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Simmons University Magazine

Passion Forward

Former Marine Will Delaney ’19MSW is on a mission to help other veterans.

William “Will” Delaney’s intense focus on his School of Social Work studies is fueled by life experiences that could easily have derailed his future—if he survived at all.

After completing active and reserve Marine duty as a parachute rigger in 2003, Delaney’s next decade-plus brought a drinking problem, divorce, “losing everything,” homelessness, and almost dying after being hit in the head with a tire iron. Then a DUI arrest landed him in Rhode Island’s Veterans Treatment Court.

“I saw hope in the eyes of the social worker and then in the eyes of the judge. And I knew I could find a way to turn myself around. I haven’t had a drink since,” says Delaney. “It was through that that I decided to become a social worker.”

Veterans Treatment Courts offer a pre-trial diversion program of supervision and treatment; program graduates can have their cases dismissed. Delaney graduated, volunteered at the Rhode Island court, enrolled in Simmons, then returned to the court for his first field placement.

Earlier this year, Delaney shared his story with several thousand people in the opening ceremony of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) annual training conference in Houston, Texas. He was recognized as the Veterans Treatment Court alumnus/a of the year.

“Will’s story is representative of the success that can be achieved when we focus on treatment coupled with accountability, instead of just incarceration,” says Christopher Deutsch, NADCP’s director of communications.

Delaney and two other vets co-founded a Student Veterans of America chapter at Simmons. Faculty advisor and Associate Professor of Social Work Abbie Frost ’09EE says it’s the only local chapter based at a school of social work.

Meanwhile, Delaney is helping the school explore ways to adjust its marketing plan for veterans. And he’s looking forward to a career helping other vets. “My focus is the intersection of trauma, substance abuse, homelessness and criminal justice involvement. That’s the work I’m most passionate about.”