ITHACA, N.Y. — Keri Blakinger made national headlines in 2010 after she was arrested with heroin while a student at Cornell University.
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Five years later, she is moving out of Ithaca after completing a recovery that has also earned national press. Blakinger will be leaving The Ithaca Times to write for the New York Daily News, which has the 5th highest circulation of any newspaper in the country.
In an email to the Ithaca Voice, Blakinger thanked Ithaca for helping her rehabilitation. (Blakinger graduated from Cornell after serving 21 months behind bars.)
“It is here that I have met wonderful people who helped me every step of the way in rebuilding my life,” she said. “…I’m grateful that Ithaca gave me a second chance.”
Blakinger also spoke at the Tompkins County Legislature’s meeting this week, and several of the lawmakers responded by thanking her reporting about the county.
Tompkins County Legislator Jim Dennis, who first started working with Blakinger during budget negotiations, said she is a smart and intuitive journalist who worked hard to disentangle complex county issues.
“She’s really bright,” Dennis said, praising Blakinger for the work she has done for Salon.com and other national publications. “I don’t think she’s your average reporter.”
Dennis added that he hopes those who struggle with drug addiction draw from Blakinger’s story.
“It’s pretty incredible; she’s really worked and had to do a lot to get to where she is,” Dennis said.
“It’s inspirational for people who are former drug users: You can escape these things and end up in a good place.”
Here’s Blakinger’s email to the Ithaca Voice in full:
In 2007, when I moved to Ithaca, my life was in a horrible place. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to live, and after finishing my first semester at Cornell I jumped off a bridge — the one by the Chapter House. From that low point, I continued making bad decisions and doing things I would come to regret.
My life only got worse until — as anyone paying attention to the news at the time will remember — I landed myself behind bars. At that point, I just thought Ithaca was a horrible place. It felt like nothing more than a place where I’d come to screw up my life (and suffer through horrible winters).
When I was released from prison in 2012, I thought I’d stay away from that awful place I originally paroled to Tioga County … but eventually Ithaca called me back. I got involved in activist groups based in Ithaca, I made sober friends in Ithaca, and I started meeting people as I got involved in journalism in Ithaca.
Finally, I started seeing Ithaca as the beautiful and vibrant place I’d heard about. In the end, that “10 square miles surrounded by reality” became the place where I rebuilt my life. I became immersed in the community in a way I’d never thought possible. I got involved in nonprofits and local activism and became a regular a municipal meetings. I came to love this town and the people in it and today I have much to be grateful for.
It is here that I have met wonderful people who helped me every step of the way in rebuilding my life, strong and wonderful women like Glynis Hart, Lynda Bogel, Florianna Blanton, and Julia Hughes. I’ll be eternally grateful for their help in everything I’ve done. Moreover, I’m grateful that Ithaca gave me a second chance.
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