He cleared one of those hurdles Thursday as he graduated from the faith-based Rays of Hope Program. He will now explore his job and living options while he prepares to re-enter society.
“I’ll do whatever they think is best for me. I’m praying every day and leaning on God,” he said before the ceremony. “For now, I’ll just stay around here and see what happens. Right now, my main focus is this graduation.”
Cunanan turned in his computer and tools used for identity theft and picked up a Bible. For months he’s been working on shedding his past activities and building a new person. The man who once took on the persona of others to commit crimes has transformed himself for the better.
“It changed my life. I’ve learned a lot,” he said during the graduation. “This morning I thanked the Lord for this phase of my life. He’s forgiven me. He’s planted me.”
Four men graduated during the ceremony at the Community Outreach Center. Jason Rhodes, Jerry Hill and Lao Yang also received certificates at an event that featured hugs, tears and some raw stories of where the men have been.
The program houses the men for six months to a year. The men volunteer within Mission Solano, helping in all aspects of the nonprofit organization. From here, the men will either take jobs with Mission Solano or find work on their own. Some will spend a bit more time living in the men’s home, while others may leave.
Program culmination ceremonies such as these are an emotional time for Rod Malloy, chief operations officer at Mission Solano. He said there is pride that program participants are leaving to start their lives, but at the same time he said he will miss watching them grow.
Malloy likened the relationship to that of a college basketball coach at the end of the season.
“There’s that last moment, when you’ve played your last game,” he said after the ceremony. “It’s the joy of seeing them celebrate and move on. Then there’s the realization that they are moving on.”
Malloy gave the men encouragement as they moved forward, reminding them that the support staff of Mission Solano will always be there for them.
“I’ve seen the good side of the hard work you’ve done,” he told the graduates. “Every day at Mission Solano there are people moving on. You’re now part of the community. Part of a family.”
Raymond Courtemanche, chief program officer, reminded the men that many in the Mission Solano leadership team have also spent time in prison and bounced back. He implored the men during a charged sermon to make the best of a new opportunity.
“God has restored you. You have a new way of life,” Courtemanche said. “You have to do the right things for the right reasons.”
Reach Danny Bernardini at 427-6935 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbernardinidr.
Daily Republic Reporter Danny Bernardini and Photo Editor Brad Zweerink followed Rays of Hope participant Francis Cunanan through the program. Here’s the series: