Though recent Cincinnati State graduate Clarence Young has been through some highs and lows in his unorthodox education, that doesn’t stop him from dreaming big. Young hopes to one day own a chain of rehabilitation centers around the Tristate area—the type of places men can go to hone certain life skills needed to be productive members of society. These skills include how to interview well and dress properly for a professional engagement along with basic education. To get there, though, Young has to finish up the rest of his schooling.

As a 49-year-old father of three, Young isn’t what you would consider an average student. After dropping out of Mt. Healthy High School in 1983, he worked hard to catch up. He didn’t earn his GED diploma until 2005, but he’s been on an uphill journey from there, with only a few snags along the way.

Starting school at Cincinnati State was a nervous ordeal for Young. Not one of his many brothers or sisters ever attended college, and they weren’t supportive. But he was not to be deterred—he eventually found a group of people to help him transition to the college lifestyle.

“They weren’t [sic] just my advisors,” Young says of the group of people that make up the Student Services Center at Cincinnati State. He credits them not only for getting him into college, but also for motivating him and keeping him on track. He considers them his family, and even though he has since graduated from Cincinnati State with his associate’s degree in human services and counseling, he can still occasionally be found in their offices.

When he first started at Cincinnati State, Young was enrolled in their culinary program. He realized that while he enjoyed cooking, his passions lay elsewhere. His education was interrupted in 2008 when he went to prison, but his experience there only helped to shape his educational choices. Young says that while his student services family was disappointed in him, they stood by him and got him back in to school when he was released.

Instead of going back to the kitchen, Young got involved with classes geared toward social work. It was then that he rediscovered his passion for helping people and figured out just what he wanted to do with his life. After receiving his associate’s degree from Cincinnati State in 2012, Young continued his education at a college in Kentucky where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 2013; he is still enrolled and strives to earn his master’s degree. He plans to continue his quest for education until he has enough to open his centers and become executive director. He considers education to be one of the most important things in the world, saying that through it all, he’s always stressed the importance of it.

“Without education, you’re just existing—not living,” says Young.