Qiana McClelland, 43, recently established a non-profit called "The Passover." It's the first step in her plan to open an addiction treatment center and, eventually, recovery homes.

"I've been in plenty (of recovery homes). That's why I want to make a difference," McClelland said.

McClelland is a former drug addict who first started taking drugs at 15 years old. McClelland, a native of Indianapolis' south side, was on drugs for 20 years.

Today, McClelland celebrates over 18 years of sobriety. She stopped taking drugs the same day she gave birth to her now 18-year-old son. "So every day he grows, I grow also," she said.

McClelland now has four children, who inspire her daily to stay clean. One of the biggest lessons McClelland has learned in her life thus far is never to take anything for granted.

"You can be gone like right now," she said. "Never take the people you love for granted or those that love you. Because sometimes people will love you without you really knowing it. And you turn, and they gone and you never got a chance to really feel or interact with that love."

"People don't know that drug addicts, they form packs," McClelland continued, "and out of my pack, I'm the only one still living."

"Ivy Tech has been my platform to grow and succeed."

McClelland obtained her high school diploma after graduating from The Excel Center in May 2021.

Finishing high school wasn't something she ever thought she'd do, much less attend college.

"I mean, my whole entire life, I've used drugs. I never thought I was good enough," McClelland said. "It felt so good ... I'm telling you, it felt so good to graduate high school."

So, when Summer Gooding, Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruiting at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, approached McClelland at her graduation, wondering what her next move was, McClelland didn't have an answer for her. She was too busy trying to take in the fact she had just achieved a diploma, something she never thought would be attainable.

McClelland now describes the moment Gooding approached her with an opportunity to attend Ivy Tech as "the best thing that has ever happened to me."

Qiana McClelland and her family pose for a picture together. Photo provided by Qiana McClelland.

By August 2021, McClelland was enrolled at Ivy Tech in Indy to study health services. And she has taken full advantage of every opportunity presented to her as she is now a Nina Scholar, was recently inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success, and works in Student Life, just to name a few.

"Ivy Tech has been my platform to grow and succeed," McClelland said.

Even though she could graduate this May, McClelland has decided to continue her educational journey at Ivy Tech by achieving her addictions certificate, financial literacy certificate, and entrepreneurship degree.

So, she's strapping in for two more years and says she couldn't imagine continuing her education at any other institution. Especially an institution that would be as patient with her as Ivy Tech has proven to be.

After being in the hospital for 121 days with COVID-19 in 2020, McClelland has suffered extreme post-COVID symptoms like shortness of breath and memory loss ever since. Which, of course, makes getting to classes and studying a challenge sometimes.

"I've had to utilize my resources, like TRIO. And I have four tutors," McClelland said.

She added that it's not only the resources but professors like Margot Jones, who teaches psychology at Ivy Indy, that makes staying at Ivy Tech Indianapolis an easy decision for McClelland.

"When I tell you she took her time with me -- it was amazing," McClelland said. 

"I'm not going to stop."

McClelland's dream is to open at least 10 recovery centers and homes in Indiana. A state where drug overdose deaths have been on the rise for nearly two decades.

"The facilities here in Indiana are basically jail or mental hospitals," McClelland said.

She wants to take people seeking recovery help outside of the facility more than what a standard recovery center does.

"We recover through skill and passion," McClelland said. "I want you to open up – go to the art room, go to the dance room. I want you to sing if you have to, paint if you have to, garden, play with animals, and bring your children. I want to be able to have rooms for my clients to where, hey, if one weekend you completed all your programs, have the kids over. Let them spend the night," she continued. "So when you do leave, you're already acclimated to the outside."

McClelland says she works to make her kids proud and to leave them all with something significant.

"I want to leave a legacy," McClelland said. "No matter where I came from and what I've done in life ... I'm not going to stop."

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357.

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.