Provided/Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman, right, congratulates scholarship recipient Luana Cordeiro. Stockton Chief Development Officer Daniel Nugent presented her with a certificate recognizing her scholarship.

MAYS LANDING –Stockton University’s partnership with the Atlantic County Recovery Court program was recognized Tuesday, Sept. 11 in a ceremony at the Atlantic County Criminal Courts Complex.

But, the real winners of the partnership were participants in the program who have benefitted by obtaining job offers at the university and scholarship funding.

“I can’t tell you what it means for our program to have this relationship,” Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson said.

Stockton officials developed a program in March and has provided employment to three Recovery Court participants, and provided scholarship funding to help another.

Luana Cordeiro of Galloway Township, who never finished her degree in criminal justice from Kean University after becoming addicted to cocaine and heroin received a scholarship to complete here degree. The scholarship covers her tuition, fees and textbooks.

University President Harvey Kesselman credited Sandson and Assignment Judge Julio Mendez for their “outside the box” thinking about how to help participants. He told the other participants in the program attending the event that he hopes more of them also have the opportunity to attend Stockton.

“We want more of you as Ospreys flying around,” he said.

Representatives from the Atlantic County Recovery Court and Stockton University at the recognition ceremony at the Atlantic County Criminal Courts Complex with scholarship recipient Luana Cordeiro, center.

Cordeiro, 34, said she was in her final semester at Kean in 2009, preparing for final exams, when she lost control of her addiction to cocaine and heroin.

“All I had left to do was finals to graduate,” she said. “I had been a dean’s list student. But I never took those finals and I never graduated. I got high instead.”

She said she spent the next five years mourning her lost chances by getting high, getting arrested and losing custody of her children. She resisted rehab opportunities and finally in 2014 was turned into police by her mother.

“I wanted to die,” she said. “I thought I was never going to be more than an addict.”

But she finally went to rehab, then Hanson House, and now works at Enlightened Solutions in Atlantic City.

“I thought college was a lost dream,” she said. “But then (Prosecutor Damon) Tyner came up and asked what they could do to help me go back to school. When I got the call that said Stockton would help me, I hung up and cried.”

Cordeiro, who is also raising her three children, said life is not always easy, but she is grateful every day for the opportunities she has.

“I am on a good spiritual ground,” she said. “I pray every day and I go to meetings. I am an addict.”

Participants in Recovery Court attended the event and Sandson said he wants them to know they can also have a better future.

“There is a way out,” he said. “We can help, but at the end of the day you have to do it yourself. It is a journey.”

Sandson, who presides over the Recovery Court program, said Stockton has been a tremendous partner.

The university currently has eight beds on reserve as recovery housing for students recovering from substance abuse. Three Recovery Court participants were offered conditional employment in custodial jobs with the hope they will become permanent. The Stockton Center for Community Engagement has also been involved with community partners to develop employment opportunities.

Funding is being sought to help other Recovery Court participants.

Mendez said about 800 people participate in Recovery Court programs in Atlantic and Cape May counties.

“We are helping some 800 people deal with addiction,” Mendez said. “We want to position them into employment. They need stability in their lives, and education is part of that.”

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.