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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

SCC graduation speaker overcomes past obstacles

Former student trustee and Puente Club President Ricardo Lemus. Vanessa S. Nelson, Photo Editor. |
Former student trustee and Puente Club President Ricardo Lemus will be the graduation speaker for the May 18 City College commencement ceremony. Vanessa S. Nelson, Photo Editor. | [email protected]

Bianca Zarate’s profile on City College student Ricardo Lemus originally ran Feb. 15, 2016, in

“As a kid, I didn’t know how to problem-solve,” admits City College student Ricardo Lemus.

Lemus sits at a café on a Friday evening, studying physics and wearing a tie and slacks as he tells his life story.

“So I guess in order for me to talk about that, I have to talk about my past,” Lemus says.

At 15 years old, Lemus was incarcerated in the California Youth Authority for five years. At 23, he was incarcerated again. Hanging with the wrong crowd and making bad decisions led Lemus to two more years in the California Department of Corrections, he says.

“Here I was at 23 years old, and I wasn’t going anywhere,” says Lemus with a surprised look on his face.

Now 31, Lemus attends City College. He will transfer to Sacramento State in the fall as a kinesiology major and a mathematics minor with the hopes of becoming a physical therapist.

Many doors have opened for him since enrolling in community college. “You’ll always see me at Sac City,” says Lemus, who served as student trustee for the Los Rios Community College District during the 2013-2014 academic year. He was also president of the Puente Club on campus during the 2011- 2012 academic year.

Feeling that he has been given a second chance in life, Lemus volunteers in the community. A big plan in his agenda is to someday run for mayor of his hometown of Winters, California. With all the trouble he knows he caused in his community, he says he feels that it is only right to now serve and give back.

“He’s a natural leader,” says Angelica Garcia, who has worked with Lemus in the campus’ Brown Issues Club. “He’s very inspiring.”

Garcia says that Lemus uses his organizational skills to motivate others. She says she has learned a lot from him and tries to “absorb” as much as she can when listening to him.

Lemus says he found the motivation to get his life on the right path when looking at his father, whom he felt he had disappointed.

“He wouldn’t say it, but I know he felt it,” says Lemus, describing the lack of communication in his family.

Even now, after everything he has accomplished and with everything he is set to accomplish, Lemus says his father still does not say how he feels about his son, a cycle that Lemus knows must end with him and his children.

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Lemus acknowledges that, many times, others who have gone down the wrong path in life are not as fortunate as he has been. He says he lives day by day with the thought that anything in life is achievable through hard work.

“With my past, I was unsuccessful at getting a job. No one would hire me.“

Ricardo Lemus, City College student

He preaches these words any chance he gets, such as at the Chicano graduation for Los Rios District in 2014 and in the many speeches and presentations he has given both on and off campus.

“I told him, ‘When you’re ready to share your story, it will have a lot of power,’” says Sandra Guzman, a City College Puente counselor who has known Lemus for five years.

Lemus gave a recent presentation called “The Hidden Truth” at the annual M.E.Ch.A conference at Sacramento State for young high school students last semester. At the conference, Lemus spoke about the influence gangs had on him as a teen. He hopes to get the message across to teenagers that “it’s not worth it.”

Lemus says he’s a “free motivational speaker,” because he does not want to receive any money for doing what he feels is right.

But Lemus does make his own money through recycling.

“With my past, I was unsuccessful at getting a job,” says Lemus. “No one would hire me.”

With such a busy lifestyle, Lemus still finds time to work out and study. He considers working out to be his only true hobby and uses this as a way to relieve stress.

Being incarcerated at such a young age, Lemus says he knew he had to do more in life. He does not speak about his past with shame or embarrassment, but with gratitude and encouragement. He says his past mistakes were only stepping stones to one of his life goals: obtaining a bachelor’s degree. And he says he is not stopping there. He will continue on to a Ph.D.

For Lemus, life is just beginning.


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