Adriana Arvaiza isn’t proud of the years she spent addicted to drugs and wasting time, but after celebrating seven years of sobriety and graduating from UEI College’s Criminal Justice program in Fresno, she’s ready to start a new chapter and brighter future for her children.
“Coming from what I use to be to where I am now, they were able to see that no matter what life throws you, you are able to change it and do what you can do for better,” she said. “They saw me go back to college. They saw me with my diploma. I’m now working!”
Adriana gave up on college when she became pregnant with her first child. She was just months away from graduating from a medical program, but it wasn’t what she was passionate about. At the time, she was also struggling with a drug addiction.
“I always had my kids with me, and I was home, but not home,” she said. “I was there but more focused on myself and what I was doing. My kids when they were younger saw the worst in me… It was getting to a point where my oldest was coming of age and I didn’t want to disappoint her. I didn’t want her to hear things out on the street or even from her friends. I wanted to do better for them. I robbed them so much of their childhood. It was time to give it back to them. I needed to do it for them and stop being selfish.”
With help Adriana was able to get clean and after years of dreaming, she was ready to start a career she could be proud of. She decided to go back to school for Criminal Justice.
“Adriana Arvaiza was an extremely diligent student,” said Christopher Husley, one of Adriana’s instructors. “She was well prepared and ready for everything in class. Her leadership in class pathed a beacon of integrity for others to emulate. She was one of the best students in the criminal justice program that I’ve known.”
Throughout the program Adriana maintained high grades and became a mentor to other students.
“She was witnessed to be a wonderful mentor to her peers,” said Michael Lee, Student Services Coordinator. “Adriana took initiative bringing in her new classmates when she noticed that they needed the extra help and or tutoring. She was always there for them to ensure that they got their first module routine down in class and outside of class -on campus. She had the passion for helping others. She was a great student.”
“I think you have to be determined and give it your all,” Adriana would tell new students. “I worked with a couple students who were struggling because they weren’t focused. I had to tell them you have to be determined. You’re not going to school for fun. At the end of your program you’ll make something of it… I was very determined that I was going to work hard, I was going to pass, and I was going to move forward.”
The day after graduation, Adriana was hired to work as a security guard. She has plans to pursue becoming a probation officer but she’s proud of how far she has come.
“Never let your past define you,” she said. “Go forward. There is more light at the end of the tunnel if you just get through it. My past wasn’t the best and I knew other people would see me and see there was a story behind who I was. I did a big 360 and I’m very proud of that. It was a nice feeling to achieve getting my diploma. It was the best feeling for me in ages.”