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Once-Homeless CHP Officer Shares Struggles with Graduating Class of Saint John’s Program for Real Change

SACRAMENTO -- Dressed in a California Highway Patrol uniform, proudly serving the Bay Area, you'd never believe Sacramento native Officer Edwin Lopez's rocky journey.

"Eventually all my luck ran out while I was still looking for a job. I ended up on the streets," Lopez said.

Dressed in a cap and gown, after more than year of hard work, Mandy Corniel had similar struggles.

"My drug and alcohol use was my survival method for the domestic violence I was going through," Corniel said.

Two people from two different walks of life were together Thursday night to share their experiences of hopelessness and overcoming all obstacles.

Officer Lopez was a speaker at a graduation for Corniel and 13 other women from the Saint John's Program for Real Change.

The program offers housing, education and job training to women dealing with hardship.

Corniel credits Saint John's for turning her life around.

"Today I know I'm worth it. I deserve a life worth living," she said.

It's the type of program Lopez says he wishes he had back in 2012 when he lost his job, home and car.

Living in Sacramento area parks and on the streets were his only options.

"When I first lost everything, I tried to be optimistic, 'Oh I'll find a new job, no problem' stuff like that. It didn't exactly go that way. Eventually you start getting down on your luck, start getting sad -- depressed even," Lopez said.

Lopez says an opportunity with the California Conservation Corps helped get him back on his feet.

Now one year into his CHP career, he has advice for Thursday night's graduates and others facing tough times.

"They have to continue walking forward instead of standing still. As long as you are taking steps forward you will eventually get out of what you are getting," Lopez said.