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UC Student and Recovered Heroin Addict Thanks Professors, Mentors for Her Transformation

After a rocky youth, psychology student Elle Ketterer will graduate this semester and hopes to attend graduate school.

Date: 4/17/2014 12:00:00 AM
By: Courtney Danser
Phone: (513) 556-8577

UC ingot  
Six years ago, Elle Ketterer couldn’t have guessed that she would be graduating from college this year. In fact, it was just six years ago that she overcame her heroin addiction.  

Ketterer grew up in Colerain, just northwest of Cincinnati, but when she was 15 her family moved to the small rural community of Georgetown, Ohio.
After spending years listening to the misguided advice of her classmates and inhaling the secondhand smoke of her friends, Ketterer was drawn into living the only life she thought possible.

Elle Ketterer
Elle Ketterer is graduating this spring with a psychology degree.

 But at 21 years old, she started to turn her life around.

“I realized at some point I was going to die,” says Ketterer. “I just looked around me, and I thought ‘There’s got to be more than this.’”

That’s when she decided to get her GED. Assuming that her education would end there, she didn’t apply for college until she received a letter from the Grant Career Center in Bethel, Ohio, offering her a free certification class. Intrigued by the possibility of higher education, Ketterer enrolled in a Certified Nurse Aid class. 

After completing her program, she went to live with a friend in Germany for six months. It was there that she applied to enroll at University of Cincinnati Clermont College campus. Her education at UC began on a path to a nursing degree, but as it does with many college students, that path quickly changed direction. 

Although she soon found out that a nursing career didn’t line up with her interests, she says her professors and advisers kept her on track. 

“I don’t know that, without the professors and mentorship involved, I would have made it through a four-year degree,” she says. “When I got to UC Clermont, there were professors who really took me under their wing, almost instantaneously.” 

It wasn’t long before Ketterer discovered her true passion.

“I found that I am in love with psychology and that it’s just what I should do,” she says. 

Soon after that realization, Ketterer transferred to UC's Uptown Campus. Since then, her focus has been on graduate school. Still, she says, the whole experience seems surreal to her.

“There’s not a day that I don’t sit down and think at least for two seconds about the person that I used to be,” she says. “Because she’s so different from the person that I am now.”

And Ketterer says that she wouldn’t be the person she is today without some of her UC mentors — associate professors of psychology Meera Rastogi, Wanda McCarthy and Noah MacKenzie, and associate professor of English Jo Ann Thompson.

“Those four people created a safety net around me that I could not fall through if I tried,” she says. “I don’t know what it was about me that they saw, but I think they knew that there was something worth salvaging.” 

That’s not to say they favored her though — in fact, it was quite the opposite. 

“They were rough and they were harsh and they pushed me to do way more than I thought was even possible,” says Ketterer. 

But the amount her life has changed because of her experience at UC was something she never could have expected. 

“The education that I’ve purchased here … money can’t get you that. It changes who you are in a character kind of way.” 

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