Michael Roaleen, founder and Executive Director of Recovery Academy (RA), has over 35 years of experience in a variety of mental health settings. He is responsible for managing the day to day operations of RA as well as guiding the strategic direction of the program. He is a pioneer in recovery concepts and his leadership of RA has stemmed from a deep belief in the power of lived experience.
His past roles include serving as live-in supervisor of a specialized residential home, a lead staff of a crisis facility, and a mental health advocate for the Assertive Community Treatment Agency. While at Harbinger, he created the position of vocational specialist, providing skills training, support, and employer advocacy to assist members to "choose, get, keep" employment. In this capacity, he hired and supervised the first peer support in Kent County.
Michael is also a strong advocate for persons with mental health difficulties. He has served as President of Michigan US-PRA (United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association) for 3 years; President of Kent County NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) for 5 years; and member of MCMHB (Michigan Community Mental Health Boards) mental health coalition, legislative and policy committees for 2 years.
Michael continues to be treated for depression since college and has used his personal experience as a foundation for his advocacy and profession. He also has experience with addiction, both as an adult child of an alcoholic, and as a recovering alcoholic. Mike continues to be a pioneer in recovery concepts that has led to the founding and operation of Recovery Academy (RA).
Michael is a graduate of GVSU. He is happily married for over 27 years, has an adult son and three grandchildren. He lives in the town of Rockford, MI with a dog and 4 cats. He likes to read, loves classic cars, working outside, and visiting new places.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the medical definition for recovery is "The act of regaining or returning toward a normal or healthy state." This is what I strive for every day. In 2011, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. Like many who have mental illness, I had been in denial that there was anything wrong with me. It was through my counseling and the classes I attended at Recovery Academy that I began to understand who I am as a person and be able to start my recovery process. All my life I always tried to mold myself around what others told me I should be like, now I've molded myself into whom I'm meant to be.
I started taking classes at Recovery Academy in 2013 to learn coping skills to help with my mental illness. Because of what I was learning, I knew that working with people is what I wanted to do. I took the Peer Support Specialist Training so I would be able to assist others by listening, sharing resources, and hopefully help them with their individual situations.
Through my volunteering and my prior work experience, I was given the opportunity to join the staff of Recovery Academy as the Office Manager. I am the first person to greet and receive our clients, making them feel comfortable and welcome. I believe I am an asset to Recovery Academy, due in part to my regaining and returning to a healthy state of being. I truly feel that this is where I am supposed to be. I look forward to what journeys lie ahead.
Shelly started out as a student of RA in 2010 taking every available class. Shelly has been part of our staff since February 2011.
Shelly's desire to help others has served her well in her past positions as a Customer Service Manager in Retail and a Claims Processor for an insurance company. In her own words, she had a "mental breakdown" from the stress after taking a fatality claim. Shelly's husband had been killed in an automobile accident just three years prior.
Shelly began drinking heavily and was hospitalized at Pine Rest after an attempted suicide. In her follow-up counseling at Arbor Circle, she read an article about the 1st Peer Support Specialist in Michigan and decided that her life experiences would be a real benefit in that field. Mike Roaleen must have seen that quality too, as she joined his staff. She went to Lansing a few months later to become accredited by the State of Michigan as a Certified Peer Support Specialist.
She continues to inspire hope and recovery to the students at RA. She is a newlywed, married in September 2017. She has two grown children now living in North Carolina; four grandchildren, and a great-grandson born in November 2017. She and her husband, Saul, live in Grand Rapids with three cats she calls her new children.
Hi, I'm Michael Matthews. My story is one of gratitude and humility. I will forever be grateful for Recovery Academy for allowing me the opportunity to give back to the community what was generously and freely given to me. As a teenager and into my adulthood, my life was filled with disappointment and frustration. I wasn't make good choices. In 2012, I heard about Recovery Academy and the classes and support groups it offered and the support it gives to those without hope and who are lost in life. I know, without a doubt, this is where I needed to be.
I attended the classes and groups that fit my needs, and my life changed for the better; I have made a 180 degree turn. I took the Peer Support Training Course and also received my Recovery Coach Certification. I now have the priviledge of being a part of the Recovery Academy staff. Thank you, Recovery Academy, for your love and support.
Carmel Gardner works as a Peer Support at RA. She began her employment in February 2017. Prior to this, she was a student at RA for two years. Carmel received a Bachelor of Science degree from Ferris State University. Most of her work history includes being a Public Health Inspector, substitute teacher, and the healthcare field. She grew up in the country in Big Rapids, MI. She has two grown children and two grandkids. She currently lives in Grand Rapids. Carmel has a dual diagnosis consisting of complex PTSD and alcohol addiction. She feels very grateful to be part of RA; the staff is supportive and she learned a great deal from the classes. Her passion for life is the outdoors and spending time with her family. She likes to give back to people by instilling hope in their lives.
I have been working in mental health services for over 40 years. I was a volunteer for crisis lines and a peer counselor at Lansing Community College and Grand Valley State University as an undergrad. I was one of the first five employees hired at Harbinger of Grand Rapids, which was initially a research project. Harbinger was the first Assertive Community Treatment agency, (ACT) in Michigan. After two years research the success of the project was so compelling that the State of Michigan mandated that every county in Michigan initiate an ACT team based on our model. We contracted with the State to train the newly created teams. I’m proud to say, ACT has since become the most researched model of community treatment in the world. I worked as a mental health advocate (social worker) and a team leader for 15 years. I left Harbinger to go to graduate school and became a master’s level psychologist. I had a private practice for 15 years. I loved providing therapy to people, but really missed working on a team. I worked as an ACT team leader for a couple of years. Three years ago my husband, Mike Roaleen, RA Director, invited me to join the RA team. I was diagnosed with clinical depression over 20 years ago, and have a significant history of childhood trauma. I facilitate our trauma support groups, teach classes and provide therapy for a few students.
Working here at RA has been an epiphany for me. I have never worked with a group of people who embrace positive change so deeply and so quickly. Miracles happen here every day. People who had lived the medical model of being “disabled” totally reframe their lives by reframing their thinking and their attitudes. People that have been homeless for years find housing. Folks who haven’t thought they had anything to give to the world find satisfying employment. Personal relationships are evaluated and changed for the better. Others who have felt beaten down by life gain a voice and become assertive about getting their needs met and become successful at advocating for themselves and for others! Our students and staff co-create a diverse, supportive and nurturing culture at RA, and recovery skills are integrated. Peer support and compassion is the basis of this transformation. We all want to “get better”, and RA opens a safe space so that people find their own unique and special path of healing. I am so grateful to our students that they allow us to support them. It’s a gift to be able to watch people transform before our eyes.