A smile came across my face a little while ago as I just finished reading this amazing article, From Inmate to Inspiration, about John Valverde, a man who I, alongside my husband John, recently had the pleasure of meeting personally while attending and speaking at an Osborne Association Family Works graduation ceremony at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.
John knows Mr. Valverde well. They served time together in Sing Sing for over a decade.
I remember hearing his story that day and being in such awe of the fact that if he, John Valverde, had not told me himself, I would never in a million years have guessed that the well-educated, soft-spoken, kind-eyed man standing before me in a well-pressed Brooks Brothers suit, tie, and button-down shirt donned with cuff links had spent 16 years in a maximum security New York State prison for murder.
Talk about not judging a book by its cover! There wasn't even a trace of the residue of prison on him!
I remember seeing him and my John speak and laugh together as equals, a rare sight when witnessing the interactions between inmates and civilians, especially ones of Mr. Valverde's caliber. The need for the esteemed civilian to "put the inmate in his place" is starkingly and sadly a pervasive occurrence. That was not the case in this interaction. The two Johns had a remarkably refreshing rapport. It warmed my heart.
I remember seeing the look of hope in my husband's eyes - a glimmer of what his life could possibly be, and thinking to myself, "John Dukes -- this will be you one day, baby..one day very soon."
John Valverde used his time in prison well, managing to not only earn several academic degrees while incarcerated, but also advocating for the creation of programs to help those incarcerated successfully cope with the nuances of prison life while simultaneously preparing for their equally as successful release and reacclamation into society.
Today, John Valverde is the CEO of Youth Build, an organization in line with the principles of hope and second-chances for those most in need of them, principles that have governed much of Mr. Valverde's life.
He is living proof that your past does not have to dictate your future. Serving time in prison does not have to be the end-all, be-all of your life's narrative. It can simply be a chapter. Write your own story. #speakyatruth
"The conclusion of something is better than its beginning, and a patient attitude is more valuable than a proud one" - Ecclesiastes 7:8, ISV