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  • Rochele Roura-Foster

Nicolas’ Second Chance




Nicolas Garibay is one of our 2021 Fall HSE graduates. Starting with Juvenile Hall at 15 years old, Nicolas was in and out of jail for almost 20 years. After his father passed away in 2007, he began to get even more involved with drugs, guns, and other heavy charges that he soon found himself at a crossroads. Nicolas said…

“My last prison term in 2015 was for…so many charges and I found myself facing life. I was just mad at the world. I had a lot of pain and anger. I wind up taking 18 years, but I got a rare opportunity to go to fire camp. I was out there fighting fires, like the Paradise fire. I do seven years instead, but I needed my diploma to do the things I wanted to do.”

“In 2019, I lost my older brother and then my mom. I just wanted to get out. I wanted to be there for the rest of my brothers and sister. I was still getting high in prison, but something woke up. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I started applying myself, taking courses, graduated from all the Microsoft courses, AA classes, child parenting classes, I learned a lot. I heard about the Cal-Trade [Welding] School. They told me it’s a lot of work, and even my parole officer said, ‘I have had no one complete the program yet.’ So, I said, ‘Let me take a crack at it.’”


Nicolas at Graduation








“Move forward!  Nothing is handed to you in life, and if you want it, you have to work hard.”

– Nicolas Garibay







Nicolas recalls his last hearing, “I just got really lucky.  The judge told me ‘I have [had] you in my courtroom a long time now since you were 18.  You’re lucky that you are seeing the light of day again.  I promise you, if you ever come back, that privilege will be taken away from you.’  I knew I needed to change.”

Nicolas was released from prison in March of 2021 and quickly enrolled in our HSE program.  With the support of his instructor, Courtney Saint-Smith, it only took about six weeks for Nicolas to earn his diploma last September!  He’s currently focusing on finishing his work at Arco gas station, graduating from Cal-Trade Welding School on March 22nd, reconnecting with his children, building a stable household for his family, and work opportunities that will immediately start the day after he graduates.






Nicolas Earns His Diploma!


“[LearningQuest is] all about 2nd chances. It’s very much built on when you mess up, and you didn’t get your education right the first round, no matter how old you are, you’re 18 or 50 something, they work with you.  My experience there actually put me at ease. Admin helped me with everything, and my instructor Courtney was fantastic, and they worked as fast as I did.”

To anyone thinking about getting back on track with their education, Nicolas said, “Move forward!  Nothing is handed to you in life, and if you want it, you have to work hard.  If people see you put in effort and work hard towards it, they’ll help you out!  Don’t hold back, just keep pushing forward!”









Support LearningQuest students, like Nicolas, through the Building Hope Scholarship Drive!







2022 Building Hope Scholarship Drive



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