By Rachel Holt

FALL RIVER (CBS) – A few years ago, Katherine Haley would’ve never imagined being named top of her class at Bristol Community College.

“I am one of the many people in my generation who suffered from the opioid epidemic. I started as many people do with pills and I moved onto harder substances, eventually becoming a heroin addict,” said Haley.

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When the Nashua, New Hampshire native lost both of her parents, things only got worse.

“After they both passed, I became homeless- I lost my license, my car, my job. I was living in a walk-in closet at one point,” said Haley.

At the age of 26, Haley took steps to change her life, including enrolling at Bristol Community College.

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“As soon as I stepped into a classroom I was immediately enamored with academia in general. I knew that’s where I wanted to be, if I could, for the rest of my life,” said Haley.

Currently living in Fall River, Katherine graduated from Bristol in May and was recently named one of the Community College Women of the Year by Glamour Magazine. She was notified of the award by none other than First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

“I know that I need to use my voice and my experience to help others that are coming from where I come from,” said Haley.

Next stop? Brown University, where Katherine will start classes in the fall in the field of psychology.

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“I’m hoping to make inroads for other non-traditional students in the Ivy League and in those elite spaces because I want people to know that you can come from anywhere and you can achieve your dreams,” said Haley.

Rachel Holt