Todd Perry has spent much of his life in long-term recovery, using his experience to help others through substance abuse and mental health battles by drawing upon his own experiences.
It’s his calling in life – and that calling led him to go back to school to pursue a degree in social work at UNC Greensboro.
After graduating from Alamance Community College in 2019, he knew he wanted to pursue a four-year degree; he just didn’t know where he would fit in.
But when he met with a transfer specialist on UNCG’s campus, everything changed.
“I was scared to open up about my past, but as soon as I did, she said, ‘You’ll be a great asset to our Spartan Recovery Program.’ I felt wanted here at UNCG. The lack of judgment and the endless amount of encouragement I’ve received by everyone on campus has taught me I can smash the limitations that are in my head. If you have a whole community of people believing in you, you can do anything.”
And now he’s helping others believe in themselves, too.
“Recovery has given me the opportunity to engage with the community and bring awareness to and help change the stigma attached to substance abuse and mental health. I am on a journey that also allows me the privilege of making a positive impact in others’ lives.”
Since becoming a Spartan, Perry has changed the lives of others through numerous professional opportunities on campus and in the community.
He is involved with Spartan Recovery Program, a program of Student Health Services’ Counseling Center that is available, free of charge, to UNCG students in all phases of recovery, from addictions to alcohol and/or other drugs. Through the program, Perry helps students reach their personal, academic, and professional goals.
“I get to help college students realize they’re not alone – that they have the support and the resources they need to be successful.”
Perry has also worked as a peer support specialist with RHA Behavioral Health, where he assisted individuals to AA/NA meetings, facilitated a weekly group meeting, and participated in meetings with community groups to advocate for individuals’ needs. Currently, he interns and works as the manager of Residential Treatment Services of Alamance, encouraging and empowering 25 residents on a daily basis.
“I’m really grateful to be in a position to help other people. It feels like I went through all the struggles I’ve been through to figure out what I was meant to do and be where I am today – touching lives and making a change.”
Now Perry has the opportunity to make a change at the state level. He was one of two undergraduate social work students slated to represent the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), thanks to the recommendation of his professors. (Current NASW members can vote for Perry here.)
“The professors here are social workers themselves, and they want to see you succeed, whether that be by offering you advice or serving up opportunities like this one.”
He’s running on the platform that “the art of social work practice is an expression of intuitive results that creates creativity in dealing with social problems.”
“I will draw on my knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems. I will fight for vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups. Every person matters, and through actively listening, empowerment, self determination, advocacy, and being the voice for others, we have the ability to bring about lasting change.”
If selected, Perry hopes to further his professional development and serve as the voice of other students, UNCG, and for schools across the region.
“It’s a huge accomplishment to be in the running, and it would be an honor to end up on the state board tackling major issues at the state level. With a bigger platform, I can reach and impact more people.”
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications