Beat the Odds 2017: Caleb Ricks’ Road to Recovery and Success

Caleb Ricks is a successful, non-traditional student at Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) with a 4.0 GPA.

“It’s a blessing to begin college this late because I take everything seriously and it’s what I want to be doing,” he says. “If I had done this straight out of high school it wouldn’t have lasted a month.”

Ricks, who at one point was a singer and songwriter, says he never really took school all that seriously.

“I was going to be the next Bob Dylan,” Ricks says he thought as a young man. CalebRicks

His brother pressured him to go to school for about five or six years, but life proved to have other things planned for him.

“I was always too intimidated, or too drunk. It was always something,” says Ricks, who had been battling alcohol addiction in a tug of war.

In 2015, Ricks relapsed and began drinking around Thanksgiving. Around Christmas, his father died suddenly, causing him to drink even more alcohol.

His father was also a singer-songwriter, and the death hit hard. Ricks moved from motel to motel, and binged on booze until his brother took him to a psychiatric ward at a local hospital. It didn’t work.

But after some suicidal thoughts (Ricks tried to purchase a gun but could not as he had no permit), his brother took him back to the hospital and Ricks entered an inpatient mental health treatment program in January of last year. He began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and is rebuilding his life.

He may even pick up a guitar again.

“Since he’s (his father) passed, I haven’t been able to pick up a guitar,” says Ricks. “I don’t know if it’s something I’ll get back to. I imagine at some point in my life.”

Instead, he writes stories in his spare time.

“Writing, and school, and work, and never giving myself a chance to breathe,” Ricks says of his routine.

Sometimes he writes in the style of old Chinese mystics. Other times he’s writing about robots finding purpose in their lives, written as a report from a company trying to figure out what went wrong with the robot, why it would not just fulfill its intended, expected purpose.

The robot doesn’t know what it’s meaning is. Perhaps a commentary on social constructs.

This way of thinking will no doubt follow Ricks into his career.

He wants to get into social work – his brother is finishing up his studies in the same field, but to become a case manager – to become a therapist.

“I think that’s the most practical goal,” says Ricks.

Of course, he’d love to make a lot of money as a singer and songwriter, or a novelist, but being a therapist sounds good, too.
“Make a lot of money that way,” he laughs.

But as far as becoming a therapist goes, he has great teachers helping him along the way.

“Karin Wright, my speech teacher who nominated me for this, has just been… phenomenal,” Ricks says of his RCTC instructor. “She is such a cool person, and so animated and into what she’s doing. That class was indescribable. The kind of soul she put into it and draws out of students was neat.”

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Receiving one of the Beat the Odds scholarships has been humbling.

Ricks says he wrote his essay and conducted his interview in a way that he was kind of saying he should not get it. That maybe others should instead.

That made winning the scholarship feel that much better.

“It really is an honor. I didn’t expect it. I certainly feel indebted and humble,” he says.

Looking back, his father’s death was a catalyst. Initially it had a negative impact with the drinking and addiction, but ultimately brought Ricks to the life he has now.

“It’s important, not only just on a personal level, but I feel… I had never had the direct experience of losing someone that close,” he says. “The outpouring of support and people relaying their own stories of loved ones they had lost… the whole experience made me more human, more in touch with other people.”

And without the breaking points that led him to both Zumbro Valley Mental Health and Recovery is Happening, Ricks may not be where he is today. He said the facilities have been instrumental in his recovery, and he thinks those two organizations are doing a tremendous service for the community.

One day his experiences will help him help others.

The Beat the Odds scholarship program awards deserving students from the Rochester and surrounding areas, a $2,500 scholarship to attend Rochester Community and Technical College. To be eligible for a Beat the Odds scholarship, candidates must be a high school senior or a first-year RCTC student who has overcome obstacles such as personal or family hardships, abuse, neglect, poverty, disabilities, or language and cultural barriers. Despite their challenges, these students have persevered and endeavored to become personally and academically successful and are preparing for the next step in life of attending college.

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