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This Unique College ‘Signing Day’ Celebrates Overcoming Life’s Challenges



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“College Signing Day” typically is a time for celebration by high school athletes signing letters of intent to attend colleges and universities and continue their sports careers.

Friday’s Signing Day at the Fresno Mission’s City Center was no less celebratory for the 33 men and women who signed their own letters of intent to attend Fresno City College while friends and family cheered and chanted “You are a college student.”

They represent the third group from the mission’s 18-month Life Recovery Program who have made a commitment to further their education after battling drug and alcohol addictions and other life challenges.

Like high school athletes, the program participants have had to work hard to get where they are today, Fresno Mission CEO Matthew Dildine said.

Fresno City College President Robert Pimentel joked that he doesn’t usually wear a tie on Fridays but did so because Friday’s ceremony was “an important event.”

He said the college-bound students will be watched by their families and friends, not only for what they do but also for what they don’t do. And so while starting college is a great achievement, finishing is even more important, Pimentel said.

“Let’s try to complete because this is not only going to change your life, it will change the life of those around you, and it will change the life of generations to come,” he said.

‘If I Can Be My Son’s Hero, It’s a Dream Come True’

Robert Lull, 34, said he didn’t even know he would be attending the ceremony until Friday morning. Lull, who attended Clovis East but dropped out after his junior year, said it marked a big event in how he has turned his life around.

Lull said he started partying as age 13. After leaving high school his life took what he calls a “dark path” that continued for years until he found his way to Fresno Mission.

Now with a 4-year-old son, Jack, who loves firefighters and fire engines, Lull said his goal is to attend Fresno City College’s Fire Academy and earn certification as an emergency medical technician. “If I can be my son’s hero, I think that would just be a dream come true for me.”

The signing day ceremony is an important milestone in the lives of people who have worked hard to turn their lives around, but they still have much work ahead of them, Pimentel said. As college students, they may face challenges that include housing or having enough food, but the college is there to support them, he said.

And for those who are struggling with their life choices and considering a program like the Fresno Mission’s, Pimentel said his advice would be this: “Give yourself an opportunity for change, because there’s always somebody or there’s a community of folks that want to see you be successful. And at Fresno City, there’s a big community there that wants to see everybody be successful.”

Participants in Fresno Mission’s Life Recovery Program celebrated Friday at College Signing Day at City Center in central Fresno. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email