(Editor’s Note: The following is part two of an ongoing series of articles that will profile how former and current Western Carolina University students use their education received at WCU.)
Ruby Burns Peoples graduated summa cum laude from Western Carolina University in May 2008 with a Bachelors degree in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice. As soon as she graduated, she began working at the Buncombe County Jail as a Pre-trial screener for the probation department. Shortly after that, she began working with TASC, a nonprofit organization which provides rehabilitation services for drug offenders. Peoples’ is in charge of the TASC programs in Jackson, Swain, Macon, Haywood and Clay county. After being with TASC for only a few months, Peoples’ was promoted to supervisor and trainer for the area TASC programs.
Last month Peoples’ was featured on the Asheville ABC affiliate station WLOS news as the “Person of the Week” for her outstanding accomplishments. During her interview with the news station, she revealed that her motivation behind working with drug offenders comes from the experience she has with drug abuse as a child. Both of her parents abused drugs when she was a child and have been in and out of rehab. During Peoples’ senior year at Western, her parents finally got clean; Peoples’ made it her personal goal to enter into a career that supported rehabilitation in hopes of helping others overcome their addictions. Peoples’ experienced firsthand the damage that can be done by drug use and has dedicated her life to offering support for both drug offenders as well as their family.
Outside of her job with TASC, Peoples’ has established the Jackson County chapter of “Celebrate Recovery”. Celebrate Recovery is a national, religion centered program that offers a support group for people during their recovery stage as well and information for family members to help cope with the transition. With the help of Peoples’ church, Grace Community Church, the Jackson county chapter of Celebrate Recovery offers a biblically based recovery program which embraces’ God’s healing power by sharing individual experiences, strengths, and hopes with members of the group. The group meets every Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Employment commission Office in Sylva, which is also the main office for TASC in Jackson County.
While at Western, Peoples’ originally wanted to become a probation officer but her 5’1”, 115 lbs stature discouraged the career. When asked about the influences that inspired her career path Peoples’ said, “Dr. Malesky really inspired me when I was at WCU. I had always been interested in psychology and the criminal justice system, and seeing his passion and knowledge really encouraged me. In my professional career, Dr. Malesky has assisted me with complicated legal cases, and I am glad that Western has professors such as him to mentor students.” Peoples’ continued to express how comforted she was in knowing that she would always be able to refer back to her professors here at Western if she ever needed help or advice in her career.”
Ruby Burns Peoples is an excellent example of how WCU alumni are using their education in the real world.