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Meet October's Humans of the U: Sharing compelling stories from the heart of the University of Utah campus.

“I played basketball for nine years, one in the NBA and eight in Europe; the University of Utah gave me that opportunity. It gave me an education and made it possible for me to play basketball professionally.

When I came back to Salt Lake for our 100-year basketball reunion in 2008, I sat on the floor of the Huntsman Center and saw hundreds of other basketball players. It was then that I had an epiphany that it is not about what the university owes me, but what I owe the university. It was there I realized I needed to do something to get more involved with the U. I thought since I don’t have the money to give back, I need to do something and that’s what encouraged me to return to work here.

I started in development doing fundraising for the entire campus. Then later, my wife and I had just had triplets and we were at the hospital when the College of Engineering called and said a development opportunity had just opened up and wondered if I would be interested in applying.

Now, I really enjoy going around and bragging about the U, telling people how great their university is.”

— Josh Grant, former Ute basketball star and current director of major gifts for the College of Engineering

“When I was 15, I told my parents I was gay, and was thrown out of the house. I dropped out of high school, and migrated to the West Coast. In my 30s, my partner of 14 years died. I went off the deep end. I started mental health therapy, which was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

At 38, I took my first college course. I was studying psychology and attended a grad school night for majors where I first heard about clinical social work. I decided to get my MSW.

In my work, I saw adults within the LGBTQ community marginalized because of their age and saw how policies were impacting people’s mental health. I became part of a research team looking at the health and well-being of LGBT adults, aged 50 and older. I got my Ph.D. to help my research be recognized as legitimate.

While my research is important to me, teachers were the positive influences in my life early on. They said or did something that internally shifted me and as a teacher now, I’m hoping to pass that on.”

— Charles Pitre Hoy-Ellis, assistant professor, College of Social Work

“My life was stuck in substance use disorder, which led to crime, which led to jail and prison. I thought addiction was going to be part of me for the rest of my life.

In 2011, I was sent back to prison on a parole violation and went into the Con-Quest treatment program. On my first night there, I went to a 12 Steps meeting and I surrendered. I started to make huge changes. I finally got it. In one meeting a speaker shared his story about going to prison, getting humble, working in a treatment center and going to college to be a counselor. I was like, ‘If that dude can do it, I can do it.’

I want to be an agent of change. Everyone’s awareness needs to be raised about addiction and the stigma that comes into play when people make mistakes. People can heal, but we’ve got to let them heal.”

— Justin Hughes, senior in Social Work, events coordinator for Recover at the U, president Bachelor of Social Work Student Association, chapter leader for Young People in Recovery

[bs_well size=”md”]We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at[/bs_well]