October 2, 2015 2:47 PM EDT

The heartbroken mother of one of the Oregon college students slain in Thursday’s horrific shooting spree spoke proudly of her son, who she said was excited to be turning his life around.

Jason Johnson, 33, had struggled with drug abuse, but completed a six-month rehab program with The Salvation Army in Portland and wanted to continue his education, his mother, Tonja Johnson Engel, said Friday.

This was Johnson’s first week as a student at Umpqua Community College.

“He started Monday and he was so proud of what he had accomplished, and rightly so,” Johnson Engel tearfully told NBC News. “The other…

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