media release

Crim grad turns her life around

October 05, 2011
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Contact:
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.3210/99017; Marianne_Meadahl@sfu.ca

Tara Dolan
Photo on Flickr

Hometown lists of graduates: http://at.sfu.ca/eLJrzP

Simon Fraser University criminology major Tara Dolan can relate to the at-risk youth she’ll be working with before heading back to school for her law degree.

“I can tell these kids no matter how many mistakes they’ve made or how difficult their circumstances, they can turn their lives around if they’re willing to work hard,” says Dolan. “And they can’t blow me off with ‘oh but that’s easy for you to say’.”

That’s because there has been nothing easy about Dolan’s life so far. When she was 13 years old, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and Dolan spent the next couple of years watching her die. “I felt like I was losing everything,” she says.

By age 17, Dolan was addicted to heroin and living on the streets of the Downtown Eastside. She also had a lengthy criminal record.

“One time when my dad was looking for me, he found me passed out and thought I was dead,” she says. “He told me afterwards he felt relieved because it meant I wouldn’t be in pain anymore.”

There was no epiphany, just the constant drip of a voice somewhere in the back of her head telling her she’d die if she didn’t clean up. The voice finally penetrated.

Fast forward eight years and Dolan, now 29, is looking forward to a new chapter. While at SFU she racked up a cumulative grade-point average of 4.05 out of a possible 4.33 — on top of home schooling her nine-year old son, whose multiple disorders keep him out of a formal classroom.

Perspective helps, she says. Compared to conquering a drug addiction, everything else seems that much easier.

“After working so hard to beat something that would’ve killed me,” Dolan says, “I just won’t settle for anything less in life than fulfilling my dreams."

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