LeRoy Langston-The Orlando Times
Parramore Resident Turns Life Around;
Earns Degree at 64
BY JALESSA NEAL, TIMES STAFF WRITER
CUTLINE: LeRoy Langston photographed in his cap and gown. He overcame addiction and at 64-years-old received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida.
LeRoy Langston has overcome a checkered past, including drug addiction and several run-ins with the justice system. Despite these setbacks he worked hard and earned his bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Central Florida (UCF) last weekend.
“I’ve been a go-getter all of my life. The drugs never changed that. I am a scrapper in that I’m always going to keep coming, I’m always going to keep pushing until I make it,” said Langston, an Orlando native who turned 64-years-old last month.
Langston, who lives in the Parramore community and has six grown children, began to turn his life around in the early 2000s. While he has relapsed on occasion, he has been sober since 2013. Aside from achieving sobriety, he says earning his degree from UCF was his life’s most difficult accomplishment.
Langston was receiving disability checks but felt that he wasn’t making enough to support himself. He figured that the best thing he could do was to get an education. Although he had previously received his GED, he hadn’t been back to school in 40 years, so he had to go through the program again. He attended classes at the Coalition for the Homeless.
Finding success, his instructor, Brenda Baker, allowed Langston to tutor the other students. From there, he received the Pell Grant and began to attend Valencia in 2013. From Valencia he transferred to UCF.
“I turned an obstacle into a purpose. It wasn’t difficult once I changed my mindset,” said Langston. “I'm not a religious person but I have strong faith and I believe that there is something greater than all of us that has a purpose. I felt that as long as I kept moving in the in the right direction then I was going to be alright.”
To attend classes, Langston had to commute by bus – a nearly two-hour trip – to UCF’s campus multiple times per week.
Because he does not have internet access within his home, Langston completed all coursework in the university’s libraries before making the journey back to downtown Orlando.
“His willingness to take a two-hour bus to campus shows his true commitment to his personal and professional goals,” said Iryna Malendevych, M.Ed., M.S. “I feel optimistic about his future and the future of many of those whom he will inspire in one way or another.”
Malendevych is a Criminal Justice Associate Instructor at UCF and Faculty Advisor for Lambda Alpha Epsilon (LAE). She was one of Langston’s professors.
“His story supports the idea that people can change, mature, and become successful in anything they set their minds to. It shows that the future should not be based on one’s past,” she said. “The hardships he faced did not sway his desire to turn his life around and I can say he’s done amazing work in doing so.”
Since graduating he has had two job interviews and plans on using his degree to become an addiction counselor. He aspires to help Central Floridians who are struggling with substance abuse to turn their lives around.
“I feel great about [getting my degree] and the process isn’t over,” said Langston. “I'm just as motivated and determined and I’m trying to get to where I can help some someone going through what I went through.”
Langston already has five years of experience volunteering at addiction support groups at the Coalition for the Homeless. He plans to use that and his personal life experiences to help others.
“The most important thing that I learned was to ask for help,” he said. “Where I come from that isn’t what we do but humility plays a big part in moving forward.”