Inspiration in Chowchilla behind bars

CHOWCHILLA, Calif.

A ceremony marked a proud and joyful moment for several women whose lives have been scarred by darker days in the past.

"I wasted too many years on regrets ... "

Marta Ulen is serving a life sentence for killing an entire family in a drunk driving crash 13 years ago. Now she's the valedictorian of the nation's first ever offender-mentor certification program for female inmates.

"They may not know it, but they have a huge task ahead of them ... "

One hundred women started the course at Valley State Prison for Women, but only these 15 finished nine months of intensive training that's prepared them to be substance abuse counselors for other women serving time in California.

"I can show somebody else that there is hope in recovery because if it can happen for me it can happen for anybody."

Marta's mother, daughter, and grandchildren joined other inmate's family members in the audience to show their support during this emotional ceremony.

Jessica Merrill: "I know she's worked really hard to be here, and we're just really proud of her."

The program not only gives the mentors a chance to help others while they're in prison, but also after they're released.

Matthew Cate: "For people who have been to prison, it's very difficult to get a job, one area where there is a need in our community is for licensed drug and alcohol counselors."

The graduates still have to complete internships and pass a final test. But Marta says she'll do whatever it takes to help others facing the same struggles that have hurt her family and taken the lives of another.

"This is my life now. This is my purpose in life, and I'm not going to let anything get in the way."

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