Meet Demi Anne Dennis, Glenn Koons Scholarship Recipient and Peer Support Specialist
In the Winter 2012 edition of The Newsfeed, we announced that we’d awarded the first annual Glenn Koons Certified Peer Specialist Scholarship. The scholarship, which is for Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) training, was awarded to Demi Anne Dennis. Below meet Demi, who represents everything Glenn valued and worked toward during his life.
Congratulations, Demi, on being the first recipient of this scholarship. Let’s start with some background. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thank you—it’s an honor to receive support for my goal to support others.
I’m 23 years old and was born in Kingston, PA—but I grew up in Philadelphia. I now live in Wilkes Barre with my one-year-old daughter and am going back to school in the fall to pursue a degree in human services.
What are your plans for using the scholarship?
I am in the process of enrolling in a training program in my area. I don’t have a car and do have my little girl to care for, so I am limited to programs that are accessible by public transit. I’m waiting to hear back from a few.
How did you learn about the scholarship?
I am the secretary of the Association for the Community of At-Risk Baby Boomers, a volunteer organization that helps baby boomers with all sorts of support and resources. We are starting a peer support program—our founder is a CPS and knows how important peers are.
As secretary, I review meeting minutes for board meetings. In one set of the minutes I saw information about the scholarship. I applied and learned a few months ago that I’d won.
What inspires you to pursue work as a CPS?
I believe, from my own life, that sharing personal experiences is one of the most important parts of recovery. It’s more important than anything I could learn in school. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and have also dealt with alcoholism. Drinking and involvement in the criminal justice system resulted in losing custody of my oldest daughter, who is four and now lives with my mother.
Today, I am a member of narcotics anonymous. And I would not be here if it were not for the support of the people in the group. Meeting with other recovering addicts—whose stories are different than mine but whose feelings are the same as mine—made me realize there are people like me, who I understand and who understand me; they give me hope and support. I do see a therapist, but it’s peer support that keeps me working toward getting my life back on track.
I want to give that support to others.
Are there any specific people with whom you want to work?
Right now, teenagers really relate to me. I look like them, and they can understand my experiences because we’re so close in age. They trust me when I tell them about my life. They see hope in where I am today.
I am also an example for people who have a dual diagnosis. A lot of newcomers in narcotics anonymous are dual diagnosis and do not believe they are strong enough for recovery. They identify with me, and I encourage them by sharing what empowers me to stay focused on taking life one-step at a time.
What would you say to other people who are considering work as a peer support specialist?
Do it! It’s the best work there is. There’s no other job that lets you turn your life experiences into hope for other people. I can’t wait to get certified and start working.
Thank you for speaking with us! We wish you all the best!
The Glenn Koons Certified Peer Specialist Scholarship is awarded annually to someone who embraces similar traits as Glenn, such as the ability to engage others, share life experiences in recovery, provide leadership, and teach these skills. Learn more about it here.
Back to top