A great story from the New York Daily News. We wish him well, he’s off to a great start.
Richard Gamarra’s long trip from inmate to the Ivy League ends next week with a master’s degree — in redemption.
The former Latin King gangbanger, after seven years behind bars for assault and weapon convictions, graduates May 17 from Columbia University’s renowned Mailman School of Public Health.
He never imagined swapping a prison jumpsuit for the university’s iconic blue cap and gown — but his dreams are coming true.
“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” said a beaming Gamarra as he walked around the prestigious Morningside Heights campus last week. “This is historic for me. It’s very humbling. I won’t believe it until I have that diploma in my hands.”
The 28-year-old Gamarra, after earning his master’s in public health, paused for a minute to admire the bronze “Alma Mater” sculpture outside Low Memorial Library.
Beating the odds for admission and completing the grueling work was a long shot from the start. But graduate-to-be Gamarra said he intends to use his degree to steer others away from the missteps that landed him in the clutches of the state prison system.
“I don’t want my past to define me,” he said. “I want to undo that stigma of being in prison. I know there are a lot of other Richards out there.”
Gamarra reflected on the difficulties of growing up in Flushing, Queens, as the youngest of five Colombian immigrant children.