LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A man who graduated from Cal State Long Beach earlier this year after spending half of his adult life in prison has accomplished another milestone.
Joseph Valadez told Eyewitness News he has been accepted into the master's program for social work at CSULB.
Valadez said he wants to help others get a second chance at life like he did.
In a Facebook post in February, he said he finished his last two semesters on the "President's Honor List" for getting straight A's.
Valadez also made the Dean's List, graduating with a 3.67 GPA.
"There's a misconception about guys like me that I want to break. If I can do it, anyone can," he said.
"My mom has been gone for 14 years... but she never gave up hope on me," Valadez said while fighting back tears.
Valadez wishes his mother, Anita Valadez, could have seen him graduate college at age 62. For 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."
Valadez's triumph is a true story of redemption. At age 11, he became strung out on drugs, spending more than 30 years of his life behind bars.
On the brink of death in his 50s, he had an awakening. He decided to get clean.
He enrolled in college, struggling through six years of grueling coursework to finally earn a degree.