out there, eager to help you achieve your dreams.

James Duffey – Helping others achieve sobriety by any means necessary, an Accelerated Pathway MA Mental Health Counseling; Minor in Substance Use Disorder Treatment, HOPE Scholar, father, yogi, meditative contemplative theorist, 12 steppers, and recovery advocate. In his previous role as a Recovery Coach in Boston and as a Recovery Support Specialist with Green Mountain Recovery, James discovered a passion for advocacy, working alongside LCSWs and LCPCs working with consumers with co-occurring conditions and trauma. Education has been life-altering and has changed James’s evolution in recovery. Education in recovery is a testimonial of James’s purpose in recovery to “carry this message to others”, to help see sobriety and live. Lastly, Mana Ethos has a meaning. It’s James’s mantra in meditation. Mana means good energy, and ethos comes from the Greek word character. Therefore, let’s bring energy and character, and we can help save lives.

Sheri Wilkens Sheri has spent nearly three decades working with Maine families who experience financial instability, helping parents access higher education and/or secure employment. A graduate of Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, Sheri established Wilkens Consulting Group and authored the HIRE Outcomes™ curriculum, which was utilized by social service programs for over a decade. In 2018, Sheri joined Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Family Independence as the program manager for Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment (HOPE). HOPE is a workforce development program aimed at helping parents with low incomes graduate from meaningful higher education programs by offering financial supports for education-related costs. Sheri is committed to helping Maine families find opportunities, embrace change, and attain goals.