President & CEO
John Valverde is the President and CEO of YouthBuild USA. He joined YouthBuild in 2017 after decades of work as an advocate for creating access to opportunity and removing barriers for formerly incarcerated and low-income people.
John began working with imprisoned individuals in 1992 to ensure access to HIV/AIDS counseling, high school equivalency instruction, alternatives to violence programs, and college education. In 1995, responding to the gap created by the elimination of TAP and Pell funding for people in prison, he led an initiative to develop and deliver a college-level certificate program, the Certificate in Ministry and Human Services. Today called Rising Hope, this program continues in several New York State prisons. In 1998, he co-founded Hudson Link for Higher Education, the first privately funded accredited college program in New York’s prisons. More than 450 students in prison have graduated from Hudson Link, which has grown to serve five prisons with six college partners.
In 2009, John worked with a team at the Osborne Association to create New York City’s first green jobs training program exclusively for people with criminal records. As Osborne’s Executive Vice President, John launched, managed, and led programs including children, youth, and family services; substance abuse treatment; workforce development; community benefit projects; financial literacy; health and wellness services; housing; alternatives to incarceration; mentoring and leadership development; and social enterprises. John has led teams that offer multiple evidence-based interventions, with a trauma-informed approach, to distinct populations that range from very young children to the elderly.
As a steady and persistent advocate for creating access, John has worked with city, state, and federal agencies to develop and operate proven job readiness and placement programs. He forged Osborne's first relationships with labor unions and has served on the Board of Pathways to Apprenticeship that supports individuals from traditionally underserved communities gain access to apprenticeship programs.
John often serves as a keynote speaker at important and related events to share his personal story of transformation and second chances. As a young man who was incarcerated at 21, John’s work to accept responsibility for his actions and commit to making amends started him on a journey of redemption that allowed him to imagine and build a new future. Though he was incarcerated for almost 16 years, John is now recognized as a proven leader and example for people affected by the criminal justice system. John’s personal and professional life embodies the work of YouthBuild and is a powerful representation of its mission. He is the proud recipient of the 2018 Brian S. Fischer Achievement Award from Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison. This award is presented annually to a formerly incarcerated leader who has made an impact by advocating for positive change in the world.
John is a graduate of Aspen Institute’s Sector Skills Academy and a 2018 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow. John received his Master of Professional Studies in Urban Ministry from the New York Theological Seminary and holds a Bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from Mercy College.