URBANA — After dropping out of high school as a teenager, Toby Sirois decided to go back to school to get his GED.
Today, Sirois attends law school and works as a student attorney.
Sirois talked about how going back to school changed his life, as the keynote speaker during the Urbana Adult Education commencement ceremonies Friday at the Urbana High School auditorium.
Sirois said that, after dropping out of school, he got married, had a couple of children and took on a variety of jobs, doing everything from being a busboy to working at McDonald's.
"Most people think flipping burgers is beneath them," he said, "but any job is an opportunity."
Sirois said life experiences inspired him to do more, so he went back to school to earn his GED certificate in Urbana in 2002.
"It took me five years to make it through the program. It was very hard," he said. "But the tassel is worth the hassle."
After graduating, Sirois continued to pursue his dreams, graduating summa cum laude in legal studies from Kaplan University.
Then Sirois was accepted into law school at the Thomas Cooley Law School in Ann Arbor, Mich.
He is currently a second-year law student, working as a student attorney in Ann Arbor.
"I'm a public defender, a lawyer— something that other people would tell me I'd never be." he said.
Sirois pointed to the graduating students behind him, praising their courage and persistence.
"As much as I want this to be my night, it is their night," he said. "I couldn't be prouder of you guys."
Sirois challenged the graduates to follow their passions as they pursue their own dreams.
"Nobody knows your dreams like you do. If you love what you do, you'll never work a day of your life," he said. "You have to have a passion for what you do."
He told the graduates to never be afraid of failure.
"Failures are actually a good thing because, if you learn from a failure, you grow," he said.