Estes Winter 2024 Weekly Journals

Week 11

Monday                                                                                             January 29, 2024                                   

Today was a very blessed, even spiritual, day. We worked on Toastmasters, where we have been learning how to speak professionally in front of a group without using “uh,” “uhm” and other jargon words that are not needed so that we are ready to communicate well in a business setting and have people to take us seriously. We’ve also learned that everyone is different, and we all have our own way of expressing ourselves. We gave each other pointers on what to work on and how to be more effective listeners while being supportive of one another.

We think of each other and our brotherhood that we uphold with honor. We are all striving to be better men, and PEP is helping us achieve that goal that we set for ourselves. We are all choosing to make better choices, not only for our sake but for the sake of our children, mothers, fathers, and every other important person in our lives. We make a choice every day to embrace change and think about the future. We don’t want to see our families through bars anymore!

Today we also rehearsed our pitches for the upcoming event on Friday. The executives will be here and evaluate our business plans choosing the eight groups that will move on to the next round. It is very exciting, and we are ready to deliver our pitches to the best of our ability. We all know our business plans could possibly operate in the free world if we want to open a business using what we are learning here. This is so valuable to us and gives us the courage to go out and try to actually accomplish some goals that we set. Thank you and God bless everyone!      

Kiondric A. (aka “Ezel off Friday”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                             January 30, 2024

Phoenix ‘24

In prison’s bound embrace, a spark ignites,

Ten Driving Values bloom in confined lights.

Integrity, the cornerstone firm and true,

Execution follows dreams anew.

Innovation whispers thru iron bars,

While Excellence transcends breaking scars.

Wise Stewardship tends seeds of change,

A “Fresh Start” Outlook’s limitless range.

Fun, a rebellion in monotony’s reign,

Accountability the key to break the chain.

Servant-Leader Mentality’s guiding hands,

The Phoenix’s rise and rebirth demands.

Love’s new beginning sprouts beneath confines,

Between the wings true life aligns.

We will be known forevermore

As Phoenix 2024.

 

Today we started the day off with a session of BetterMan which is a faith-based video series that teaches a lot about authentic manhood. It also teaches us how to be better fathers, husbands and sons by addressing flaws in our character.

Next, we went through our pitches in preparation for our pitch event coming up this Friday. Everyone is excited about the opportunity to pitch in front of the executives, and it’s definitely going to be tough to pick a winner – there are some great pitches, including one for Rasta Juice. After that, Dan W. and Tyrone O. taught us about character development in terms of leadership and the traits of an effective leader.

After class, we continued to practice our pitches in front of pitch panels in our dorms to experiment with transitions and build confidence.  It is amazing to see the change in each and every brother. We continue to help each other along the path, and it feels amazing to be a part of all this. Thank you, and God bless!     

Wesley A. (aka “Squidward”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                       January 31, 2024

Today was a good day in class. We started with a prayer, just as we start each and every day. Today we prayed the “Our Father” prayer, which is my favorite. After that, Derrick B. got on the microphone and asked who in the class likes donuts. Most of us raised our hands. Then he asked Xan O. which type of donut was his favorite, and his response was “The John” donut, which nobody knew anything about. Apparently, it’s a donut that his local shop makes and only at that location. When his behavior earned him a spin on the Wheel of Doom, we counted “1, 2 and 3 – go!” It stopped on “Bad Dog,” which is when you have to act like a bad dog, which is hilarious.

After all the fun, we got to see videos of ourselves, and most of those were of our pitches, which was cool. A few executives gave us feedback and advice on what to say and how to say it, but most of the feedback had to do with eliminating things that didn’t make sense. We got to see our peers and how much we have improved. These videos helped us a lot because we could clearly see the mistakes we made when presenting our business plan pitches.

Then we wrapped up by talking about our finances and objectives concerning our future. The more advice we receive, the better off we will be in the end. It was an awesome day, and we thank you for reading this. God bless you.

Adrian A. (aka “Donkey from Shrek”)

 

Thursday                                                                                              February 1, 2024

Today was a great day, beginning with our usual pray-in. After a little dancing and fun as presented by Ryan B. and Derrick D., they then gave us a some great insight with the Word of the Day – it was along the lines of staying committed and executing our goals to the best of our individual abilities. We need to make sure we follow through with all that we do, whether it be PEP, the Bible, a new job, taking care of a plant or animal and anything else along those lines.

After all that, we were handed evaluation forms to judge our brothers’ pitches and how well they did. So, we began pitching in the order they chose for us. We did that until it was time to go to lunch. It was cool to be able to see who the top contenders in our upcoming Business Plan Competition (BPC) event are. We are very proud of ourselves because we have honestly come a long way from where we started. This program has tested us, and it has not been easy – we openly admit that we have been tested in ways that we have never experienced before, and it has made us grow into better men.

