Inmates graduate with high school and college diplomas

Inmates graduate with high school and college diplomas

Education is a stepping stone and many New Mexico inmates are using it as a way to a life of freedom.

LOS LUNAS, N.M. — Nothing is out of reach. That is what one graduating class in New Mexico believes.

“Today is the day we get to show the system and our loved ones that we are not giving up.”

Inmates at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas got to put their caps and gowns on to grab their diplomas and christen a brighter future.

“I studied really hard for about a month-in-a-half, day and night constantly,” Joshua Salazar said.

For Salazar, it paid off. He officially graduated Thursday with his GED – giving him a new outlook on life after a dark time landed him behind bars.

“I just want to be a better person and try as hard as I can to be that,” Salazar said. “I saw the barbed wire and had to remind myself, I get to walk out today.”

Angel Garcia is a free man and has been for seven years.

“I was a gang member in Los Angeles for over 20 years,” he said.

After serving over a decade in prison, Garcia came to New Mexico, leaving his past behind and making education his future.

“It definitely changed my life, so I see education as a stepping stone to a better life,” Garcia said.

Garcia now works for Albuquerque Community Safety. His experience is a tool to help others, just like he was, pursue a better life.

Garcia even spoke to graduates Thursday.

“We don’t have to keep living that way, guys. I’m the perfect example of that. I’m living a life beyond my wildest dreams,” he said.

Nine inmates graduated with their GED and two graduated with a college degree.