Ex-con us­ing past to cre­ate fu­ture for youth

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ASSOCIATED PRESS in Somerville, Mas­sachusetts

John Valverde isn’t your typ­i­cal CEO. He spent 16 years in prison for killing a man ac­cused of rap­ing his girl­friend.

While in prison, Valverde did his best to re­deem him­self, earn­ing two col­lege de­grees, teach­ing fel­low in­mates how to read and write and work­ing as an HIV/AIDS coun­selor.

Next week, he’ ll take over as chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of YouthBuild USA Inc, an or­ga­ni­za­tion with a global net­work of pro­grams aimed at help­ing young, low-in­come dropouts re­claim their lives and get skills to land jobs and be­come com­mu­nity lead­ers.

Valverde said he thinks it is im­por­tant for him to be hon­est about his past with the young peo­ple he’s try­ing to help. One in three has a crim­i­nal record.

“They are just like me, and there­fore their path could be like mine, and there­fore they could achieve things that they never imag­ined,” Valverde said.

Valverde went from be­ing a promis­ing young col­lege stu­dent to a con­victed killer.

In 1991, at age 20, Valverde de­cided to con­front a pho­tog­ra­pher his girl­friend said had raped her. He shot the man once in the head, at point­blank range, killing him. The pho­tog­ra­pher, Joel Schoen­feld, was on pro­ba­tion for two other sex of­fenses at the time.

Valverde was con­victed of man­slaugh­ter and spent 16 years in prison be­fore be­ing re­leased on pa­role.

Valverde said that al­though he be­lieves “it’s never pos­si­ble to make amends for tak­ing a life,” he de­cided to try to trans­form his own life.

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