lonnie ridgeway
from an alumnus

Today, I met with my team for an hour about how we can better serve the Anchorage community by providing resources regarding adolescent substance misuse. After the meeting, I scanned some recently published journals regarding the effects of COVID-19 on substance misuse just before I interviewed Ben Westhoff, a nationally known investigative journalist who recently uncovered international truths about the business of illegal drugs. After the interview, I went to a local coffee shop where I sat at a table and listened to Michael Buble’s “I’m Feeling Good” on repeat while I responded to emails and wrote an outline for an upcoming podcast I’m recording to raise suicide awareness. I can’t believe I’m receiving a paycheck to do these things.

Every day, I am alerted by a reminder on my phone labeled “Blessing Check” to immediately pause whatever I am doing and practice gratitude by identifying and reflecting on something I am grateful for. Today, I am grateful for UAA sociology professor Nelta Edwards. About three years ago, Professor Edwards stopped me at a local grocery store and told me she was going to push me to complete my degree even though I had decided I didn’t need to. Before the end of the week, I had already received two emails from Professor Edwards. The first email encouraged and challenged me to finish my degree and the second email outlined what my next steps needed to be. About a year and a half after receiving that first email, I received my Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in the mail.

That degree opened up the door for my current position. I LOVE my job. I am grateful for my job. I am grateful for my degree. But most of all, I am most grateful for Professor Edwards who cared enough to challenge and encourage me to be a better version of myself.

Lonnie Ridgeway signature in red
Lonnie Ridgeway, B.A. ’18
Coalition Director of Health and Prevention, Volunteers of America Alaska