When we returned from lunch, we practiced our Toastmasters’ public speaking assignments. It was interesting to hear all the different speeches, that’s for sure. We are getting close to graduation, and it feels great to know that we have accomplished something special to all of us. We put forth a lot of effort in PEP, and it has made us see that we have a lot to offer the world. We know now that we will do just fine. Thank you for everything, PEP.      

Joe J. (aka “Ricky Bobby”)

 

Friday                                                                                                  February 2, 2024

Today was a great day. We did the usual pray-in, followed by a names test. We knew it was coming, so we had time to prepare. We really enjoy the emphasis of brotherhood in PEP and the encouragement to build relationships. We were missing out on having a brotherhood when we were in the free world; we often say if we would have had one strong person to lean on, we wouldn’t have come to prison. So being involved in this program has changed our lives forever.

After the test, we watched section seven of the BetterMan curriculum. It focused on the importance of a relationship with God and being a good steward of your time, talents and treasure. Since coming to prison, this has been a major revelation to those of us who are fathers. We talked about apologizing to our kids for not emphasizing the importance of a relationship with God. We also talked about the importance of teaching them to be confident in who they are; how to be a leader, not a follower; and the value of hard work, as well as building a passion for something and pursuing it to the best of their abilities. We should be available to them, and we want that more than anything. God is important as well, and they need to know this. We learned that when our children are going through tough times, we should encourage them to lean on God and pray for their mental health.

We thank everyone who is part of this program – it has changed us forever! Thank you, and God bless everyone.

 Lonte H. (aka “Mr. Brown”)

 

Expressions

“Life goes on.”

~ Tupac Shakur

I really love this quote because it has hit home many different times throughout my life. I use it in many different ways because life does actually go on. Sometimes when bad things happen, all you can do is say something to make you feel better, and this is one of those quotes for me. His music also impacted me throughout my life in a positive way. I love this saying because many times, it has helped break the feeling of dread when I fail at something. It shows me that I have another chance to see if I can be great at anything I try.

I remember when I got fired from a really good job, and I was sitting there with some of my friends after that happened. My friend looked at me and said, “Life goes on man – it’s going to be just fine, and remember that you’re going to get another shot somewhere else.” I laughed, and it was the perfect time for him to hit me with that; it was exactly what I needed to hear. I sometimes think back and that still makes me smile.

Life goes on one day at a time, and you’ve got to grab that bull by the horns and control it to the best of your ability. The next day can make all the difference, or it can be another day of enjoying life with family and friends. Peace and love to all!   

Darron B.  (aka “Pootie Tang”)

Week 10

Monday                                                                                             January 22, 2024                                   

Today’s class started off as usual, with dancing and a pray-in, followed by the typical banter back and forth between the emcees about the weekend’s football games. We then jumped into the start of our class, which began with Toastmasters.

This particular Toastmasters project was different from the rest because today we used visual aids. These visual aids ranged from family pictures to different accomplishments or dreams of our PEP brothers. This gave us great insights into our classmates’ lives and their different lifestyles outside of prison. Looking back on the first half of class, it was very enjoyable being able to gain some understanding with people we are surrounded by every day.

The second half of class was a presentation by Brandon G. on one of PEP’s 10 Driving Values: Execution. This Driving Value was summarized as an idea followed by action. He first explained to us why Execution is one of PEP’s Driving Values. To expand on the definition of Execution, we were shown a video. This video showed us a man that had the idea of walking across the United States. We were taken by surprise by his idea, as we did not think he had the ability to do so. He most definitely proved us wrong. Not only did he have the idea of walking across America, he had the drive, determination and, most importantly, the action behind it. Along the way, the man got bitten by a rattlesnake. The bite was so bad that he had to be hospitalized and could not walk for six months. He eventually recovered and continued to finish his walk across America. This story was not only a great story, it was inspirational and made us all know the true definition of execution.

Terrance W. (aka “TDC Jakes”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                             January 23, 2024

Today we had a bittersweet ending to our Entrepreneurship class as we took our last test for the entrepreneur portion of this program. It was also the last test that would be included in our GPAs. As a class, most of us passed this test, which was a huge accomplishment for all of us. All of those long hours of studying and making flashcards to help us memorize the material had paid off. Now we can focus our time and attention on getting our pitches down for our competition on February 2nd, so be on the lookout for “New York’s Hot Diggity.”

After our test, we did our Toastmasters project #8, which was where we were able to use visuals to help enhance our message and get our point across. Most of us talked about our families, which we all hold very dear, and it was emotional for some of us. We have all gotten much better at our public speaking, and it goes to show with these Toastmasters speeches. We are not stuttering as much, and we have all become more aware of not using inappropriate language. It was also nice to learn a little bit more about our fellow classmates and how much love they have for all their family.

Toward the end of class, the facilitators had mentioned that we were going to be doing “re-entry day” the following day, where we will be deciding if we are going to a PEP transitional home or not. Overall it was a great day.

