Taking the stage for the second time in two years is Laura Murray, once an ex-convict now a criminal justice scholar.
“I’m really excited about my future,” said Murray.
Murray, 58, received a Masters in Criminal Justice and Criminology from San Diego State University.
“School has opened a whole new world to me,” Murray said. “San Diego State has supported me from beginning to end along with Project Rebound.”
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Project Rebound is a program that helps students transition out of prison and into higher education. It’s through this program that Murray received two bachelor's degrees just two years ago.
“This is kind of like my spiritual restitution,” Murray said. “To do better because I owe my parents that, I owe my son that and I owe a society that.”
Murray spent six years behind bars for a series of bank robberies that occurred in 2010.
“I’m offering no excuse, my home was foreclosed during that time 2007 through 2010 and I lacked coping skills and I ended up going on a bank robbery spree,” Murray said.
During her time in prison, Murray said she learned about social justice and gained new motivation.
"I have no excuse for my behavior, I can't change the beginning but I can change the end and the future," Murray said.
During her studies, Murray says she often thinks of the women she met in prison who haven't had the same opportunities she has.
“It's the women whom I left behind that inspire me the most,” Murray said. “I'm not going to forget about them. They deserve a second chance and it's this that's motivating me to go forward.”
As she continues to move forward, her next stop is North Carolina State University for a Ph.D. in sociology with a full-ride scholarship, proving to the world and those women she says she left behind that it's never too late for second chances.