Metro Man Rises from Addiction to Earn Graduate Degree

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- John Swanton says that for 25 years, he was a full-time crack addict - losing a successful business and home and eventually leaving him living on the streets.

But on Friday night, he walked across the stage at UMKC to accept his masters degree in business.

"We knew what we were. We were addicts, junkies," he said.

Supporting his crack habit cost him anywhere from $300 to $3,000 dollars a day.

"I ran businesses for the sole purpose of getting more drugs," said Swanton.

Eventually it also cost Swanton his business and his home.

"At a variety of different points, cocaine became more important than employment, rent or running a business," he said.

In 2006 Swanton found himself on the steps of the Kansas City Rescue Mission.

"A bunch of avenues opened up from there," Swanton said.

Swanton committed to a residential recovery program which in turn led to a scholarship to attend the UMKC's Bloch School of Business.

"Somewhere in the process, I bought in," said Swanton.

Free of drugs for the first time since he was a teenager, Swanton says he succeeded at something other than getting high.

"Just a member of society," said Swanton. "Because we weren't members of society in that environment."

In 2010 he earned a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration, and Friday, at the age of 49, Swanton again walks the UMKC stage. This time Swanton has earned two Masters Degrees in two years.

"I do have more days behind me than in front of me. I know that. So I'm kind of in a rush," he said.

Swanton's hope is to re-open his failed business, for himself, and everyone who helped him along the way.

"All I seek to do in what I do going forward is to reflect the support that I got," he said.

Swanton says The Missouri Department of Secondary Education Vocational Rehab Program paid for his tuition and books. As he says, he's worth more as a productive member of society than being supported on the streets.

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