From Behind Bars to Commencement Speaker

MARINETTE, Wis (WBAY) A soon-to-be graduate from the NWTC-Marinette campus is proof it's never too late to turn your life around.

Shannon Flores has gone from two stints behind bars to the college's commencement speaker on Thursday.

NWTC CNC Instructor Tony Przewrocki deeply admires Flores.

"Eagerness to learn and staying with the program through when things get tough, times get hard and you just keep going," says Przewrocki.

Born and raised in California, Flores dropped out of high school in ninth grade and had her first son at age 19.

She then went to prison, got out, had another son and was headed back to prison for grand theft when she decided, enough.

"During my last incarceration it was pretty tough. I had actually got extradited back from Iron Mountain to California, and on the way back there it was a life-changing thing. It was scary," recalls Flores.

At 35, Flores earned her GED and started to gain self respect.

"I knew I was capable of doing much, much more," says Flores.

After her release from prison a second time, Flores moved to Marinette to live with her mom.

She immediately enrolled at NWTC, and ended up in the two-year CNC program.

"Think we had that conversation on day one. She came in and was straight up with where she was from and things she did in her life," recalls Przewrocki.

"First semester was really rough, really rough, I didn't believe I could do it, have it in me, but here I am today and we're doing it," says Flores with a smile.

Inspired by Flores' resolve, students and staff chose her to give the commencement speech.

She hopes her message will touch someone facing the kind struggles she's overcome.

"You know you shouldn't live your life defined on your past, you should always move forward and it took me a long, long time to realize how to do that. I just want somebody else to take from it and know that it could be done," says Flores.

A job already awaits Flores after graduation, and next fall her 19-year old son is enrolled in the same CNC program in Marinette.