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Turning Tragedy into Triumph

Irving "Irv" Relova, a man whose life took unexpected turns, leading him from the Philippines to the United States at the tender age of 13, found his early years marked by responsibility, education and a hopeful outlook on his future. However, a tragic incident altered the course of his life, driving him to commit a deeply regrettable crime- one that he reflects upon daily. At the age of 18 in 1996, Irv's path changed drastically as he found himself arrested and labeled a "youth offender".

Initially sentenced to the death penalty, his fate transformed into a lifetime behind bars with no chance of parole. He carries the weight of his actions, acknowledging the lives he impacted on that fateful day. 

Despite the limited access to rehabilitation programs, Irv's resilience shone through. He played a main role in establishing a Youth Diversion Program within the prison he was held in.

This initiative brought justice-involved youth to the facility once a month to engage with selected incarcerated individuals, offering guidance and mentorship. Additionally, Irv was part of the team at Lancaster Prison that introduced a shelter dog training program. He contributed to the program by crafting essential items such as dog leashes, harnesses, or blankets, and even assisting in dog training!

A change in the law under Govern Brown's administration in 2018 presented a glimmer of hope for Irv's loved ones and for Irv himself. Accepting the consequences of his past and with some helpful prodding from loved ones, Irv was eventually paroled in 2019. 

Since his release, Irv has worked on bettering himself and reached out to H.I.R.E. in late 2020. Irv then became an integral part of our team, leading to the creation of the T.I.M.E. mentorship program. Motivated by a genuine desire to guide those in need, Irv's lived experience has granted him insight into the struggles and challenges that youth in the system may face. He sees his work with H.I.R.E., as a commitment to prevent others from enduring similar hardships.

Irv currently serves as a T.I.M.E. mentor speaking to groups in the community and providing 1:1 mentorship to youth who are currently facing long term convictions. He is able to provide them with hope, support they do not receive elsewhere and with linkages to services upon release. Through H.I.R.E., Irv is turning his dream into a reality!

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