Texas Tech University

It is Never Too Late to Change

November 24, 2023

Anna Treviño shares with her students and incarcerated individuals how she overcame addiction through the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities at Texas Tech.

Anna Treviño cannot help but swell with pride when she scans the list she has well memorized at this point.  

There are 10 goals scribbled on the paper, a checklist of sorts she made for herself nearly 15 years ago. Each to-do was not an easy accomplishment – rather, a slow transformation she was determined to undergo.

It was nearly impossible for her to imagine such a bright future for herself from the discomfort of her prison cell. The scribbled phrases “buy a house” and “graduate from college” seemed far away and daunting. 

But nonetheless, Treviño stared at these ambitions with a deep focus along with two treasured attributes she developed during her second sentence – a sober mind combined with the will to achieve.

“I was excited for life because I knew I had a calling,” she recalled. “I was going to do everything I could to carry the message of recovery to someone else and help my community. I was on fire to get out and prove, really to myself, that God didn't make a mistake on me. I was going to be impactful in some way.”

As Treviño headed to a sober living facility in 2009, she stayed determined her life would drastically change.

What she could never foresee is merely six years later, she would not only cross off all the life goals on her list, but would become the assistant director of Texas Tech University's Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities.

She indeed makes an impact in her role, teaching from personal experience rather than textbooks alone. 

“I'm here to give you hope about education and recovery,” she tells her class. “I'm an open book.”

Addiction during Adolescence

In Treviño's words, her story is a little different.

She grew up in Weslaco, Texas, but her parents began to move around during her childhood. One of their stops was Lubbock.

The one constant that followed her no matter where she went is the trauma she experienced in elementary school, which included being exposed to drugs at age 11. Treviño confided her troubles to a school counselor who she still vividly remembers decades later.

“She was incredible,” Treviño said. “I think from that day, it felt like I had a calling to be some kind of counselor or a therapist.” 

Treviño would face several obstacles to attain that dream. For one, she would be a first-generation student.

For two, she became addicted to alcohol and cocaine by age 13 and dropped out of high school at 16 years old.

“I was in full-blown addiction,” she said. “I depended on drinking and using just to get up and be motivated for life.”

Treviño moved back to Lubbock to live with her father at that point. She began a relationship with her childhood sweetheart and married him in 2001. She worked several temporary jobs in restaurants and a factory, but she ultimately lost sight of her ambition.

“When I was in my addiction, it came before everyone and everything,” Treviño said. “I made some really bad decisions under the influence.”

Mere months after her marriage (which would end in divorce), Treviño broke the law and was arrested then put on probation. She did not care about the consequences at the time – a mindset which led to her sentence of a little more than two years in a women's prison in Gainesville, Texas.


At age 21, she was afraid of what awaited her behind bars. She was clean, but not particularly happy about it. She decided to lay low and keep to herself, but sadly, that didn't matter. Treviño still encountered some “monsters” and struggled to maintain her mental health while behind bars.

There also were some good people and opportunities that changed her life, like obtaining her GED in 2002. These moments were occasional sparks within the darkness. But overall, Treviño was not ready to accept the true help she needed.

By 2003, she was released from prison, but it did not take long for her to relapse into her old ways. After 13 months, in 2004, Treviño was arrested again.

This time her sentence was four-and-a-half years in prison.

“I was at a level of desperation where I had prayed the night before I got arrested, ‘I don't want to live like this anymore. My life is in shambles and I am in a very dark place,'” Treviño remembered. “My mental health was out of control because my addiction took over everything. I'd lost a lot of things; I was exhausted and I was tired of running.”

This time, Treviño began her sentence in search of a solution to not only make it in society but also become a purpose-filled person. She took advantage of every program she thought would benefit her lifestyle change: the 12-step meetings by Alcoholics Anonymous, faith-based programs, vocational classes and college courses.

family portrait

Treviño learned graphic design, carpentry and general office assistant skills. While she felt obligated to attend class, the stronger pull was her genuine curiosity.

“I wanted to open my world to different opportunities,” she said. “I wanted to untap my potential. I knew there were greater things for me, I just had to sit down long enough to develop some life goals, work on myself, do some self-reflection and heal from certain things.”

The transformation escalated with each year, and by 2009, Treviño walked out of prison and into the sober living facility feeling empowered with her list of 10 goals and newfound confidence.

“I developed so many tools that I still use to this very day,” she said. “I was immersed in recovery.”

During addiction, Treviño was numb. Now she had faith boosted from a conversation she had shortly before her release.

“My counselor at the time was doing my discharge plan and she said, ‘I did not know you're from Lubbock. Do you know about the Texas Tech recovery program?'” Treviño said. “I told her, ‘No, I don't. I've been there all my life. What are you talking about?' And she was like, ‘You live next to one of the best recovery programs in the world. What are you waiting for?'”

Red Raider in Recovery

The program was called the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities (CCRC) at Texas Tech, which would grow to become Treviño's passion.

But first, she would have to overcome self-doubt and apply.

“I had all these stigmas attached to me,” she said. “For one, I'm a Hispanic female. I'm formerly incarcerated. I have a lot of tattoos. I'm an addict. So I was like, ‘There's no way I'm going to go to Texas Tech. I'm not good enough.'” 

Thankfully, Treviño met Vincent Sanchez, the associate director of the CCRC. He helped her not only understand how to navigate a college experience, but to see her potential.

“I knew she was ready to do this,” he said. “She was excited to have a second chance.”

Treviño pushed herself to submit her application and was accepted for the fall 2009 semester.

