Meet Rafael Mota: The 55-Year Old High School Graduate From the Class of 2018

Rafael Mota in his cap and gown

Graduate Rafael Mota made the decision to turn his life around by getting his high school diploma and advises young people to think about their decisions twice and not play with their lives.

RIVERSIDE – Everything in life has a solution except death according to Rafael Mota, a 55-year old Mexican-American man. After dropping out of school at age 17, Rafael worked diligently to obtain his high school diploma and graduated on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, along with 27 others at the Day Reporting Center and California State University, San Bernardino Reentry Initiative.

Living in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, Rafael Mota attended high school at Francisco I. Madero in the 1970s. Eventually, his family decided to move into the United States- prompting Mr. Mota to drop out of high school and work in the U.S. to help his parents pay for expenses.

During the first few years of his new life in a different country, Mr. Mota worked in New York at a company that sold skiing supplies. As shifts in the economy influenced wages, taxes, living expenses, and other factors, Mr. Mota found himself working two or three jobs at a time to ensure he and his family would have food to eat.

Eventually, his mother became very ill and Rafael stopped working in order to take care of her. As one of the main providers of income, Rafael feared he and his family would no longer have enough money to pay for food. This led him to decide to make “easy money” as he called it.

He became involved in dispensing drugs in order to continue to put bread on the table. His mother eventually passed away and Rafael went to prison not long after. After being released from jail, Rafael soon returned to the streets and found himself in and out of jail five more times. Rafael was convicted 6 times before he was transferred to the Indio Day Reporting Center (DRC).

The Day Reporting Center (DRC) is best described as a place that turns lives around. It offers services ranging from counseling, parenting classes, probation check-ins, and support for individuals with drug/substance abuse, as well as resources in earning a high school diploma or equivalency. The services provided at the DRC are aimed at improving access to information for individuals transitioning out of incarceration in order to motivate, educate, and lower recidivism.

Aside from the inspiring staff at the Indio DRC, Mr. Mota regards his sister Miriam, as well as her daughter, as his ultimate motivators to accomplish his new goal of obtaining a high school diploma. Miriam obtained a high school diploma and was the single income earner in her new family. Inspired by her endeavor and achievements, Rafael strove to complete his own high school education.

Rafael considers his life to be a product of a single bad decision. That choice, which led to more poor choices, also resulted in negative consequences. In spite of this, a single good decision to obtain his high school diploma, has now brightened the vast horizon of opportunities Mr. Mota can use to his advantage.

Now that he has obtained his high school diploma, Rafael’s next goals include taking courses at a vocational school in order to become a skilled air technician.

His advice to students and individuals who face similar experiences is to take the time to think about decisions twice and not play with your lives.

“Drugs change your values and change your rationality,” Rafael said. “Use your brain for its purpose and watch it all unfold”.