Yakima Valley College Alumni Association honors Gerard Dombrowski with Distinguished Alumnus Award
The Yakima Valley College Alumni Association has selected Substance Abuse Instructor Gerard Dombrowski as the 2021 recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award. The award provides recognition to an alumnus who attended YVC for a minimum of three quarters, earning at least 45 credits, and has distinguished themselves in a positive manner. Established in 1982 and first conferred to Catherine May Bedell, the award has been presented to a variety of notable graduates of YVC. The selection is made by the YVC Alumni Association from nominations submitted by faculty, staff, students and community members.
Gerard Dombrowski was born in Philadelphia and raised on the East Coast spending time between New York and Florida.
For many years, Dombrowski worked in construction trades, both in commercial glass and the construction of new homes. During this time, he struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol. In the early 2000s, Dombrowski was visiting family in the Pacific Northwest when he fell in love with the area and decided to relocate.
After overcoming his addiction, Dombrowski was ready for a new chapter in his life and turned to Yakima Valley College for a fresh start.
“I met my wife here in Yakima County at a time when a new chapter in my life had begun,” stated Dombrowski. “My own personal recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction led to my desire for more education on addiction, and I was afforded the opportunity to take a class at YVC to see if the addiction studies field interested me.”
After that initial class, he decided to continue his studies and completed an associate of applied science degree in chemical dependency studies. He then transferred to Grand Canyon University and earned both a bachelor’s degree in addiction science and a master’s degree in addiction counseling.
In 2007 Dombrowski accepted his first counseling position and this position began his work with addiction recovery in Central Washington. In addition to counseling addicts and alcoholics, he has held positions as clinical supervisor and clinic director at Triumph Treatment Center – James Oldham Treatment Center in Buena. Currently, Dombrowski is the team leader/clinical supervisor at Comprehensive Healthcare at Pathways, an intensive inpatient program for co-occurring disorders.
He also works as an adjunct instructor in YVC’s Substance Use Disorders program and serves as its program coordinator.
“Interestingly – and amazingly – the man who made that first course at YVC available to me called me years later, in 2014, and offered me an opportunity as an adjunct faculty member here at YVC, teaching in the same program where I had gotten my start years earlier,” he said.
Dombrowski is thankful for the opportunity to help his patients in their recovery and create new possibilities for their lives.
“The most beneficial aspect of working with individuals struggling with substance abuse issues is when I witness that they now appreciate the simple fact that – with a little hard work – life tomorrow can be better than life was yesterday. Being there when their light bulb comes on – when they finally appreciate that they, too, can recover and be the brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and the fathers and mothers they were meant to be.”
Dombrowski has impacted the lives of many individuals seeking recovery here in Yakima County and beyond. He has been a mentor and favorite teacher to many, and his personal recovery from addiction and personal growth have been an inspiration to others.
Dombrowski lives in Selah, Wash., with his wife. Together they have four daughters and six grandchildren.
“I consider myself living proof that any alcohol or drug addict can recover and make changes in their respective lives, and come to appreciate life as a joyous journey, rather than a burdensome existence,” he concluded.