My name is Harvey. I grew up in Fresno, California. As a child, I was brought up in an abusive family. When I was old enough, I ran to what I knew best, gangs and drugs. The gangs became my new family. Drugs and money became my new love. I lived every day wearing a mask to hide the real me (a scared kid with no one to talk to and nowhere to turn). I was in and out of various youth facilities and for years this would become my home. I had enough of the instability in my life, I decided enough was enough and I ran to Las Vegas to start a new life.
What I didn’t know is that you can't run from yourself. Once again, I found myself in trouble this time, it cost me life in prison. After a long 30 years of incarceration, I was released from prison. I didn’t know how I was going to survive. All I knew was I wasn’t going to go back to the old me, ..0so I started reaching out and searching for help. This search led me to HOPE for Prisoners, I went to orientation, and that next night I went to a huddle. On that day my life changed forever. I met the DP (Darryl Ponder) my mentor, my friend, and my brother. I opened my mind and my ears and followed his plan. He told me that night he would be here for me no matter what and he had.
I got my first job as a line cook. Later, I became the lead line cook and then supervisor. So, now I was doing the hiring. I'll never forget it; I was so happy. I called DP and spoke to him about my new success, and he told me to be patient. God has a plan for me and there are more blessings to come. Then it wasn’t but a couple of days later I realized in my new role could help others. I was able to assist several guys who needed help getting a job. I did so without hesitation as I realized that it was always about people helping people.
I wanted to help further, I wanted to help people more. So, I expressed this to Lois my case manager and she said why don’t you become a mentor? I thought to myself I could never do that my parole officer won't let me and what could I tell others that would help them? I called my mentor DP, and he told me that my personal experiences were valuable and that I can relate to the struggle of re-entry. I was living it each day and being victorious. Once again, I listened and today I stand before you a man that is not defined by my past and a man doing God’s work.
Hope for Prisoners has provided an avenue for my success. Their willingness to never give up on me, their commitment to me has been unwavering. I am grateful for the HOPE family! I am living a life far beyond my imagination. So much so, that just this week I received a job offer as a manager making double what I was making as a supervisor. And, yes DP was right, the blessings just keep coming! Today I live each day with integrity and have been blessed with my beautiful fiancé Sarah. I will never forget how far we have come, and I continue to build strong bonds with my family as well as Sarah's family and I have finally earned their trust.
In closing graduates, I want to welcome you to the family we are proud of you and all that you have already accomplished. I can't wait to see where your journey takes you. Now, when I go thru life, I don’t use words like I have to, I replace them with I get to, because today God has blessed me with my freedom, my family, and hope. Remember when you get to do these things today, it is a privilege and not a burden!