Thousands of graduates walked on stage at San Diego State University over the weekend to receive their degrees -- each graduate with a unique story of success, but one student is a special standout because of her criminal past.
“It feels wonderful. This is 38 years in the making,” said SDSU graduate Laura Murray.
She earned two bachelor’s degrees from SDSU at the age of 56.
“I still feel like I’m in my 20s,” said Murray.
Her unlikely success story started a decade ago during the financial crisis. After losing her home to foreclosure, she resorted to crime.
“I was under a lot of stress, and I just decided to go and get my money back from the banks. So, I robbed one bank and another bank and another bank,” said Murray.
Murray admitted she made a poor choice that she is still paying for. During her six years in prison, Murray said she learned about social injustice and gained new motivation.
“I dreamt about San Diego State when I sat in that hot prison cell, and I made it my destiny to come here,” said Murray.
She applied to four California state universities and was rejected by all of them. That’s where Project Rebound came in. The program helps students transition out of prison and into higher education. Advisors appealed to SDSU to admit Murray.
“I checked my web portal one day and when it said denied before, now it said admitted. I just sat there by myself and cried,” said Murray.
She graduated with a 4.0 GPA and is now working towards her master’s degree in criminal justice.
During her studies, Murray said she always thinks of the women in prison who don’t have the opportunities she had.
“It’s my sisters that I left behind. My women that I left behind that I’m thinking of,” said Murray.
After receiving her degree, her 91-year-old father and 87-year-old mother were there to congratulate Murray – a touching reminder that it is never too late to take advantage of a second chance.
Project Rebound is funded through donations and grants. For more information on visit its website.