Elena Schalliol has been a member of the mental health and substance recovery communities for years. These communities helped her find purpose and saved her life. Now, Elena is doing the same for others in recovery as a certified recovery support specialist.

A few years ago, Elena joined the first cohort of the Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) Success Program at Malcolm X College. She was a little nervous to return to school because of a learning disability but was determined to become certified and begin a new career supporting people on their recovery journey. Becoming a CRSS also required less schooling and responsibility than becoming a therapist, so it was perfect for Elena.

Her worries about returning to school subsided when she met the program’s faculty and staff. Elena says they supported her, tutored her, mentored her, and helped provide accommodations for her disability, like extra breaks during class and more time for her assignments and tests.

“My instructors said, ‘Write down what you need, and we’ll make it happen,’” Elena said. “Malcolm X was kind and accommodating for my learning style. It’s a great place to get this certificate.”

Elena’s courses and instructors also prepared her for an internship and a career where she would be tasked with mentoring and providing support to people in recovery. Her duties could include everything from driving people to appointments, creating recovery plans, and watching for signs of relapse. She completed 110 classroom hours and 300 internship hours. As a peer support intern, Elena helped residents in recovery find affordable housing, and she got to know her clients’ struggles and triumphs.

Elena attributes her success to three of her instructors, Dr. Gloria West, Instructor Jose Torres, and Instructor Boris Powell. Dr. West tutored Elena, Instructor Torres supported Elena during her internship, and Instructor Powell mentored Elena to prepare her for her CRSS state credentialing exam.

“I was shocked by how much people bent over backwards to help me,” she said.

Elena passed her exam on the first try, a rare accomplishment, but one she promised herself and her instructors she would achieve. She’s now working as a CRSS at a center that supports women and children. It’s a role she feels confident in thanks to her courses at Malcolm X.

"The class prepared me to be the best CRSS possible. I’m able to support individuals in a more informed way. I was able to use my training in an actual semi-crisis. I’m very grateful for that training. It has made me a more empathetic, patient person.”"

Elena Schalliol