The center offered Treviño a nurturing and supportive community and guided her into continuous recovery, connectedness in community, commitment to academics and civility in relationships. She looked forward to developing herself academically, personally, and professionally and was thankful to earn financial aid.

Her gratitude shined through her performance.

“Once she started that first semester, she was fired up,” Sanchez said. “She participated in everything, she attended everything and she gave 110% to the service organization.”

For the next three years, Treviño juggled these commitments with a full-time job. It was not always easy, but she kept her priorities straight through her newfound community that welcomed, loved and shaped her to become the person she is today.

graduating with bachelors

“When I walked in, my life was out of control,” she admitted. “I was learning how to manage money, how to get to work on time, how to be a full-time student while being formerly incarcerated and having to make appointments to meet with my parole officer and go to aftercare meetings. I appreciated the center so much for all the support they gave me.”

Her dedication paid off in the fall of 2012, when Treviño's family cheered her on as she became a first-generation college graduate with her bachelor's degree in community, family and addiction sciences.

“Walking in from the tunnel at the United Supermarkets Arena, I was in tears when they opened the curtain and I could see all of the people,” she said. “It was amazing to turn around and say, ‘I'm a college graduate – after all the obstacles and poor choices in my life, after everything I've been through – I get to do this because I put in the work.'”

This may have seemed like the perfect closing to Treviño's chapter at Texas Tech, but Sanchez reiterated her Red Raider story could, and should, be continued.

“I wanted her to strike while the iron was hot,” Sanchez said. “I hated for her to finish with just an undergrad with the amount of dedication and commitment she had shown to her education. So, I really encouraged her to move forward and get her master's degree.”

Treviño agreed.

In spring 2013, she began her master of education program in clinical mental health counseling and graduated in fall 2014.

Treviño could finally make the mark she wanted to leave as a child as she went on to open a private practice as a licensed chemical dependency counselor and a licensed professional counselor. Not only that, but she had welcomed a son into her world – whom she adoringly refers to as the love of her life.

masters grad

When the new year started in 2015, Treviño kicked it off by not only getting off parole but also checking all 10 life goals off her list.

And she was just getting started.

“I remember what it was like when I joined the center, and I want to share all of those tools and skills and resources with other students,” Treviño recalled. “I wanted to walk alongside them and let them know how this is going to help them and change their life forever, if they just stick with it.”

Telling Her Testimony 

In her pursuit to spread advice and provide guidance, Treviño applied for a faculty position at the CCRC. Her insecurities struck again with force, but this time, she had a network of mentors who could vouch for her. 

“She's got such a dynamic story and at least part of it can touch almost every single one of the students in some way,” Sanchez said. “It's meaningful for everyone to hear the story because of how hard she's worked and what she's been able to accomplish. She's an inspiration.” 

In a moment of relief and pure elatedness, Treviño became the assistant director of the CCRC in April 2015. Ever since then, her opportunity to make an impact does not appear sporadically, but every day Treviño meets with her students.  

“They come in and chat with me and say, ‘You've accomplished so many things; you give me hope,'” she said. “They know they can do this because I have their backs and will encourage them.”

Later that same year, Treviño got the chance to share her story even further when she became the adviser for the newly developed organization called Providing the Outside World with Empowerment and Resources (POWER). The team consists of students, CCRC and Lubbock community members who provide a foundation and voice for those in recovery by delivering positive end results through opportunities for success.

It is through POWER that for the past eight years, Treviño has presented the CCRC program to underrepresented populations at specific locations, agencies and programs in Lubbock County and across Texas – which had her walk right back into prison doors.

“The very first time I actually was approved to go inside a prison was mind-blowing,” she said. “I was anxious, nervous and emotional.”

What powered Treviño through her apprehension was the memory of herself incarcerated, looking forward to the volunteers and individuals who would present programs and events each week because of how they uplifted her mentally and spiritually.

As she began to pay that forward, Treviño unexpectedly found her element inside the prisons as she delved into how she once sat in their seats.

Trevino Speaking

“I think she's even more impactful in prisons because when she tells her story, she shows them there's a path they can take to be successful once they get out,” Sanchez said. “It gives them a lot of hope for staying sober and making a change in their lives.”

Treviño is not only breaking barriers, but she's teaching her students to do the same as they also share their messages of hope and recovery with sober living facilities. 

In 2021, she received recognition for her efforts from the Association of Recovery in Higher Education through the Collegiate Recovery Cornerstone Award for Student Support, which honors an individual who has gone above and beyond to support students in recovery.

The recognition made Treviño feel proud of her work. She considers her achievements at Texas Tech right up there with her 18 years of recovery and getting to watch her students experience the same gratitude she felt during her graduation.

“That's the reward,” she said. “It's not about nominations or awards. It's about watching my students become successful and accomplish something.”

But she is far from done. Her 10 new long-term goals are even more ambition than before: raise her son into a great man, create a sober living facility for formerly incarcerated women and form a program like the CCRC inside prisons and other institutions.

“I've learned that whatever your goals are, you reach for them and you push until you can get there,” Treviño said. “If we let all the obstacles in our lives get in the way and we give up, we'll never reach those goals we set for ourselves.”

It was a long, treacherous road to reach this high point in Treviño's life – one twisted around various traumatic events that once had her convinced she was too lost in addiction to ever be found.

Her path to Texas Tech taught her it is never too late to change.

“It's only late if you let it be late,” Treviño said. “We have students that are in their 60s. So, the biggest question is, whose timeline are you on? Your timeline, or society's timeline?

“I'm here to give you hope about education and recovery – that there's life on the other side of addiction. If you show up like you're supposed to, choose to be in recovery, stay clean and do the work, our community will love you and guide you through it. You'll be fine. You've got this.”

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