CSU, Long Beach, News

CSULB alumnus shares his story from incarcerated drug addict to college professor

Dale Lendrum, who graduated with a doctorate from Long Beach State, uses his journey from drug abuse to sobriety to engage with formerly incarcerated students at community colleges.

Lendrum said it felt like he achieved the impossible when he stayed sober from drugs in 2009. Since then, he has achieved his master’s degree in communication studies and a doctorate in educational leadership at Long Beach State.

Since graduating from CSULB in 2021, Lendrum is now a professor of communication studies at Long Beach City College and East Los Angeles College. In ELAC, Lendrum teaches formerly incarcerated students in partnership with Homeboy Industries.

“I get the opportunity, the blessing of being able to teach in front of a group of students who are just like me, trying to change their lives and using higher education to do so,” Lendrum said. “That’s pretty much a blessing.”

During his time as a CSULB student, Lendrum served as senate for Associated Students, Inc., where he advocated to establish Project Rebound at the university. This program is designed to help formerly incarcerated students reshape their lives in pursuit of a higher education.

Lendrum spent 30 years experimenting with drugs from the age of 16 to 46, which led to his involvement in criminal activity. Lendrum said the cause of his addiction was due to him growing up in a dysfunctional family.

“I was beaten growing up and all of those types of things, so I think I just began to experiment with hardcore drugs to kind of escape the traumas,” Lendrum said.

Drug prevention programs were not introduced in Orange and Los Angeles County until 1983, when the Orange County Drug Abuse Prevention was finally established. Simultaneously, Drug Abuse Resistant Education, otherwise known as D.A.R.E., created a partnership the same year with the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Unified School District, which taught elementary schoolers about the prevention of drug use.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of education or knowledge about these things back in the ’60s and ’70s,” Lendrum said. “To a degree, you know, I grew up thinking this kind of stuff was normal.”

Lendrum said his first attempt to stay sober was back in 1999, when his mother was diagnosed with cancer back in Sweden. Lendrum took all the steps to sobriety in order to go visit his mom, before he got the news that she passed away. Lendrum stayed sober for six months.

Now, Lendrum chooses to use his success in sobriety and completion in higher education to inspire students who are trying to build a life outside of jail or prison.

“We’re creating things for folks who were formerly incarcerated [so that they] have a place that they can come to,” Lendrum said. “Where they will be treated like human beings and provide hope and opportunity for the future.”

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