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Alumnus to inspire, sign book Aug. 31 at Gateway

Jacob Spellis will sign copies of his book, “More Than a Statistic: Stop Being Average,” Thursday, Aug. 31, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble University Bookstore at the Gateway.

He shares his story to give others hope.

“I was a high school dropout and spent much of my teenage years walking around Toledo’s east side using and selling drugs. My addiction left me isolated and homeless,” Spellis said. “Every day I woke up and said, ‘Man I don’t want to do this anymore,’ but the addiction just hijacks you and all of your pleasure-seeking abilities; it is like experiencing the best and worst feelings at the same time.

“For seven years, this cycle continued, and my mother expected to see me die from my addiction.”

Then a drug trafficking conviction changed his life. Behind bars for nine months, he began to turn things around.

“I acquired my GED from the Lucas County Correctional Treatment Facility, and I had a vision to revamp and reform the criminal justice system,” Spellis said. “In order to do this, I knew that I needed to further my education, and The University of Toledo was there every step of the way.”

With the help of campus support groups and tutors, he was able to get ready for college-level classes — and succeed. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

While pursing a master’s degree at the University of Michigan, Spellis worked as a graduate assistant in the UT College of Health and Human Services’ Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.

All along the way, he helped others.

“I began speaking to individuals in treatment centers, jails, schools and colleges, which led to my desire to help people reach their full potential,” Spellis said. “As a reformed convicted felon, I advocate for social justice and for other returning citizens in my community. My goal is to revamp the criminal justice system and address disparities within different cultures and communities.

“Social work is a career for most, but a lifestyle to me. On a daily basis, I assist individuals with mental illness, legal issues and substance use disorders to work toward healthy adequate lifestyles.”

After receiving a master’s degree in social work from UM in 2016, Spellis started More Than a Statistic Academy, a nonprofit re-entry coalition in northwest Ohio that helps convicted felons find jobs and those suffering from substance abuse obtain stability and long-term recovery.

His book also was published last year.

“My life is much different from when I was buried in my addiction. I have a beautiful wife, daughter and son,” Spellis said. “I now have over five years of experience in motivational speaking and am passionate about community development.”