A Massachusetts man who served time for killing a man, is now the new boss of a non-profit in Somerville and is focused on improving the lives of others.
It’s a job that John Valverde started this week, but a journey that began long before he stepped foot in the corner office.
“It’s surreal sometimes,” Valverde said. “It’s hard for me to imagine I was ever prison.”
Valverde served 16 years in a prison in New York after killing a man accused of raping his girlfriend. He was 20-years-old when he was convicted of manslaughter.
“I knew that what I did was wrong and I knew I needed to work to make amends,” he said.
He spent most of his time behind bars working on himself, earning two college degrees and creating programs to help other inmates. He was denied parole three times before he was released.
The work he did in prison only helped him land a job at a non-profit in New York before taking on the role as the chief executive officer job at YouthBuild in Somerville. YouthBuild is a non-profit organization that aims to help young people who remind him of himself. After 7 interviews, he beat out 124 candidates for the position.
There are 260 YouthBuild programs in the United States, including one on the North Shore in Salem where students say they cannot help but be inspired by Valverde’s story.
About one-third of its students have been convicted of an offense prior to enrolling in YouthBuild.
“I’m looking at it like if he could do it, I could it. It’s not hard,” Bryan Fernandez said, who enrolled in the program two months ago.
With four felonies on his record, Fernandez says YouthBuild is helping him turn his life around. He says the lessons he’s learning have new meaning with an example at the top.
“We’re a second chance program and I’m living out my second chance,” Valverde said.