Pauletta Salinas is LMM’s very first student to graduate with an Associate’s degree from LMM! Pauletta’s story is inspiring and LMM can’t wait to see what the future holds for her. Below is a speech from Pauletta that she shared after graduating. 

Well Willie Wonkas and Chimichangas, I did it! How exciting to be the first graduate in the Associates Program in LMM. I am proud of the ability to turn a negative into a positive.

When I arrived at prison I was defeated and was preparing for a life in exile bearing a scarlet letter. After all, society is not felon-friendly. I was fortunate and blessed to have been selected to participate in the Chopping for Change program. I remember my interview with Ms. Eslick, the Major, Deputy Warden and Andrea Lindsay. The only one who said anything was the deputy and I just knew I had blown it. But I was selected and became a member of Cohort 10.

Our cohort was so large that when we did our labs we had to partner up and that made a bigger challenge because you were working with someone who might not agree with your plans for that meal. During our fry lab we were making marinara sauce and my partner not only dumped a ton of sugar into it but she then dumped a ton of parmesan cheese into it. I cringed, it was marinara sauce!

I consider myself very blessed to have trained under Chef Scott and Chef Laura and that they had confidence in me to manage the Metro 45 Café. (I would have loved that espresso machine!) One by one, someone from the cohort left and then it was just me. It was bitter sweet to be the only one in a cap and gown at the 18-month graduation but I knew they were home and doing bigger and better things. I wish them all well, they are all great women!

We know upon release we face obstacles and prejudices that may hinder us-even to the point of slipping back into that old life, creating the vicious cycle of recidivism. But C4C changes that thinking. Building self-esteem and self-sufficiency while gaining new skills is just the recipe to send us back into society as the confident women we are meant to be. I plan to continue my education in Holistic Nutrition and will be forever thankful for the C4C program and all who are apart of making it the success that it is!

-Pauletta Salinas