FRESNO, Calif. -- Arnold Treviño is using his journey from a California state prison to dean's medalist at Fresno State University as a symbol for change.
At the age of 21, Treviño was sentenced to life in prison for the crime of murder.
While being transferred from a state prison in Avenal, California, to another facility, he noticed what he was missing out on.
"I saw what I had forgotten - life. I saw McDonald's. I saw kids on skateboards. I saw dogs running in the streets. Moms and dads with kids, pushing strollers and that woke me up," he said.
Treviño, 53, wanted to put his drug and alcohol addiction behind him.
Soon after, he realized he had a passion to learn.
While in a prison near Tracy, California, he earned his high school diploma and an associate's degree in liberal arts.
"At first, all I saw were the razor wires and the bars, but through the form of education, I no longer saw it. It was now totally oblivious to me although the prison madness continued around me I didn't see that anymore," Treviño said.
He was released in 2011. After a year of working as a welder and earning minimum wage, he decided to go back to school.
He earned another associate's, this time from Porterville College. He transferred to Fresno State in the fall of 2015 and earned a bachelor's in 2017.
At Fresno State, he helped launch "Project Rebound," a student support service that works with people formally incarcerated and interested in higher education.
"I was the very first intern and I helped build it from the ground up. We started off with four students. We now have over 25 and four of us graduated in the first year," he said.
But helping others doesn't stop there. Each Saturday, Treviño travels back to Avenal State Prison to work in a fellowship program that rehabilitates prisoners through education.
But he'll miss this week's meeting as he's set to graduate with a master's in social work, and he's being honored at the university as a dean's medalist.
"We can change. And to show society and to the population that has lost hope - we can do it," he said.
From ex-con to master's degree: CA man who was incarcerated for 25 years set to graduate from Fresno State
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