Joshua B. (aka “Boomhauer”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                       January 24, 2024

This week we had a lot of fun, excitement and learning. We took the final test from Living in the Village and our entrepreneurship textbook. We have all come a long way and are very glad to be so close to graduation. Being a part of the PEP family is what we all needed. We are all brothers and are here to help one another be successful in life. Being there for one another is also holding each other accountable when we are getting off track. We all understand it is out of love and not being hateful or wanting to hurt each other. This brotherly bond we all have developed is amazing and actually what most of us have been looking for our whole lives.

Brandon G. came and talked to us about Execution and even offered us a $1,500 free advertising packet if we knew the whole PEP definition of Execution. He spoke about how important it is to execute an idea. All ideas are worthless until you put them into action. How our PEP brothers go out of their way to see us succeed in life is amazing. He is a great motivational speaker and really showed his passion and love for this family.

We also did re-entry day. It was a blessing to get our letters of acceptance for PEP’s transitional housing. The men spoke to us about what to expect upon release and how they will take us to get food stamps, our driver’s license and social security cards. In conclusion, the PEP family is here to help us all be successful in life. We are part of something bigger than ourselves, and thank God – it is a blessing.

 Christopher T. (aka “Fake Mark Anthony”)

 

Thursday                                                                                           January 25, 2024

Today started out great! Our emcee Derrick D. was on the microphone rapping a song from the 90s, which was funny because he can’t rap. After pray-in, both emcees got the crowd going by making people “own” their fun names, getting everyone interacting and basically started the day on a positive note. Our Peer Educator Daniel W. introduced us to section 5 in the BetterMan book, which was very insightful; it really makes you think about how you can make changes in your life even if you feel like you don’t need to change anything.

Then each group spoke about what they talked about in their group. Our group talked about the programs that we took while incarcerated and how they helped us to better our character. It also set a bar to let us know if we are improving and where we are lacking, or if there was a trait that would help us when we are released to start a career and live a successful life.

We also received a leadership book called True North. After we came back from lunch, we started to pitch. We learned what we need to work on and what we could do to make our pitches better. The majority of us have our pitches down, as well as each team’s transition from CEO to the rest of the team’s pitch.

Today was a very eventful and fun day, and I can say that everyone enjoyed it.

Dakota T. (aka “The Yellow M & M”)

 

Friday                                                                                                January 26, 2024

Friday is considered by many as the end of the work week. Here in PEP, we say that Friday is the same as every other day: another 24 hours in which we put in our best effort to get another inch closer to achieving our goals.

We did not have class today, so let’s talk about how we utilized our time outside of the classroom. Breakfast was from 5 to 6 a.m. Following this most important meal of the day, we began our morning rituals. After taking care of our hygiene, we sat down to discuss our assigned reading in True North. This is a book about finding your passion and why it is important to pursue this in order to live a fulfilled life. It is our understanding that we will be tested over the first three chapters sometime next week, and we will be ready.

After that we all spent some quality time with each other in the dayroom, building that bond that only those in the pursuit of a better life share. God allows us 24 hours to practice our free will. Whatever we decide to do with it is entirely up to us. We choose to have a good attitude with 120% of our effort going toward reaching new heights.

At the end of the day, if we can reach our greatest potential, then we are properly equipped to be a beacon of light for those in need. In the end a life well lived is one that affects people in a positive way.

Brayan V. (aka “Pedro”)

 

Expressions

“Go then if you must, but remember,

no matter how foolish your deeds, those who love you

will still love you.”

~ Sophocles

Growing up as a young man, I never took much time to sit back and look at life as a whole. I wouldn’t take people or their feelings into consideration. I would do what I wanted, when I wanted, but I always thought I’d have my family and friends.

I was incarcerated at a young age. While being incarcerated, the people I thought were my friends and people I thought loved me turned their back on me. A couple of people stayed around periodically, but only one person – my sister – stuck it out with me through my struggle. Even upon my release, I still had my life struggles and addictions that I put in front of everything and everyone else because in my weak frame of mind, I looked at things as if I were still incarcerated. I felt all alone and as if I didn’t have anyone but myself. I realize now it was never like that because I always had my sister, but I never really saw that for what it was. I’ve lied to her, stolen from her, betrayed her trust; I’ve put people before her; and I’ve put her in a bind and other awkward situations. She still has never turned her back on me.

Over the years, I’ve opened my eyes more and seen all the love she shows me and the respect she gives me. She never talked down about me or to me. She never judged me but instead always encouraged me. Because of her, I strive to do better and to be a better person. She has inspired me to have a better outlook on life and better understand the meaning of family and love. No matter how bad I was doing in life or where I was in life, my sister always had my back and loved me for me. My sister is my best friend and my guardian Angel.

                                                 Kyle W. (aka “Rob Schneider”)

Week 9

Monday                                                                                             January 15, 2024                                   

Today was a great day. The day started off with Bruce T. coming in to give us a lecture on Chapters 14-16. Bruce T. teaches us finance and is always very informative and clear about what he teaches. Today happened to be the last day for him to teach us out of the Living in the Village book we’ve been studying. We will have one final Living in the Village test covering the entire book, which is good so we can recap everything Bruce T. has taught us thus far.

