#CYProud: Amber Winey, Addiction Studies
Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2020.
Amber Winey was raised in Los Angeles’ South Bay area by a single mother. She’s had a longstanding interest in human behavior and psychology, and has a passion for “total wellness for my fellow humans and being an advocate and resource for underserved communities.” Now a single mother herself after removing herself from a situation involving domestic violence, Amber and her daughters faced homelessness at the beginning of the year; however, with help and support from Cypress College and Pathways of Hope, she found stability while continuing to pursue a certificate in addiction studies. Ultimately, Amber strives to earn a master’s degree in psychology and become a drug addiction counselor.
Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
I grew up in the South Bay area in Los Angeles. I was raised by a single mother from birth, and although she did her best to protect us from life’s struggles, I was a very perceptive child and ‘tween.’ During this time, I tried to solidify my own identity as a daughter, sister, granddaughter, and girl growing up in the world. I developed mental health issues and spent my adolescence with this passion and understanding of human need, but not being able to express my own. I was always extremely interested in the processes of human behavior on the scientific side of psychology and then on the relational side wondering “how” and “why” people interact the way that they do. Perhaps this was my way of making sense of understanding the behaviors exhibited in my own family. Maintaining this goal of self-identity has kept my self-awareness one of my greatest tools. In my senior year of high school, I began a relationship and became pregnant. I began attending Orange Education Center to finish my diploma, and I now know from educating myself and speaking up that this time in my life was the beginning of my experience with domestic violence, I have only just been able to remove myself from it 10 years later. Without that final piece of awareness and understanding of the importance of my own safety (and that of my children), as well as the help of Cypress College, I would have probably never reached a state of stability like I have within the last year. I have opened myself up to being vulnerable, to telling my story, to expressing passion and love for humanity, and showing my daughters that breaking the cycle (from my own family’s history and now ours) is the KEY.
Why did you choose Cypress College?
I chose Cypress College specifically because of the extensive support services around mental health, and because of programs (like DSS and EOPS) available to assist with adult re-entry into college. The ability for fun events hosted by Charger Experience were also an important consideration for me because I was able to include my children in my education.
What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
My first participation was in the Humanities event during Club Week of Fall and against my previous introversion, I stopped and participated in the photo session regarding what type of world I would like to live in. Working with Pathways of Hope at Cypress College, along with much diligence, my daughters and I were assisted with rapid re-housing within the last six months! During this time of homelessness and working more one-on-one with community resources, the path of adding human services to my psychology degree unfolded.
What are you most passionate about? Why?
My passion is total wellness for my fellow humans and being an advocate and resource for underserved communities. I have a passion regarding how we acknowledge and treat mental illness among adolescents; how our system works with ex-offenders and treats and assists them in re-entry. I have a passion for working one-on-one with clients to help them achieve their own goals and realize their strength and resilience. I am skilled in art therapy and hope to add these types of certifications as I plan to broaden my client scope. For me, without those people in my corner, I would not have made it through, back from when I was an adolescent, so I developed this passion and have kept my goals steady since age 12. Keeping this passion has allowed me to remain resilient during my life.
Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today? How has Cypress College supported you throughout your semesters?
Dawn Decker supported me by connecting me to the DSS office and the ability to sit down and follow the career paths of the hundreds of certificate programs it seems Cypress offers. Dawn assisted in connecting me with the Department of Rehabilitation, which has been the ultimate lifesaver regarding my unique situation. Penni Lavoot, set to retire this year, will be sorely missed! Molly Schulps offered me tough love during my first semester back at Cypress and helped me assess that at that point in time, I was not ready mentally for daily classes. I hope to prove to her when I am ready to commit to her pottery class because the aesthetic work is something I personally thrive in. During spring 2020, my situation came to a head and Professor Brandy Young remained steadfast in her support of what I was going through and doing my best to hang on to a class that ended up being a credit towards my certificate without trying! Her encouragement and this nomination helped push me through the scariest time in my life.
What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
Obtain employment as a drug addiction counselor to complement my residential treatment experience and maintain my certificate.
What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
My longer term goals include continuing on my path to finishing my bachelor’s degree in psychology and working with Cypress on transferring my old credits. I plan to obtain my master’s in psychology with added certificates in human services, victimology, and art therapy. My employment goal is one-on-one or group settings in residential treatment facilities or hospitals.
What are you most proud of?
For me, being normally self-deprecating, I can now actually say that I am proud of myself! I am proud that I have two (soon three) small faces watching me achieve my goals, even when I sometimes get off track, but always keeping my endurance to work towards my passion. I have continued school while homeless and now being nine months pregnant; I am welcoming a NEW CHARGER by the end of the summer session.
What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
NEVER falter from your dreams for they remain within you to be attained, and do not allow the outside world to change that love we carry for our fellow humans.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I want every man, woman, and even child who steps foot on this campus to know there is support for them here. There is someone on campus who understands your journey. You are not alone!