A Student Builds the Community They Wish to SeeNov 19, 2021
Austin’s pronouns are he/they, so we alternate between these pronouns throughout this article.
Many CU Denver students go on to reinvest in the Lynx community, offering future generations the same resources that opened doors for them. But few start as early as Austin Plagge.
Austin transferred to CU Denver in 2020 from the Community College of Denver. Almost as soon as they enrolled, they became president of CU Denver’s chapter of the Auraria Recovery Community (ARC), a tri-institutional program supporting students in recovery.
It was only two years earlier that Austin began their own recovery journey, following a decade-long struggle with substance misuse. Early into their journey, Austin came across a flyer advertising ARC and immediately began attending meetings. Since then, they have been a key contributor in building ARC into a support community for students across the Auraria campus.
A New Model for Leadership
Austin had previous experience with other recovery programs, where he was grateful to find support—but also disheartened to encounter stigma and discrimination. “There was a lack of empathetic and inspiring leaders,” Austin reflected. So he resolved to become the leader he wished to see: “I want to bring some ethical, inspiring leadership to the addiction treatment industry and maybe start my own sober living for the LGBTQ community.”
This goal is what brought Austin to CU Denver. It’s what propelled him to leadership roles at ARC. And it’s what continues to drive him to complete his degree in business management. “I’m learning so much,” he said, “I’m learning about business, leadership, management—it’s what I expected and more.”
A Circle of Support
The university that Austin is investing in so deeply is also investing back in him. Austin is a recipient of the Ted and Dorothy Horrell Endowed Scholarship, established by Chancellor Emerita Horrell and her husband to support first-generation students. “It’s meant so much to me,” Austin said. “With the scholarship I’ve been able to focus on studying, community service, my recovery, my mental health. If I didn’t have the scholarship and I had to work full-time, I might have given up. It’s allowed me to get back up on my feet.”
It’s the type of support that Austin aims to provide when they one day lead a treatment center or recovery organization—and the type of support that they are already providing today for CU Denver students through their work with ARC.