During class we watched another Dave Ramsey video and this one was about not necessarily trusting “credit repair agencies.” The point of the video was that there are two things we can do to repair/fix our own credit. One is to simply pay anything that has been reported to our credit report, while the other way is to challenge anything on our credit report that we believe to be inaccurate. We will miss Bruce T., and we look forward to hearing him teach again when we become Servant-Leaders for the next class.

After Bruce T.’s lecture, we were tested on the book Living in the Village. The test was over the previous two chapters Bruce T. taught (Chapters 12 and 13). We then took our lunch break and when we came back, we had an Entrepreneurship test. After the test in our Entrepreneurship textbook, we realized we only have one chapter left before completing the book. We are all proud of ourselves and our progress in PEP.

For the remainder of the class, we all worked on our business competition pitches, and we are all progressing in this area too.

Joshua R. (aka “Chicken Little”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                             January 16, 2024

We came to class this morning and prayed-in to the Almighty before class before reading out of our Entrepreneurship handbook about EOUs and bankruptcy with new business ventures. We asked questions on the subjects at hand, and then we had some fun with our fun names (class nicknames).

We practiced pitching our business ideas the second half of class. We will hold pitch panels on February 2 in the gym and PEP classroom. Our classes sometimes have speakers that take time out of their life and businesses to come talk to us, teaching us the in’s and out’s, as well as how to walk the talk in order to be good entrepreneurs when we get out and start our new business ventures.

We have two awesome PEP In-Prison Managers by the names of Gerald D. and Adam W. They teach us PEP’s 10 Driving Values and show us how to live them out, both in prison and in the free world with our peers. We will do what we need to do to graduate and show our families and friends we can be the best of who we are, and we will be better as we follow in the steps of our savior Jesus Christ. We have faith in our abilities to make an impression on our family, friends and the new generation to come after us. God bless this PEP. We have learned so much about ourselves and the steps we needed for growth and self-mastery. Thank you for taking the time to teach us how to be better men.

 Marrion R. (aka “The Nutty Professor”)

 

 

Wednesday                                                                                       January 17, 2024

We started our class this morning with prayer, which is very important to us because it has been a missing element in most of our lives. Our journal entry may look the same as Monday’s, but our guest speaker today was in fact Chaplain Bruce T. He covered the last three chapters from the Living in the Village. This book has been the start of a financial guide for the current PEP class. We all need this material whether we believe in it or not.

Looking back over our lives, many mistakes have been made, but most assuredly it was due to carelessness on our part. Do not get confused, some or all of us come from environments where we were taught to pay our bills and then we could do what we wanted. Some of the things being taught are not fully agreed upon because some of us have families and the idea of buying a car with cash once our credit is repaired just doesn’t sit well with some, especially when individual families do not understand (or refuse to understand current situations.

Today, as we wrapped up the last three chapters of Living in the Village, we talked about how giving back to your community is a very big part of life, even if you are not wealthy. If you have been homeless and took the opportunity that was given to you to turn your life around, you will begin to understand the value of time invested. Thank you for your time.

 Jeramon R. (aka “Gary Coleman”)

 

Thursday                                                                                           January 18, 2024

Today we started the day out with our emcees Derrick D. and Ryan B. praying us in – these guys always bring a lot of energy! We have been working on our team pitches, fine tuning and practicing strategies we’ve learned through our Toastmasters speeches. Ryan B. and Derrick D. answered several questions we had about how to improve our delivery when we speak in front of a crowd, and afterwards we proceeded to pitch until our class lecture began.

We had a guest speaker today named Jon G. who came and spoke to us about the finer points of Chapter 14 in our Entrepreneurship textbook, which was about franchising. We learned what a franchiser is, which is an entrepreneur who buys the company from the main company, which is the franchisor. Then our speaker told us about his degree in geology and how he worked for 40 years in the oil and gas industry. During his time in the industry, he worked for nine different companies. In the oil and gas industry, he had two of his own companies, during which time he also ran his own consulting firm before retiring. Now he spends his retirement coming to speak with those of us in PEP.

After class, we went to our cells to practice our pitches in front of either the mirror or our peers before we held a study group and made flashcards.

Albert S. (aka “Human Eyebrows”)

 

Friday                                                                                                January 19, 2024

Today was a very eventful day in J-Pod. For those of us who went to breakfast, our day started at 5:45 a.m. and ate pancakes, oatmeal and peaches. Now some of us stayed in the dayroom and watched the news, while others went back to bed.

When we came back from lunch, there were several study groups going on. Jimmy M. was helping three participants out with their start-up cost homework. Then at another table, Steve B. and Adrian A. were working on their “My Partner Plan” homework. Joshua C. and Darius M. were at a third table working on their Living in the Village homework. Christopher C. went around the dayroom getting his pitch sheet signed off while Adrian A. was helping a few people with their graphic team logo project form.

