Housed: San Quentin State Prison
I really didn’t want to do this speech, but I’m learning to get comfortable with my un-comfortability.
But this is something I have dreamt of my whole life; walking across the stage with my cap and gown on with a smile on my face, like the graduates you see on TV. My dream of graduation came to halt at the early age of 14, when I derailed from the path my grandparents wanted for me; to get my education and to stay out of trouble.
They didn’t ask for much, but I chose to follow in the footsteps of my father and uncles. That led me to become a gang member, and caught up in that criminal life style which lead me in and out of juvenile hall, county camp and youth authority.
I never stayed out of trouble long enough to get my education on the streets but before I came to prison, my grandparents asked me to make them a promise: that I would finish school.
I told them I would get my diploma if I was giving the opportunity. I came to prison July 1993, my grandfather rest in peace, died the following year
That day, I made a promise to myself that I would change my life and become a better person and that my grandparents would be proud of me. When I came to SQ state prison in November 2010, they had so many programs here including education programs. I told myself, this was the time to start working on changing my life.
I enrolled myself in as many programs as I could; like CGA, NVC, RSJ, Anger Management, Victims Impact, 12 step ministry, boot camp 1,2,3 Christian programs and many more. By taking these programs, I was now able to accept full accountability for my actions and behavior and to become the person I should have been, and the person who is standing before you.
I was given the opportunity to complete my dream of graduation and fulfilling the promise I made to my grandparents. I was accepted in to the High school diploma program and was told that I needed 33 credits to graduate.
Not knowing how challenging it was going to be, but I had made that promise to my grandparents, I would finish school no matter how difficult it may be and it was difficult, especially Algebra, which I still have nightmares about.
I am just grateful I have so many amazing people believing in me when I did not believe in myself.
My grandmother Teddies was the biggest supporter and loved me unconditionally. She was very excited and proud of me for getting my diploma, I sent her invitations and she was excited to come to watch me walk across the stage.
Unfortunately, She passed, June 10, 2023. She was a remarkable woman, loving and caring, she put everyone else’s needs before her own. She was a woman of God and I know she is in a better place. Her last words to me were she was proud of me and she could not wait to see me walk across that stage. This diploma is for you grandma, thank you for your love
Graduates, we have done it through struggles, ups and downs, even through the pandemic- – and we never gave up.
We should be proud of ourselves. Because we have succeeded by completing high school.
I know I’m proud of myself.
I thought this dream was impossible
I want to acknowledge some teachers for motivating me and encouraging me and being instrumental in helping me succeed as a student and reach my dream.
My teacher Lucas who has push me to reach my full potential and gave me the space I needed.
she pushed me to be better than I was content with being, thank you for being patient with me.
Sufi who motivated me to be myself and not to be afraid to ask for help.
My pride kept me from asking for help, but I knew I had to let go of that pride, if I wanted to complete this program, so, Sufi, I thank you for pushing me to be better and to hold my head up. My free to succeed mentor Karen, THANK you for your encouragement and always willing to help me with my assignments and being here when I needed someone to talk to. I thank you for your guidance.
I thank these amazing teachers for believing in us and pushing us to see our true potential
Getting comfortable with being un-*comfortable is a real form of growth and I thank everyone here in this chapel for showing up and witnessing our growth and determination to do better and be better.
Thank you and God bless you all