Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Every month, a new group of men and women graduate from the Hope For Prisoners program. It's a re-entry program that helps former convicts get back into the workforce.
The room was packed with family, friends and dozens of graduates from the Hope For Prisoners program. The re-entry program was founded by Jon Ponder, a former convict who served eight years for bank robbery.
Each ceremony is special to the graduates, but this one is especially significant because the keynote speaker is the federal judge who sentenced Jon Ponder.
Judge James Mahan said, "I knew his name when I was asked to speak. I thought, 'I recognize that name.' Then my secretary and I put it together. I sentenced him 12 years ago. It's very exciting to see what he's done with his life."
Judge Mahan said at every sentencing he tries to sort out whether a convict can turn their life around. On the day of Jon Ponder's sentencing, Jon told the judge God has changed his life and he promised to make something of himself once he got out.
"Man I'm excited on so many levels. First because I had an opportunity to speak to Judge Mahan during my sentencing. He said if I did half of the things I said I would I would walk out of prison a changed man."
A changed man he is. Jon Ponder now pours his life into helping other convicts get back into the workforce and reunite with their families. And unlike similar programs, he works with law enforcement and community leaders to make it happen.
At this graduation, Sheriff Bill Young and law enforcement officers were there. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, even Congressman Steven Horsford stopped by. They all believe in Jon Ponder who actually walked the talk.
Judge Mahan said that's not always the case, "My favorite words are I'm gonna. I'm gonna. I'm gonna get off drugs, get my GED, get it together. Words are nothing. It's action."
Judge Mahan said Jon Ponder is one of those people who took action, helping hundreds of people. Giving hope to a group most people have written off. But his success shows these men and women, who've done their time, can be great too with Hope for Prisoners by their side.