Around 3 p.m., people started to work out for about an hour and a half before dinner. After dinner, several classmates started to go over Chapter 14 in their Entrepreneurship books, doing practice tests and making flashcards. Then a couple of men were held accountable for cussing in the dayroom, with each cuss word “costing” 10 push-ups. Adam P. announced that we would be breaking off into groups to hold pitch panels. When we finished, some of the Servant-Leaders gave us some feedback on our pitches. Afterwards, we held a prayer circle.

 Heath S. (aka “Jim Carrey”)

 

Expressions

“Anything lost can be found again except for time wasted;

A vision without action is merely a dream.”

~ Kevin Gates

Being in prison, I’ve realized that time waits for no one. I realize that even though I am doing time, that it is up to me on what I do with my time. I can either waste it or prepare myself for the future, to be the best version of myself I can possibly be. I realize that even just going home will not make me happy, but that I must find happiness in myself and in my current situation to be truly happy.

A plan does not mean anything without action. I could have a million-dollar idea, but I won’t be a millionaire unless I act on the idea. It is important to plan because it gives me the steps I need to take and the direction I need to go to get to where I want to be in life. It is easy to talk about the things I want, or the goals I want to achieve, but writing it down on paper gives me a visual path to follow so that I can hold myself more accountable as I work to follow through on my plan. It is important to be happy and to have a positive outlook on life, because it helps shape a positive plan. Having a positive plan is one of the keys to success.

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. For you are a mist that appeared for a little time, then vanishes” (James 4:14). I will always use my time wisely.

 Blayze S. (aka “Brennan from Step Brothers”)

Week 8

Monday                                                                                                   January 8, 2024                                   

Today was a very interesting start to the week. Dealing with the complications of our current situation, we still manage to pull together as a group and maintain a positive vibe throughout our pods/community. We still find the joy in laughter from a good joke or a silly facial expression. We still gather around the television to watch a good movie or a football game to cheer our favorite teams on as we did today. Some of us studied and/or helped those who were studying, while others took the extra free time to read a good book. A few of us played dominoes or a few sets at the chess table, trying to think up a strategy to outwit the other in a very competitive game. In our own way, we still find brotherhood in an environment believed by many to be such that nothing like a true “brotherhood” could possibly exist, but it can and it does, especially here with those of us who have built bonds and friendships of steel.

Of course, not every day is like this. We have our bad days as well, but what brothers get along all the time?  Like real brothers we go through it, we work it out, we get over it and we get past it. Because learning is a big part of our structure, we learn to handle situations the right way, even if we don’t necessarily agree. Family can be found in the oddest places and with the oddest people, but a family isn’t just blood relatives; family is those who have care and concern in the heart for others. That’s what we have here.

Rene O. (aka “Mr. Macky from South Park”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                                    January 9, 2024

Today in PEP class we started off as usual, turning in assignments from the day before and then praying in. Then the emcees talked about the day before and made some jokes before giving us the “Word of the Day.” One of the participants said the wrong thing on the mic and the classroom got quiet. It’s close to the time for the competition, so the guy with the camera got everyone ready for pictures. Next, all the teams got together and posed for the team shoot. The camera man wanted us to smile before he took the pictures. It went by at a slow pace, and we hope they turned out well, but once this task was done we started our tests.

After the pictures were taken, we got some recordings done for the competition. The teams are being recorded in parts, so some of the team members were recorded at different times than others. They made us be really silent while they recorded so that unwanted sounds would not interfere. It took an hour or so to get most of the people recorded. When recording, you have to have your pitch together because there is extra pressure when recording. They had to do a few takes on some of the teams. So, the rest of the recordings were postponed until the next day. The teams talked for a while and got time to work the kinks out of their pitches. Then the class put up their badges and waited to be dismissed row by row so we could be released to go to chow.

Allen P. (aka “Deacon Fry”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                             January 10, 2024

Due to breakfast being served at 6:45 a.m., we were a little skeptical about whether we would get back to the dorm with enough time to prepare ourselves for the Entrepreneurship test on Chapter 8. Well, we found out that time does work in mysterious ways. We were able to come and do a quick review before Adam W. called us to class.

As the first class of 2024, “Phoenix” gathered around and said our good mornings to one another. We all sat down and could hear whispers of the same question floating around: “Are you ready for the EOUs test?” Some were and others were not, but we knew time waits on no one, forcing us to become ready. As every morning, our two bubbly Servant-Leaders lead us in prayer, followed by a few jokes to put a few smiles on our faces and to loosen the tension floating around.

