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Roadtrip Nation Student Profile - Brittany Gray

photo of Rio Salado College student Brittany Gray photo of Rio Salado College student Brittany Gray studying with a laptop and notebook

Roadtrip Brings Student’s Career Search Full Circle

To affirm whether she is on the right career path, Brittany Gray took an unusual course of action -- she took a trip! 

Gray joined two fellow Rio Salado College students last fall for a two-week road trip to interview successful alumni and former students and obtain career advice.

The trip was a result of the college’s partnership with Roadtrip Nation, a non-profit organization that empowers learners by providing career experiences that lead to equitable education and employment pathways. (Learn more about the partnership here.

For Gray, the road trip helped solidify her chosen path by bringing her life full circle.

“I started doing drugs when I was 16,” Gray said. “I dropped out of high school. I went to jail. When I was 21, I got my GED in jail.”

Now 34, Gray decided to pursue a college degree in search of a better future.

“I had gotten to a point in my life where I refused to lose anything else over a substance, because I’d already lost too much,” Gray said.

Gray chose Rio Salado College for its flexible online programs.

“I’m going to Rio for my associate degree in substance use disorders,” Gray said. “It’s online so you have the convenience of making your own schedule. I chose this program because of my past. I went to a residential treatment center. Gaining sobriety and how I got to where I am today is from that program.”

Even with her first-hand experience of overcoming substance abuse, Gray was still seeking a sign that choosing this career path was the right one for her.

“The Roadtrip Nation trip was very insightful, and I gained a lot of good advice,” Gray said. “I was told by all who I interviewed that there really is no right or wrong way to do things as long as you are doing what you are passionate about.” 

While the road trip took the three Rio Salado students to Las Vegas, San Francisco and San Diego, Gray found a kindred spirit in Brayden Younghusband, executive director of integrated care at Pinnacle Peak Recovery in Phoenix.

Younghusband discussed his role at the facility and told the roadtrippers about the importance of setting boundaries in the mental health field.

“When I initially got into this field, I wanted to work all the time and help people all of the time,” Younghusband said. “What happened was, I began to not be able to help myself. Then came the burnout and compassion fatigue. That is why self-care is so important.”

These words of advice really hit home for Gray.

“The second I set foot in that rehab facility, all my doubts went away,” Gray said. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I’m so glad he talked about self-care. In order to give back what I want to give back, I have to figure out myself. I won’t forget that advice.”

Now armed with her purpose of helping others, Gray looks confidently to the future.

“The trip really built my confidence to where I needed it to be,” Gray said. “I loved every second of the experience. It reinforced my goal, which is to become a substance use counselor.”

“I want to save people who everybody’s given up on,” Gray continued. “A lot of people said I was too far gone. And there were a couple of people who held on, and that’s the only reason I’m alive. I’m going to give back and be that person for somebody.”

Stay tuned for more stories from the Roadtrip Nation’s Rio Salado College Roadtrip.

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