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Lehigh Carbon Community College

Taking Charge of a Second Chance

By Daniel Melin

Current LCCC student Elliott Centeno has discovered many academic interests during his time in college, something he hadn’t planned to do when he returned to school in his 40s. From environmental science, to neuroscience, to biochemistry, he has had his nose in the books since the beginning in 2020. He plans to earn his Associate in General Studies degree this fall before transferring to Bucknell University.

A man wearing a red t-shirt poses in front of a blue wall with yellow lettering that reads UC Davis.Now finding strong academic success, Centeno reflects on his life before LCCC, and how things could have turned out much differently. “Coming back to school was a part of my overall plan when I sobered up from alcohol,” he says. “LCCC has helped me to not only replace old behaviors, but also to start accomplishing some things.”

After Centeno’s stretch of bad luck led to time in jail, he made a vow to turn his life around. “I was terrified that I was going to come out and pick up a bottle of booze,” he says, “but I took charge and responsibility for my past.” The new life Centeno set out to create for himself led him to LCCC, which he had originally attended in the 1990s for a short time.

Returning to school as an adult did not come without its challenges. “I started with one online course, mathematical literacy,” he says. “It was a challenge, but I forged ahead and dedicated myself to completing it.” In addition to struggling to keep up with new learning technology, Centeno notes that it was difficult to blend with traditional-aged college students. But after making the Fall 2021 Dean’s List, he began to view his academics more positively.

This positive and proactive outlook on his education pushed Centeno to apply to the Bucknell University Community College Scholars Program, an experience that he says changed his life. “It taught me to have more confidence in myself academically,” he says. “I started learning things relative to biochemistry and neuroscience, so I combined that with my personal background with behavioral issues and alcoholism.” His psychology course at Bucknell in particular had a huge impact on him and opened the door to possibly entering the behavioral health field down the line. The program sparked a drive in him to use what he learned in the classroom to better himself and the world around him.

Centeno’s fellow Bucknell scholars and peers in Phi Theta Kappa and the Honors Program have helped broaden his views. “Being around younger people who have the future of the world in their hands has been encouraging,” he says. “They’ve also shared that some of the things I’m doing are giving them hope.” He says the connection, influence and belonging that he feels with his classmates is all he could have hoped for when starting his college journey.

Centeno recently returned from a two-day neuroscience workshop at the University of California at Davis, where he had the opportunity to learn more about the career field and graduate school programs. “I met some great students from top schools across the country and some awesome staff at UC Davis,” he says. This workshop has also helped clear some worries that he had about his future. “It’s extremely motivating to know that opportunities like this exist.”

Even though he doesn’t know where life will take him next, Centeno says it’s most important to know where one has been, as well as where they’d like to be. He plans to continue learning as much as he can about neuroscience in order to help others who may be struggling with addiction or behavioral issues. “If I can help one person to never go back to what they came from, it’s a success,” he says. “I know how lost I was for 40 years. I don’t think this [success] is happening just for me to throw it out the window.”

For more information about the Bucknell University Community College Scholars Program and other transfer scholarships, visit the website.