The day before, we were doing our CEO and CFO pitches, but some teams did not do theirs, like the team I am on. Lucky us, we were the first team to be called to do it. There were three teams in all that needed to get their pitches done today. As a moment of silence rolled around, it was finally test time. We all moved our chairs and faced the library. They passed around the clip boards and tests, and then we were off. During testing, it is required that we do not talk or move from our seats. That includes going to the restroom. So, to be fully respectful, we all must stay seated and keep noise level to a minimum. The first test was the Entrepreneurship test. After all classmates were done testing, we were given a 10-minute grace period to stretch and use the bathroom before our next test began. Once our 10 minutes were up, we all sat down and the Servant-Leaders once again passed out our tests. The Economics of One Unit (EOUs) test was a hard mountain for us to climb, but all 71 of us conquered that mountain.

A Peer Educator came to the front of the class and gave us permission to turn our chairs back before telling us that on Feb. 9th, we will have another “Big Pitch Event,” so as a group, each CEO, CFO, CMO and COO have to be prepared as a team to preform – this means that we will do pitches every chance we get. That is when an executive came in to give us a visualization on Living in the Village’s Chapters 12 and 13. Once the visualization was finished, we all left to go eat lunch.

After lunch, we watched a Nooma video that took up the majority of the rest of class. After the video, we were given a PowerPoint presentation on what our next big pitch should be about. It was a very busy and educational day for us. We always enjoy what we do and learn. We are thankful for the opportunity given to us and would love to share the knowledge.

 Julius P. (aka “Donnie Mckirkland”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                January 11, 2024

Today was a very informative day for us. To start off, an executive by the name of Jim H. came into our class today to speak with us about important issues for Entrepreneurship, specifically Exit/Harvest (or turnaround). In general, it was about outlining the steps for selling a business and recognizing when it is a good time to sell a business, as well as how to come up with the valuation.

In addition to our entrepreneurship class, we touched on our team business plan competition pitches. One team at a time, starting with the Chief Executive Officer along with his team consisting of the Chief Operations Officer, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer presented their plans. We tried to incorporate key factors for success, like keeping our plans simple, because if we cannot sell it to our audience, we simply cannot sell it. Also, we needed to use body language with our audience and to engage with them, and even smile from time to time, which is a stereotype that most of us need to break away from. Another factor for success is to maintain eye contact, utilizing four corners of the room or the “three, six, nine” method. Lastly, for us to be successful with our business plans, we need to believe in them ourselves. If we do not believe what we are saying, our audience will feel it and they won’t believe it either. We can best do this by ensuring our plans explain what our business does or aims to do; how we are going to achieve that goal; what makes us different from our competitors; and who our target customers are.

Every day, we are expanding our knowledge and growing internally as future great men of society.

Anthony P. (aka “Boots from Dora the Explorer”)

 

 

Expressions

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me.”

~ Viktor Frankl

Dealing with situations in life that may seem unfair to me are definitely challenging. In the past, retribution would be the first thought to enter my mind. I almost always allowed negative circumstances to rule my emotions, usually with the same results. Those results almost always involved having something taken from me: my freedom; time that should have been spent with my family; time that should have been spent at work; time that should have been spent living life, not locked in a cage.

When these things happened, they were followed by more negative responses, which in turn led to more negative consequences. They say that the price of anything is the amount of life (time) you exchange for it. I would not have given much thought to that saying when I was younger – I didn’t care one way or the other. I was willing to give up whatever it took to justify my responding in a negative way. For some reason, I could not see that nothing was being “taken” from me, because I was giving it all away. I was willing to give up whatever amount of my life it took to pay for something that in the grand scheme of things made absolutely no difference whatsoever.

A few years ago, I decided to change the way I was responding to my circumstances. I haven’t gotten my freedom back yet, but I have gained something that can’t be taken from me: character.

Christopher R. (aka “Jeebs”)

Week 7

Monday                                                                                                   January 1, 2024                                   

Today was test day for PEP. A lot of us woke up early this morning to study for the Entrepreneurship test over Chapters 6 and 7. We look forward to these days because it gives us something to brag about to one another (and because our families get to see our grades). It also shows us how we are improving in the program.

On test day in the PEP classroom, it is super quiet – “No Talking!” Once we were in class, one of the Servant-Leaders went over the chapters with us until the tests were ready. We have dedicated Servant-Leaders who take the time to show us their love as they help us do well, and that is what it is all about: helping one another out so we all can accomplish our goals. After testing, everyone always wants to know how good they did, so it is a “hurry up and wait” thing for us to find out our scores. It is usually the second half of class when we learn whether we passed or not.

We started to record our pitches, but Adam W. and Gerald D. had a meeting to go to, so we prayed out and went to chow, and guess what we had? Our favorite: chicken and rice. Not everyone had to go back to the second half of class – those who did are the ones who had their pitch down. So hopefully tomorrow, when the other ones are doing their pitches, we will be able to have a half day as well.

We are growing and striving to be better men. Thank you for reading our weekly journal.

Toby M. (aka “Pete From Jumanji”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                                    January 2, 2024

Today was a busy start to the New Year. It is now 2024, and we began the year and the day by jumping straight into an entrepreneurship test. It was based on Chapters 6 and 7 covering accounting and finance.

