By Azeez Momoh

Education empowers. It informs, and fills the void once occupied by ignorance; it has given me confidence, self-assurance, and courage. The courage to unmask and present authentically, ditching the irrational beliefs of the streets. Education has brought me back from the malady that is insanity, a state where corruption and recklessness are hailed as honorable. A confrontation with the truth cleared things up, removing all delusions specifically those of grandeur, making plain the reality of my station in life: an outright failure in desperate need of correction. The need for change was evident, the desire for change was present but the decision took time, pain, and a number of failures to be realized. But once recognized, I immersed myself in scholastic studies and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), taking my recovery from the sickness of criminality and ignorance serious. The consequence of pursuing personal development through academia and CBT is self-awareness, consideration, and understanding. Self-awareness allowed me to see clearly the shame-filled person that I had become triggering embarrassment, anguish, and empathy. Consideration showed me the negative impact of my contemptable actions which triggered sorrow and remorse. Lastly, it was through Understanding and maturity that I became ready and willing to respect the personal rights and space of others; and, to apologize to everyone that I had harmed directly or indirectly. These characteristics, gleaned from education, have been crucial in helping me to handle the emotional highs and lows that accompany a pro-social and academic life. In this sense learning has refined me, it has jump-started and facilitated the overhauling of my core beliefs; truth as its guiding principle.

For this I am grateful, appreciative of the challenges presented by education, the learning, unlearning, and relearning. A tedious process of breaking old habits and replacing them anew. And even more so, my resilience in meeting those challenges. I’m grateful to my family for being my inspiration, for without the thoughts of being a better man in their eyes, I don’t know if I would have persisted. I’m also grateful to the men and women who made higher learning behind the walls possible. I thank you for the opportunity and promise to take full advantage of this privileged occasion. I give special thanks to the restorative justice staff at Southwestern College for facilitating and coordinating the transfer pathway that has led to my present enrollment opportunity at the University of California, Irvine. I would also like to commend the extraordinary efforts that all of the UC Irvine LIFTED staff have put forth that have resulted in my current status as a UC Senior who will be receiving my bachelor’s degree in Sociology in June.

Lastly, education has not only empowered me but has given me the ability to bless people, to teach. For everyone I come in contact with especially the system-impacted youth will know the value of a cultivated mind and a contrite heart. They will know that the consideration and respect, the equity and the integrity with which I walk are all intended consequences of my dance with instruction.