September 13, 2021

Giving back along the way

Student guides others through addiction recovery

The farther Ryan Redden travels on his life journey, the more he realizes the importance of helping others along the way.

Redden, 40, will start taking classes at the University of Wisconsin-Superior this fall, working toward a self-designed bachelor’s in sociology and psychology. His career ambition is to get even better at what he does best: helping others who are dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. It’s a passion for him because of his own lifelong struggles with addiction. 

Redden is a counselor at Duluth’s Thunderbird-Wren Halfway House, where people who have gone through inpatient drug treatment programs can learn life skills to support their newfound sobriety. For Redden, it’s much more than a job.

“I do it because it’s part of my journey and my recovery,” he said. “I truly enjoy my job. I’m blessed to go to work with a smile on my face. I love the work that I do.”

He was able to gain sobriety through similar treatment programs, and is grateful for the opportunity to pay it forward. “It’s a great feeling,” he said.

Motivated by his three sons

In addition to helping his clients at Thunderbird-Wren, Redden is motivated by his three sons, Talon, 12; Kellen, 8; and Jaden, 4. “They are my absolute world,” he said. “I aspire to be a better man for myself and my family along with helping others who are going through some of the same struggles I went through.”

The women in his life have provided him with constant encouragement, he said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the help, love and support of my fiancé (the mother of my three boys) and my sister. They have helped and allowed me to continue growing.”

Online program makes degree possible

Redden and his family live in Two Harbors, so he’ll be taking advantage of UWS’ online coursework. “It is convenient,” he said. He’s no stranger to virtual classes. After the pandemic hit, he completed his associate’s program at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College — sometimes taking as many as 21 credit hours while working full time at Thunderbird-Wren. He plans to take on a more manageable course load at UWS, but he’ll bring the same dedication and enthusiasm that made him a successful student at FDLTCC. He graduated with a 3.96 GPA.

“It was something I was passionate about,” he said. “I was excited and motivated, I was the first person in class, and I would stay late. I took school very seriously.”

After completing his associate’s degree, Redden decided to attend UWS on the recommendation of peers at school and work.

“Two of the counselors that I work with are UWS graduates,” he said. “They were very happy with their time there. My advisor at Fond du Lac also encouraged me to go to UWS.”

Upon finishing his program at UWS, Redden will become a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. He looks forward to becoming even more effective in the job he loves through the skills he will learn at UWS.

“I absolutely enjoy learning, and the new knowledge I hope to gain at UWS will help me continue my path in helping others.”

UW-Superior offers a number of programs for students interested in careers in counseling. Undergraduate students can choose from psychology (on-campus or online), social work (on-campus) or sociology (on-campus) majors – each of which prepare students in unique ways for careers in counseling and human services-related fields. Another option is to design your own major and specialized program of study through the self-designed program. Graduate students can continue their education at UW-Superior with the M.S.E. in Counseling (on-campus) or M.S.E. in School Counseling (online) programs.

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