After that, we started working on our workshop videos which involved our teams for our upcoming Business Plan Competition (BPC). It involves our Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and our Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) going first, followed by our Chief Operations Officer (COO) getting on camera and delivering his portion of the pitch so we can obtain a business advisor to assist our team with our business plan journey. Only half the class was able to go today, so the ones who didn’t have the opportunity to go today will attend tomorrow. When class was dismissed, we prayed out and went to enjoy a hot lunch.

Now, the ones who didn’t have the chance to record their workshop video came back to the dorms, where we were given the opportunity to go to outside recreation and enjoy the fresh air for a couple of hours. We lived out one of PEP’s 10 Driving Values: Fun! We played basketball, handball, chess and ping pong. Some of us even worked out by hitting the weights. When recreation time was over, we returned to the dorm, and everyone cleaned up before starting a study group.

We began by studying for the next entrepreneurship test so we will be prepared and not behind. One of the ways we study is by writing down the questions and answers on flash cards and reciting them until we are able to remember every question, and then we test each other to make sure we’ve retained the information.

John M. (aka “Reggie from Nutty Professor”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                               January 3, 2024

Today was a great day in the PEP room. We started our day with the morning pray-in and then proceeded to test on Chapters 9, 10 and 11 of Living in the Village before moving on to complete our team recordings of our business pitches. All teams did an outstanding job preparing their business plans and the portions recorded by each team’s CEO, COO and CMO. We finished the first half of the day by watching an inspirational Nooma video about the importance of silence in our lives and what it means to be silent according to Scripture. The video reviewed the benefits of silence as a means of meditation and time for reflection, allowing us time to relax, relieve stress and listen to God.

We also had a guest speaker Michael E., who is a PEP graduate and PEP volunteer who comes into our class and shares his experiences with starting his own business, how PEP has helped him and what we can expect in our own endeavors to start and build a business of our own.

In the second half of today’s class, we participated in our weekly Toastmasters pitch panel where each of us has the chance to present to the class and our visitor Michael E. a pitch on a previously selected topic of our choice following Toastmasters guidelines. It allows us to gain skills in public speaking and the proper format to present a business plan, idea or relevant information to a potential client, business owner, investor, lender or employer. This exercise allows for a great learning experience and the opportunity to hear and learn from an interesting variety of viewpoints and ideas along with the life experiences of our fellow PEP brothers. This way, we can all become better people and experience a successful life.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to read about us, and thank you for your continued support.

Moises M.  (aka “Mucinex Boogie Man”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                  January 4, 2024

Today in class, we practiced our pitches. All of the teams got in their groups, which consisted of CEOs, COOs and CFOs. We all had to give a brief speech about how we’re going to sell our product or service to an executive that would like to invest in our product. Some teams use food, while other teams have ideas for landscaping services, non-profit organizations and other unique business ideas such as tutoring, video games, clothing lines and solar-powered energy.

I can honestly say that this project was really a fun experience. It helps me understand how the marketing side of business works. You really have to know what you are talking about when trying to sell a product or service. Knowing the Economics of One Unit (EOUs) and how much you’re going to make in profit is very important, but interacting with people is also a very important factor. Using your body language, such as your hands, facial expression and sometimes your feet can play a major role.

After we finished presenting our sales pitches, we had a special guest executive by the name of Jim H. (aka “Elmer Fudd”) come and teach us about Chapter 8’s “Establishing the Business” out of our Entrepreneurship workbook. He was fun and outgoing, and he did well at helping us understand how we could run a successful business.

I can honestly say that today was very fun and educational, thanks to PEP. I enjoy every moment I have in this program. It truly is a blessing. Thank you, PEP.

Darius M. (aka “Norbit”)

 

Friday                                                                                                January 5, 2024

Today was a great day to be in class, as it was very interesting to us. Class started with us entering to the song “Neon Moon” by Brooks and Dunn. The very first thing we covered after finding our seats was the “Word of the Day” which was delivered by Lucio R. Derick D. and Ryan B. opened up the class with a few things that made us laugh.

Then Jason K. (aka “Wreck it Ralph” (Smash Smash)) opened with a moment of silence for 30 seconds. Today we focused on being a better man. We watched session three (unpacking) from the BetterMan series before breaking into table discussion groups for a 30 minutes to discuss two questions. The first question was which of the six trouble spots mentioned in the video do you struggle with the most? The second question asked if you as a dad have left your children with a dad wound – and if so, how? Most of the answers were that the dad wound happens to most of us. It seems like then we do the same thing and can all relate to this. Next, we listened to a speech from one person from each group, and Lonte H. spoke for our team’s point of view, and he did a good job sharing his knowledge on our group’s behalf.

Everybody was excited for the second half of class, where we worked on our public speaking skills through Toastmasters. Among others, Tommie L. spoke on spark plugs, and Jamieon M. talked about knowing the right way to brush your teeth and keeping up with your hygiene. This is where it counts to help us learn how to speak in front of an audience. We ended class by voting on a class name before we were released for the weekend. We decided our class name is “Phoenix.”

