From Prison To Davis Technical College Graduate

10/20/2020 | Spotlight

From Prison To Davis Technical College Graduate

“The only downfall I’ve had is drugs, and it affected the rest of my life.”

Ricky Zazueta was 27 when he went to prison for aggravated robbery in Utah. His wife was three months pregnant and the judge had just handed down an indeterminate sentence of 1-15 years.

In the year leading up to the crime that would land him in prison, Ricky’s little brother died from a heart condition. The loss led Ricky to heavy methamphetamine use.

“I was trying to deal with the grief of the loss of my brother. I had never had to deal with the death of someone that close to me. I got real deep into my addiction, I wasn’t sleeping, I always had a gun on me.”

The day of the robbery, Ricky left his house without car keys or a cell phone. He was high on meth and was carrying his .45 caliber pistol. He had not slept in days.

Ricky walked into a K-Mart and attempted to shoplift a cell phone, but was caught by a loss prevention officer. When the officer attempted to search him, Ricky pulled his gun on the man and fled the store.

“You get that drug in you and you become dark. Your mind is not even firing on all cylinders.”

The next day, the crime was all over the news. After fleeing home to San Diego, Ricky was extradited back to Utah.

The first year in prison was the first time Ricky had been sober in years. He was faced with a choice – turn back to drugs, or start over.

“Being sober in prison was a jump start.”

Ricky began to think clearer. He heard about the education programs offered in prison, and decided to gain as many tools as possible.

“The whole time I knew I wanted to do culinary arts. I knew culinary arts was a program they offered; I just wasn’t sure how to get into it.”

Four and a half years pass. Finally, Ricky is admitted into Davis Technical College’s culinary arts program.

“Any time I was told no and that I had to wait to do something, I would just go back to drugs, my whole life. In prison it was different though. I was on a mission.”

After admittance, Ricky dives into the program and scopes out future career plans. He knows getting his degree will mean nothing if employers aren’t willing to hire felons.

“Good people do go to prison, and I think Chef Mike saw that in me.”

Mike was Ricky’s mentor. They are both fathers and have a passion for culinary.

“In the end we were both doing the same thing. Just trying to take care of our kids and be better for our kids.”

Ricky graduated from the culinary arts program in just over a year.

“My therapist would always tell me, that true test is when you get out of prison. When you hit that gate.”

A week after his release from prison, Ricky landed a job at a Red Lobster, with help from Mike. Shortly after, Ricky became a banquet chef at Marriott Hotel.

“When I was on drugs, I wasn’t making the decision, the drugs were. I thought I was, but I wasn’t. During that time, I never thought of the weight on my wife’s shoulders with the kids and with bills.”

Ricky is grateful to provide for and spend time with his family. Since starting his new job, Ricky’s wife has gone back to school for accounting.

“I’ve always known that I had a good heart, and I’ve been taught to be that way. The only downfall in my life has been drugs, and it has affected the rest of my life. So, I couldn’t really live up to my full potential. It was sort of like a ceiling, and I just didn’t know what was above that” …

… until now.