WSD - Windham School District

Leo Pereida graduates from Texas Tech after 15 years in prison

Leo PereidaLUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - 50-year-old Leo Pereida's life has been a roller coaster.

"At the age of 16, I was a rebellious kid. I always had problems with my dad, and my dad was an alcoholic," Pereida said. "We had an argument and I walked out. I went and lived with my sister in town. That's when my life started getting a little different than it was growing up with my family."

That "different" lifestyle led Pereida to heavy drug use. At the age of 34, he found himself standing before a judge, admitting guilt for aggravated robbery.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the crime. Pereida spent most of that time at the Price Daniel Unit in Snyder. He started the process to get his GED, after that he began taking community college classes, with one goal in mind upon his release.

"I knew when I got out I was going to go somewhere with this, and Texas Tech was what I wanted to do," he said.

Five years later, that dream has become a reality.

"Since I've got out I got a job that I've had for five years now with Apple Country in Idalou. They've helped me walk through this and Texas Tech has been there for me and it's been great - life-changing knowing that I'm no longer an addict, knowing that I'm going to become somebody. It's an honor to know that I'm going to do something with my life," Pereida said.

"It's been exciting, different. Would I have ever known that this was going to happen to me, that I was ever going to become a Texas Tech graduate? No. Back in my early days when I was an addict, I never could have imagined that I was going to become a Red Raider and graduate from Texas Tech."

Pereida earned a bachelor's degree in community and family addiction services from the College of Human Sciences. Saturday morning, he sat in the front row of graduates with nervous anticipation and a smile on his face. He spoke with his fellow graduates often and as his name was read held his head high, knowing that he had accomplished his goal.

Now, Pereida wants to be an inspiration for more men and women like him.

"I would like to tell them never give up. It doesn't matter what anybody else says, grab that connection with God, that open line that He always has. Call upon Him, He'll be there all the time and He will lead you through all of it," he said.

"I'm an example of living on the street, doing intravenous drugs, smoking crack and all the worst things you can ever imagine, but nothing can hold you down if you believe in yourself and you believe in God."

Pereida says he will most likely try and look for a new job related to his degree, but will always be thankful to Apple Country for believing in him when very few people would.

Copyright 2014 KCBD. All rights reserved.