Alex Diaz spent eight years in prison for armed robbery. Now, with help from College Bound Dorchester, he's attending college.
by David Compa
Almost two years ago, The Takeaway brought listeners the story of Alex Diaz, a high school dropout, former gang member and convicted felon who had his sights firmly fixed on going to college. Diaz told us that merely starting out on the pathway towards college was a struggle because of his troubled past, which required him to challenge others' low expectations. “A lot of people see you as like, you’re not going to go nowhere. You’re not going to get a job or even go back to school,” he said. “I even felt like that at one time for hearing it so much, [but] I just had to overcome everybody’s opinions and everybody’s thoughts.” Here, Elizabeth Ross, a Takeaway producer based at Boston public radio station WGBH, reports that Diaz’s dreams of getting to college were recently realized, thanks to a lot of hard work and the ongoing support of an educational nonprofit based in Boston called College Bound Dorchester. Alex Diaz in his cap and gown during a College Bound Dorchester graduation ceremony. Credit: Romana Vysatova Photography Down in a brightly lit basement classroom, a small group of students is learning the ins and out of residential electrical wiring. Alex Diaz is among those listening intently during class here at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. “Just me sitting right here in college, I feel different,” he says. “I feel like I never actually committed [any] crimes, so it feels good.” This college classroom is a world away from the life Diaz once knew when he dropped out of high school and joined a gang. That life led to Diaz serving eight years in prison for armed robbery. Now Diaz, 31, is pursuing a certificate in practical electricity at Benjamin Franklin. He hopes to eventually get an associate’s degree in automotive or electrical technology, but he says that even getting this far has been difficult. “You know, I did a lot of stuff. I know people that don’t like me. The cops around, they still think you’re still doing the same old stuff and not realizing what you’re really doing, but at the end of the day I don’t let it get to me no more,” Diaz explains. “I just move forward and do what I got to do and one day, sooner or later,