Motivational Stories and Speeches: I want to share a story from the new edition of The Compassionate Geek about a woman who defied the odds and is re-making herself into a great model of tenacity, perseverance, and compassion.

I first heard about Starcia Ague in a story on KUOW-FM here in Seattle. Starcia’s mother kicked her out of the house when she was eleven. She went to live with her dad, who cooked and sold methamphetamine. She started a college fund for herself by charging his customers a surcharge to see him. She lost her college fund when he was busted and the authorities confiscated all the cash in the house. After the bust, she lived with relatives and friends for a while, eventually landing back with her mother. Starcia was fifteen when she was adjudicated delinquent and convicted of, among other things, masterminding a home invasion. She was sentenced to a juvenile detention facility where she would remain until she turned twenty-one.

The odds were not in Starcia’s favor.

While she was in jail, at the age of sixteen, she heard a woman speak whose life had been even more difficult than hers. Starcia thought if this woman could make it, she could, too. She began to work on turning her life around. She realized that education and a belief in a higher power were the rocks she needed to change her life. From the beginning, she knew it was not going to be easy. She asked the authorities at the juvenile facility about her transcripts and educational opportunities. She was met with distrust and laughter, but another youth in the facility had been successful in pursuing an education. That served as inspiration and motivation for Starcia to do the same. Again, the authorities rebuffed her, but she persevered, writing letters to college presidents and other influential people. Eventually, her tenacity paid off and she was able to complete not only her high school diploma, but also an associate’s degree, all while she was incarcerated.

Upon her release on her twenty-first birthday, she applied to Washington State University, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. She intended to work with incarcerated youth, but because of her prior convictions, even though they occurred when she was a minor, she was prohibited from doing so. Again, using her innate resourcefulness, she pursued and was successful in obtaining a full and unconditional pardon from the governor, the only juvenile in the history of Washington State to do so.

Starcia went from being a victim to being a victor.

In my interview with her earlier this year, when she was twenty-five, I asked Starcia how she motivates herself, how she gets herself up when she gets in a funk. She said she thinks about how far she’s come and how there are so many people who’ve had it worse than she. She also thinks about all the work that remains to be done to help juvenile offenders successfully integrate into society and looks forward to working toward that end.
I noticed during our interview that Starcia frequently expresses gratitude for the people who’ve been her supporters. She doesn’t seem to take anything for granted.

Starcia believes that the answer is never “no” for her. She just has to find another way around.

A documentary was produced telling the story of Starcia’s life and how she, with the help of many caring people, turned her life around. You can watch it online here.

Today, she works to help kids who are going through the juvenile justice system. She has a website at where she creates awareness of issues facing juvenile offenders as they work to re-enter society and become productive citizens.

Your Challenge

What would you be willing to do to acquire more education and knowledge? What are the things you think are so important that you’d risk your life for them? Are you willing to keep trying, through tenacity, perseverance, and sheer force of will to achieve something you believe in for yourself and the important people in your life?

Starcia’s is one of five stories in The Compassionate Geek about remarkable people who faced daunting challenges and yet managed to maintain a realistic positive attitude to become models of how to overcome challenges and lead happy, productive lives. I’m honored to have spent time with each of them and am delighted to be able to share their experiences with you.

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