Just a few years ago, Ambur Bernal’s nine year old daughter was asking why dad wasn’t around anymore and why she couldn’t see him.  Did he even love her?

Her dad was in prison, serving a 3 year sentence on drug charges, but Bernal was hesitant to tell her daughter the details.

“I felt I was dancing around my daughter’s questions, sugarcoating them,” Bernal said.  “I didn’t even really understand addiction and didn’t know how to communicate to her the problem her dad was facing.”

Ambur, a hairdresser at the time, asked a client for advice.  The client was Lori Howell, Mohave Community College faculty member teaching Chemical Dependency Studies, which is now MCC’s new Substance Abuse Counseling program.

“She wanted to have answers for her daughter,” Howell said, “So in her plight to be a good mom she asked if she could take one of my courses being offered that particular semester.”

Bernal finished a pre-requisite course and enrolled in Howell’s class.  From there, she was on the road to a 2 year degree and major life improvement for herself, her daughter and others in Mohave County.

“I’m now able to work with people in recovery and help them,” Bernal said.

She’s currently working at Southwest Behavioral & Health Services in Lake Havasu and thanks to the smooth system in place to transfer credits she earned from Mohave Community College, she is also pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology through Grand Canyon University.

“You can never have enough education and we need to do away with the shame factor when it comes to addiction,” Bernal said.  “So many people don’t want to seek help for themselves or their kids because they fear shame will come with admitting the problem.   We need to lessen the shame and increase education.  It’s the only way to combat the drug and addiction problem that’s happening.”

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