ORANGE (CBSLA.com) — The class speaker for Brandman University’s Class of 2016 will be the first to tell you she never thought this day would come.
Monica Careyette is a former drug addict who was one judge away from heading to prison.
CBS2’s Laurie Perez was at the emotional graduation and says the speaker and the judge who helped her also reunited.
Monica Careyette and Judge Rogelio Flores of the Santa Barbara Superior Court got to hug and remember old times.
Truth be told, Monica Careyette hasn’t always been this happy to see Flores and they definitely did not hug the first time they met.
“I was facing ten years in prison,” Careyette says.
Back then, Flores was wearing a different kind of a robe and he wasn’t handing out diplomas — he was handing down justice and Careyette was standing in his court room in Santa Barbara County Drug Court.
At that point in her life, Careyette was not in a good place. To say the least.
“I honestly did not care if I lived or died,” she recalls.
With the judge by her side Sunday, she told the story of how she overcame her addiction with his help.
She took the audience back about nine years — when she was a meth addict who says she was willing to do anything for a fix.
“That need led me to commit four felonies all at the same time,” she says.
The judge candid;y acknowledges now, that he was not a big Careyette fan.
“She was a real pain in the royal behind, let’s say it like that. She was not ready, she was fighting,” he says. “But she also has a spirit.”
She was someone, he noted, who had yet to find the best version of herself — he ultimately decided to send her to a drug treatment program instead of jail.
He told Perez, “Monica is a perfect example of why we do this, it’s rehabilitation in the purest form and she’s shined.”
Sunday, Careyette, with her family proudly watching, graduated from Brandman University’s Santa Maria campus, with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Nine years drug free she’s is sentencing herself, so to speak — to a lifetime of helping others. She’s thinking she may become a social worker or Brandman college advisor for working adults.
“I am living proof that no matter how hard you fall, you can overcome and succeed. From drug addict to college graduate, dreams do come true,” she told the graduates.