While non-traditional students are often faced with significant obstacles in their path to an education, Carl White truly has faced more than his fair share. But according to him, the trials and tribulation endured on the way to earning his degree in social work from Winona State University only make his success all the sweeter.

White, 40, is married and the father of two young children: a 7-year old daughter with Down syndrome and a 4-year old son. For 14 years he made a living pouring concrete, but has worked for Mayo Clinic for the past seven years. He’s very proud to receive his degree in social work and become the first of his 14 brothers and sisters to graduate from college.

When making the decision to return for his degree, White looked for a university with a strong social work program, convenient location, and classes offered in the evenings to further his education. He found each of these needs fulfilled by Winona State University-Rochester and enrolled two years ago.

White was particularly interested in entering the social work field to share his personal experience with chronic pain and addiction and use it to help others in the community. Two separate traumatic accidents left White with a multitude of injuries, from a broken back to a collapsed lung to broken ribs.  Twice he had to learn to walk again. These types of injuries often result in a lifetime on pain medication, but after going through a Pain Rehabilitation Program more than four years ago, White has been medication free. He also struggled with alcohol, but with the help of an addiction program overcame this dependency as well.

Today, White serves as a motivational speaker and openly shares his story of overcoming chronic pain and addiction. He also serves on the development committee for the Cronin Home in Rochester, a facility to house homeless, chemically dependent adults.

After graduation, White plans to publish his recently completed book on chronic pain, and he has been accepted to the joint Master of Social Work Program offered through St. Catherine University and University of St. Thomas. Eventually, he hopes to earn his license to be an independent clinical social worker and work with clients dealing with chronic pain.

As he looks to the future, White reflects on the choices he’s made, the opportunities he’s pursued, and all that he has accomplished in the past two years.

“WSU has given me the tools I need to help others and continue on my path to achieve my full potential in life.” White said. “Believe in yourself. Mend the past so you can focus on the present, because that is where we are.”