Joseph Valadez- From Drugs To Rehab, Graduating at 62

Joseph Valadez- From Drugs To Rehab, Graduating at 62

It’s never too late to be educated if you have the desire. Joseph Valadez an exemplary man, who completed his graduation at the age of 62. On February, 15, the old man’s celebration was posted on social media. In hours, his pictures go viral.

He could be seen wearing a white tank top with his heavily tattooed arms, holding his graduation certificate.  Joseph didn’t get much sleep since the news.

The photo first went up on the Facebook page for Cal State Long Beach students. He recently graduated from the California State University of Long Beach getting a degree in Sociology.

Joseph got straight A’s in his last two semesters and ended up on the ‘Presidents Honour List’. He also made it to the Dean’s List and graduated with a 3.67 GPA. But why is this old man’s story getting so much attention?


Hailing from Stanton, situated near Knott’s Berry Farm, Joseph became addicted to drugs at an early age and got involved in gangs. After joining the army at the age of 18, he became addicted to heroin.

He was repeatedly arrested for buying, consuming, and selling drugs. For years, he got trapped in the vicious cycle of drugs. Joseph’s addiction grew day by day. He spent most of his years in prison as a drug addict.

In 2013, he was determined to change himself and kick off his habit. He had made the decision to stop putting needles in his arms. But nobody helped him. He tried calling his friends and relatives but nobody picked his calls. He was on his own. Joseph shared how people never asked him to join rehab whenever he went to prison.

Around 2014, Salvation Army offered him a place in a one-year residential treatment program. Without wasting time, he grabbed the opportunity. He has been sober for 2800 days which is another milestone for him. He gives the credit to the rehabilitation center for saving his life.

Back to 2021

Joseph Valadez remembers his mother on his graduation day. He wished that his mother was alive to see his success. For years, she had seen him as a drug addict. His life spiraling around gang violence and prison. Despite all this, his mother tried to inspire him.

Joseph also told that he was good at studies during his school life but never got asked which college he wanted to go to. When he enrolled in college after rehab, he struggled with the coursework for 6 years to earn his degree. But it was his tragic life experiences that made him took studies in sociology.


He wrote papers related to racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Valadez knew little about the subject but his experiences motivated him to take it up.

He also applied to the CSULB’s graduate program for social work and is waiting for the result. Joseph wants to help the risk at youth. He is also planning to take up post-graduation studies in social work.

Netizens are appreciating and commending his admirable journey. Joseph Valadez has become an inspiration to all the people. The College of Liberal Art at University congratulated him for breaking the stigma and stereotypes. The Salvation Army also uploaded his photograph on their Facebook page.

“There’s a misconception about guys like me that I want to break. If I can do it, anyone can.” said, Joseph Valadez. It’s never too late to fulfill your dreams. His story is going to motivate and give hope to millions.

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