A man who spent 30 years in prison graduates with honors from Cal State Long Beach

Joseph Valadez, who spent 30 years behind bars, has graduated from Cal State Long Beach, with honors, after spending half his adult life in prison.

“There’s a misconception about guys like me that I want to break. If I can do it, anyone can,” said Valadez.

Valadez shared his story in a Facebook post saying he finished his last two semesters on the “President’s Honor List” for getting straight A’s and also spoke about his mother being the one person who never gave up on him.

“My mom has been gone for 14 years… but she never gave up hope on me,” Valadez said while fighting back tears.

For many years, she watched her son spiral into drug addiction, gang violence, prison and homelessness. Yet, he says despite all that, his mom tried to inspire him.

“She always told me that I could be somebody,” he said. “She said I was smart. She never gave up hope on me.”

At age 11, he got involved with drugs and other activities that led to him spending more than 30 years of his life behind bars. But after nearly facing death in his 50s, Valadez decided to turn his life around.

He enrolled in college, and after six years of coursework, and finally graduated with A’s.

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