Monday, September 9, 2019

Today, we attended our weekly Toastmasters International class. Each week, different people are chosen to present a speech. We are also given a “word of the day” and “theme of the day” to discuss. Most of the time, we talk about our hobbies, what we did for a living, or a particular moment from our lives that holds great meaning.

Each speech that was presented this week was very interesting. One brother worked in the oil field and described the different types of deep water drilling rigs. Another brother spoke on how he and his family escaped a communist country to come to America. We are building special bonds as we listen and share personal stories and special moments with our families. We are all a lot closer than we were at the start of the program.

Looking back at the progress that we have made, the results are astounding! Public speaking has not only brought us out of our shells, but it has also given us confidence. We have developed a little something that many of us had never heard of: etiquette. It truly is amazing to see the transformation that we have made. Not only will graduation be a joyous celebration, it will be our rite of passage!  

Kevin W. (a.k.a. “Neo”)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Today, the class of Spring ’20 discussed other people’s perceptions. Everyone in attendance discovered that what others think of us affects us in more ways than we realize. This was a very important session for all of us, Servant-Leaders and current class members alike, since a lot of the trouble that we have found ourselves in is due to the fact that we wanted certain people to view us in a particular way.

Everyone learned so much today about how we think and what we, as humans, need to change in order to obtain that inner peace we have all been searching for. No matter how much we try to deny it, how others perceive us matters and plays a big role in our daily decision-making. However, we have to learn where and when to draw the line. There is nothing wrong with seeking acceptance from our friends, family and those we may encounter throughout the day, as long as it lines up with God’s principles and promotes positivity.  

The beauty of this program is that each day we learn a little more about ourselves and one another. Some of these lessons are difficult, at first, but the more that we embrace them, the further we travel down this road of transformation.

Donald L. (a.k.a. “Tyger”)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Let us spend a moment in thoughtful prayer, remembering all the lives that were cut short on this day 18 years ago. Also, we send out a special thanks to all of the first responders who so bravely entered ground zero and worked tirelessly to save as many lives as possible. True heroes are found in the most unfortunate of circumstances!

We were called out a little earlier than anticipated this morning. Some of our brothers were given the opportunity to campaign for financial support on behalf of their families so that they could afford traveling to our graduation in October. It was a wonderful experience! There was a lot of love and compassion in the room as those men poured their hearts out. For many of us, it will be the first time we have seen our families since our incarceration. To be reunited with them means more than we can properly express.

In the afternoon, we had our Entrepreneurship class. At the start of class, some brothers got up and practiced their speeches for the upcoming event on the 27th. Immediately following that, we sat down and took our test over Chapter 12. Everyone did amazing today. The majority of the class passed with flying colors. Great job, Fall ’19! (In truth, everyone was just relieved that we didn’t have a pop quiz over Chapter 13.)

Once the tests were complete, we went over Chapter 13. In this chapter, we discussed the importance of a business having an exit strategy. We all found the lecture to be very interesting. Before class ended, we were told that next week our Toastmasters and Entrepreneurship classes would be switched to accommodate a special guest speaker – a professor from the University of Houston. Everyone is really excited!

Miguel M. (a.k.a. “Kung Fu Panda”)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Today, many of us had Computer lab. We were able to construct projects using PowerPoint, but more importantly, we were able to build better relationships with one another. In the process of doing this, we discussed the need for a real change in our lives. Change is important for us, our families and the people that we surround ourselves with on a daily basis.

If we want to be successful at anything in life, we have to be willing to change. We refer to this as “innovation.” We need to reinvent ourselves! This may mean changing our old friends and hang-out places, if we want to remain free, sober and on the path that God has set out for us.

It is essential that we work on ourselves every day and continue to make these changes. When we get complacent, we become vulnerable, and this causes our lives to stagnate. Every day, we are either contributing to our life or our death. Stay strong, Fall ’19, we are one day closer to success!

Devonte S. (a.k.a. “Bone Crusher”)

Friday, September 13, 2019

We woke up to another beautiful day! As the sun began to rise over the pine trees, a thought entered our minds: Pitch Day. We have been getting our Introductions ready, our numbers right, and the timing of our presentations perfected so that we will be ready to pitch in front of the executives.

It is truly amazing to see how much we have grown from the first day that we walked in here. As all of the fears that we held months ago are being removed, we are really beginning to understand how much power we actually have. Listening to all of these men break down their short-term goals and explain how they will execute them to secure their future is truly inspirational.

As the day drew to an end, we held Accountability Group meetings back on the Pods. This week, we spoke about the necessity of “keeping your house clean.” We all agreed that the way a person keeps their surroundings is a direct reflection of the way that they live their life. With that understanding, we are better able to evaluate how we are living and become more accountable for our actions. This will result in living a cleaner and healthier life!

Rorry H. (a.k.a. “Flavor Flav”)

Expressions

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was a child, I would lie on my back in the middle of a field on a warm and balmy summer’s night and stare up at the sky. The heavens were alight with millions of stars, twinkling with a brilliance reminiscent of the annual Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. However, as my adolescence surrendered to adulthood, cities grew bigger and rural areas began to dwindle. To accommodate this growth, people seemed to need more and more lights, either for safety purposes or to illuminate their nocturnal activities. As the countryside waned, so did my ability to see the stars.

Much like the big city lights blinded my capability to enjoy the luster of the constellations, big city dreams caused me to lose sight of who I was. I became enslaved to consumption, selfishness and greed. My appetites soon turned destructive and I not only lost that celestial fire within myself, but I alienated everyone who had ever cared for me. As a result, I found myself alone and in a very dark place.

In the same manner that Mr. Emerson has alluded to in the above-mentioned quote, in my darkness I discovered an inkling of hope. My journey of self-discovery and betterment has taught me to enjoy the little things in life, however few they may be.  I still look up at the night sky and I search its vastness for just a single glimmer. That’s enough for me!

James R. (a.k.a. “Biscuits and Jelly”)

Fearless Fall ’18