Monday, June 17, 2019

Today, we attended our third session of Toastmasters International. Toastmasters is a class that teaches us the ins and outs of public speaking. We are learning to speak clearly, keep the audience’s attention and relay the information that we want to properly convey. It is safe to say that, at first, we were all a little nervous about Toastmasters.

Our first assignment was called “The Ice Breaker.” Each one of us stood in front of the class and talked about ourselves for four to six minutes. Some of the classmates had already given their speeches last week; the rest of us finished up today. Despite our initial anxious thoughts, we all survived! It wasn’t bad at all. It loosened everyone up a bit, and we all got to know one another a little better.

This class is turning out to be our favorite. Not only is it helping us to open up, we are putting some very useful life skills into practice. We are all looking forward to our next session of Toastmasters.

Travis C. (a.k.a. “Grumpy Gus”)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Today, we focused on our computer literacy. It was really enjoyable, even though a lot of times we tend to forget some of the basics. Being locked up in prison, we sometimes forget all about the everyday normal things that people do. We were excited to awaken some of those forgotten skills.

Microsoft Word is an exciting learning tool. As we began our lessons, it took many of us back to the time when we first learned to operate a computer. However, the more we worked at it, the more those long unused computer skills began to resurface.

As the minutes ticked by, we all fell into a rhythm of typing. It felt so natural to be doing classwork on a computer. We worked so well, that by the time class was over, we didn’t even want to turn the computers off. That’s okay though, because it just means that we will look forward to next week’s computer lab.

Briceon M. (a.k.a. “Flo Rida”)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Today, we woke up early and prepared to attend our first of many pray-outs. Pray-outs are something that we do for our PEP brothers who have been granted parole. We all gather together in the PEP room and celebrate their release. We stand before them, on camera, and give them encouragement, advice and congratulations. This is something that we look forward to, as we know that our day, too, will come.

After lunch, we attended our Entrepreneurship class. As Brian T. (a.k.a. “Cruella De Vil”) lectured over establishing a competitive advantage in business, the whole class took notes. Up to this point, we have taken each day in stride. Now it is time to get down to business and utilize every spare moment possible to work toward a better life. If we fail, not only do we receive extra homework, we let ourselves and our families down.

After completing our exams and before we prayed out, we brainstormed with some of our PEP brothers regarding our business ideas. It is always good to get others’ opinions; this will help as we begin to shape our ideas into our official business plans. Before we were released for the day, the DJ cranked up the music and we all danced and acted silly. It was an awesome day here at PEP!

Justin W. (a.k.a. “Will Ferrell”)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Today is our “off day” in terms of classroom participation. However, there is never truly a day off from PEP. We view every day as an opportunity to be more productive and to better ourselves. There’s always time to memorize business terminology, work on character development, reinforce relationships, exercise or any of the other things we need to learn. The more business practices we study, retain and apply, the better chance we have at being successful once we are released.

We are currently studying for a test that focuses on due diligence and its application toward our business idea. “Due diligence” is basically a critical evaluation of concerns that need to be investigated. This is accomplished by examining the desired industry, creating a profile for our target customers, categorizing competitors and constructing a set of competitive maps. The result of this allows us to differentiate between those elements of the business that provide a competitive advantage and those that do not.

So to reiterate, there really is no such thing as a day off. Every free moment should be dedicated to improving oneself. For us, time can either be helpful or hurtful. The work that we do isn’t merely preparation for a test in PEP, but for a more productive life.

Giante W. (a.k.a. “Malcolm X”)

Friday, June 21, 2019

This morning, we had our first Living in the Village class. This class is designed to enable us to secure our financial future so that we might become an asset to society. We were shown the importance of fiscal responsibility and the drastic impact it can have on the community. Many of us have spent the majority of our lives being a burden to our families and a drain on society. So to be given the opportunity to increase our economic standing, as well as our character development, is a gift beyond measure.

As we strive to meet the expectations that this second phase of PEP requires, things are getting a bit difficult. However, with persistence and numerous hours of study, we progress in establishing a new brand for ourselves. We continue to unlock new potential and embrace a spirit of success. Together, we will lift one another up and prevail over any obstacle we encounter.

After the lecture, In-Prison Manager Greg P. (a.k.a. “Flower”) went over contact information for our highly anticipated graduation in October. Every one of us is thrilled by the idea of our families seeing us cross that stage as a PEP graduate. Some of us have not seen our family members for quite some time, so naturally we believe that graduation cannot get here soon enough.

Anthony D. (a.k.a. “George Foreman”)


“Everything comes at an expense; it is what you do with the experience that instills value”.
~ J. P. Larsen

I am sure that the first part of this quote resonates within all of my brothers who are incarcerated. No one knows better than we do that there is a price to be paid for the decisions that we make. That being said, it is the second part of the quote that I would like to focus on.

The chosen few of Fall ’19 could have given up on themselves and life. They could have determined that their existence would have no more meaning than a punch in the gut, but they took a chance and answered the call to something greater than the status quo.

The second phase of this program will likely be one of the most difficult challenges that we have ever attempted. Not all of us will make it to the end, for this program, too, demands a price. However, for those with the will and resolve to make it to the end, not only will we have increased the value of our own lives, but we will be equipped to make a positive contribution to our families and society at large.

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