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Attending NKU Changed this Mother's Life

Stefanie Nelson-Guffey got married one day before her eighteenth birthday and spent most of her life raising four children. She never found time to pursue her own interests until four years ago when she enrolled at NKU.

“It’s interesting how your life falls into place once you start moving a little,” she said. “For the longest time, I was married, raising kids and stayed at home. I thought that was my life, but (coming to college) changed all that.”

Nelson-Guffey is one year away from graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Integrative Studies. The next step in her education plan will be enrolling in the Master of Art Therapy program at the University of Louisville.

Art therapy applies visual arts in a creative process to help people of all ages improve their physical, mental and emotional well-being. Nelson-Guffey wants to learn more about it so she can work with people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction.

“What they have now discovered, especially with those with addictions,” she said, “is sometimes it’s hard for them to be able to express what’s going on (inside them) because it’s something from their childhood that they’ve pushed deep back and forgotten. Art therapy, after you’ve worked with it a little bit and you know what you’re doing, helps show them that you have the ability to overcome anything.”

Nelson-Guffey is taking classes in art and psychology at NKU to get a solid background of knowledge about the two main components in art therapy.

She is also involved with Renew, a community action project to help women with a criminal record or a history of drug addiction to achieve personal and economic success.

Renew is remodeling a house in Newport where the women will live and work together, making cosmetic items to package and sell.

Jennifer Webster, director of the Renew project, said Nelson-Guffey will conduct Bible studies that residents must attend to stay in the house.

“I think she is the sort of nurturing personality who is going to be really good at leading the bible studies,” Webster said of Nelson-Guffey. “I wanted to go ahead and get her in a leadership position so that once she does complete that higher education (for a master’s degree) and comes back, she can take over the true therapy.”

Nelson-Guffey is a member of the Alpha Beta Phi chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the international honor society in history. She developed an interest in history when she learned that her ancestors were among a group of early settlers who built a fort in Virginia in 1786.

She’s also taking cello lessons in an evening class that’s held at the same time her 11-year-old son is taking violin lessons.

“One thing that I’ve learned from being here at NKU is it has allowed me to grow so much more than I ever could have imagined,” Nelson-Guffey said.

Written by Terry Boehmker

From NKU