Monday, April 29, 2019

Today, we attended the much-anticipated last day of Toastmasters International. This class has been giving us the ability and confidence to speak in public. Standing in front of a large group of people, where all eyes are focused on you, has been a tough obstacle for many of us to overcome.

It really has been awesome to watch many of our brothers transition from being shy and whispering to speaking with clarity and confidence. In the beginning, many of us would freeze up after speaking for only two minutes. Now, more often than not, we run out of time before we run out of material.

Throughout the duration of this course, we have been required to prepare and recite 10 speeches. For our final project, we were told to prepare a speech that was positive and uplifting. Some of our PEP brothers spoke about God, while others spoke about what they aspired to accomplish once they are released. Each heartfelt speech was met with encouragement and a Toastmaster’s signature applause.

Back on the Pods (dorms), we continued to prepare for our upcoming Pitch Day event. We are really leaning on our fellow graduate brothers to give us insight as to what to expect from the executives. They have been extremely helpful with their advice and patience. Their help, coupled with our determination, will make for a successful Business Plan Competition.

Justin W. (a.k.a. “Mr. Kool-Aid”)

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

There was no class for Spring ’19 today. Still, each one of us was up early, studying for tests in our Entrepreneurship class and the Crime and Punishment book. This stage of our journey is coming to an end, but we are hoping to finish strong.

In three days, we will have our Pitch Day event. We have been working very hard on our pitches and our business plans. We are hoping that with the help of our graduate brothers, and with feedback from the executives, we can give a professional presentation. We are not just doing this for ourselves; we are also doing it for our families. In spirit, they have been with us throughout this journey.

PEP is giving us the tools necessary to succeed in our personal lives and in business. Each part of the program has been like a roadmap showing us the way. However, these are only tools. We have to use them properly, or we will never achieve our goals.  

Victor V. (a.k.a. “Cheddar Bob”)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Today was a blessed day for each of us in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. We were called out to class very early this morning. In class, we were issued our etiquette book, and we will soon have a lecture by the author herself, Colleen Rickenbacher. Also, this morning we were tested on parts one and two of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

The brothers who did not have computer lab today went back to the dorms and practiced their business plan pitches. We all want to make sure that we are ready for the Pitch Day event this Friday.

After lunch, we had our Entrepreneurship class with the infamous Brian T. (a.k.a. Cruella de Vil) and were tested on Chapter 9. We are all anticipating graduation on May 31st. The Conquerors of Spring ’19 must stay focused. Our reward is only a month away.

Andy C. (a.k.a. “Cheech”)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Each of us here on the Cleveland Unit is really blessed. Many of us started the day in the computer lab. We are finishing the required lessons and making changes to the financials in our business plans. The rest of the brothers were busy practicing their BPC pitches and anticipating tomorrow’s big event.

We, the class of Spring ’19, have put in a lot of hard work to get to this point in the program. Now it is our turn to step up as servant leaders and help our brothers in the next Fall ’19 class. Good luck, brothers – the PEP journey is amazing!

Jose M. (a.k.a. “Jalapeno on a Stick”)

Friday, May 3, 2019

At about 10 a.m., we were called down to the PEP classroom. Today was an extremely important day for us. Today was our Pitch Day event, and many of us were a little nervous. We had all prepared for this day, but being nervous was inevitable. To rid ourselves of the anxiety, we danced, laughed and mingled.

After lunch, we went back to the PEP room and gathered together to greet the incoming executives. We absolutely love these events! To experience how much the executives truly care about us is rejuvenating. After we mingled with the executives for a few minutes, we each went to our designated areas and awaited our turn to give our pitch. Once we completed our pitches, we all got some invaluable feedback for our next and final event, the Business Plan Competition, which will require us to present a 7 to 12 minute pitch.

At the end of the event, there was a surprise in store for the first-time executives: if it was an executive’s first time attending an event, they had to go to the back of the room and dance down the aisle. The expression on their faces was priceless! It produced great laughter from all of the brothers in Spring ’19.

We are all so very thankful to have received an invitation to participate in this program. It means so much for us to be a part of this brotherhood. May God continue to bless this program, the participants and all of the executives.

Clayton A. (a.k.a. “Mr. Macky”)


“But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work”.

~2 Chronicles 15:7

When many of us think of the word “reward,” we tend to think of it as an award for doing something noteworthy or a prize for some victorious deed. According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition for “reward” is as follows: “Something given in return for good or evil done or received or for some service or attainment.” In essence, it is payment for services rendered.

Thirteen-and-a-half years ago, my many misdeeds earned me a 15 year prison sentence. For years, I placed the blame on imagined circumstances and everyone but myself. Befitting a man of weak character, I carried one heck of a “blamethrower”! For this, too, I would receive my due wages.

I have been on a long journey of self-discovery, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Lies and secrets are practices of the weak and, when practiced, weaken those who were once strong. However, the ones who seek the light, by walking in truth, are strengthened because they do not walk alone. The Great Rewarder is never slack in payment.                                                        

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