Guest speaker Diaz tells Torres Unit graduates: 'You are authors of future'

Torres Unit GED graduates were encouraged to break the cycle of crime and recidivism by a special guest from the GED Testing Service. Rafael Diaz served as commencement speaker for Windham School District (WSD) vocational and GED graduates at the Torres Unit in Hondo, sharing his personal story with honorees.

Rafael Diaz - Guest speaker at Torres Unit Graduation"We are not a product of our environment," Diaz told the men. "We are a product of expectation: the expectation of others, and more importantly the expectations of ourselves. It is never too late to reset those expectations. The situation you are in is only one chapter in an entire book – and you are the authors."

Graduates were reminded by Diaz to reflect on their worth, this special day and all days to come.

"Our worth is something I know we all think about," he said. "How much am I worth? Am I worth good things? When I was asked to be your speaker, I hoped I was worthy of that honor –and hope my words were worthy of today."

Growing up in the urban core of San Antonio during the time of the "cocaine cowboys," Diaz said he recalls his old neighborhood every time he walks into a prison facility.

rafael diaz 2"I often see faces that remind me of myself, my friends and people from my neighborhood," he said. "I know our struggles, and I know the cycle is not permanent."

Diaz said speaking to the 33 GED graduates and 17 vocational certificate recipients was a "pleasure and tremendous honor."

Torres Unit GED graduates included L. Balderas, M. Barrera, S. Black, M. Chanthavong, R. Daniel, A. Garcia Jr., N. Gentry, S. Gerdman, A. Gonzalez, L. Gonzalez, A. Goodley, L. Green, D. Heard, D. Jones, M. Kinlaw, K. Lambert, L. Leal, A. Martinez, M. Morales, P. Morrisey, C. Otero, B. A. Paul, B. R. Powell, M. Salcido, R. Sanchez,
J. Sandeval, S. Shines, S. Silva, L. Soto, A. Vasquez, Q. Whitfield, A. Williams and
C. Williams.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) graduates included V. Acevedo, P. Baca Jr., X. Brumfield, J. Caballero, C. Cottrell, J. Cruz, K. Dempsey, J. Gaines, J. Garza, R. Longoria Jr., C. Martin, G. Molina, C. Portillo, E. Quiroga, T. Resecker, R. Salazar and D. Woody.

During School Year (SY) 2014, 6,212 offenders took GED tests through WSD. Of that number, 5,902 completed testing and earned the GED. Meanwhile, another 1,117 also participated in testing, working toward GED completion.

In SY2014, WSD awarded 4,613 vocational certificates of completion and 8,126 industry certifications through its CTE program, helping create a valuable future workforce for Texas.

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WSD in Images

Female offenders in Gatesville, Texas, study to improve their literacy skills during a WSD academic class.
Students at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit strengthen writing skills during a literacy class.
Vocational and academic skills are integrated in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, such as this Small Engine Repair class in Huntsville, Texas.
Offenders often experience academic success for the first time in a Windham classroom.
An offender at the Polunsky Unit prepares for graduation after earning his GED through the Windham School District.
Auto specialization students in a West Texas prison learn auto maintenance skills, preparing themselves for future employment as professional mechanics.