This has been a real learning experience for most of us. We just want to thank you for giving into something that anybody can benefit from, no matter their age, because we are always learning something that will make us better. Thank you kindly for the continued support for us and the program. Let’s not get tired of doing good. If you are patient, blessings will come your way.

Xan O. (aka “Sloth from Goonies”)

 

Expressions

“The rose that grew out of the concrete”

~Tupac Shuker

Now I know you all think, how can a rose grow out of the sidewalk? So I want everybody to look at themselves as the rose, and look at the concrete being life. As for me, I grew up in a single-parent home. I was very poor, and I used to ask God why life is so hard. But as I started to live life, I found out that how your life began is not how your life needs to end. Now, if I would have let my past dictate my future, then I would have passed my negative attitude in life to my kids and loved ones. Concrete is hard, but with the right tools we can actually break through it and find that underneath there was a rose.

The rose, which represents me being ready to blossom in life, needs to have the right tools and apply them to my life. I can be the rose that grew out of the concrete because I did not let life be too hard for me to break through. These tools include a great attitude and positive outlook, and a lot of trying and never giving up on the things I said I wanted to do in life.

I remember when I was in the fifth grade, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be in life. I never told her I wanted to be a loser – I am pretty sure no one told her that. So, let’s get back to the things that we love and let our lives, like a rose, blossom and break through the concrete that is trying to keep us down.

 Terrell M. (aka “Chester The Cheetah”)

Week 6

Monday                                                                                             December 25, 2023                                   

For Christmas here on the Estes Unit, we celebrated the best we could for being in the place we are. There were Christmas movies playing all day, and coffee was in almost every cup and mug you saw. A few of our fellow dorm mates made cakes for everyone, and a few of us were able to get in touch with our loved ones and enjoy positive conversations from them as well. Singing Christmas carols took place as well, and although not everyone was singing in tune, it was still a good feeling just to see everyone in a great mood. It truly painted a picture of the statement, “My body is incarcerated, not my mind.”

We held a prayer circle for all who wanted to join and gave thanks to our Lord up above. We also said prayers for each other’s families and ourselves. The food was pretty good. We had brisket, ham, cake, brownie and potato salad. Around the end of our Christmas day, we gathered in groups and uplifted one another as a way of letting each other know that we are not alone in being emotional, and it is completely normal to feel certain feelings around this time – or any time – of year.

All in all, Christmas on the Estes Unit, in J-Pod anyway, was as great as it could be for those of us incarcerated. God is great to those he loves. The peace that has been created among all of us here in PEP has been amazing. It is a true brotherhood, and “we live between the wings!”

Peter L. (aka “James Brown”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                             December 26, 2023

Today was an eventful, energetic day here in J-Pod. We were fresh off the Christmas excitement, not to mention the Brisket and Ham! Lots of activities were taking place in the dayroom, such as newly released movies; trash talking on dominoes; pensive chess games; intense games of Scrabble; and of course various “study groups,” as J-Pod’s rising test scores can attest to. Today was also a day of relaxation and reflection over the year that is coming to a close. Even in the short span of the last few months, I have seen some PEP brothers come a long way. I have also witnessed some fall by the way side, and I pray for them. Furthermore, I have been proven wrong by some who looked as if they wouldn’t make it, yet they have decent GPAs as I write this. I’ve never been in a godly position, so I cannot judge now.

What I can judge, and speak openly about, is the impact of this program. By far this is the ultimate prison program, hands down! I have never been pushed, assisted, tested, held accountable and given homework, not to mention loved by complete strangers who became my PEP brothers in such a short period of time with such genuine love and concern. PEP’s loving devotion drives our lifelong dreams, and for this opportunity I am forever grateful.

Thank you for the life-changing opportunity that I have been given. I have never been given an actual chance like I have been given through PEP, and this experience has truly opened my eyes to a better future, giving me a better understanding of my actions and the consequences that go along with them.

Jeffrey L. (aka “Bruce The Shark”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                       December 27, 2023

To begin our day, we did some last-minute studying for today’s entrepreneurship test on Chapters 9 and 12. The test covered a lot of material for us to remember, but most of our class passed with A’s and B’s.

After our test, Chaplain Bruce T. came in to teach us about saving and investing from our personal finance book Living in the Village. It made me realize that at the age I am, I need to start saving more than a younger person who may have more of a head start on achieving specific retirement goals. It also made me realize how financially illiterate I am. Being gone for about 10 years, I have never grasped the concept of credit and how or when to use it. The main subjects we touched on were how much money to budget in an emergency fund and the purpose of that fund. It takes six months of expenses to create a sort of financial security for you and your family.

Bruce T. also explained what an individual retirement account (IRA) is and the six different types of IRAs. I am 34 years old (about to be 35), and all this information I am gaining from PEP is helping me plan for the future by learning how to be proactive with my income, and more importantly my time. As the day progressed, the test scores and GPA sheets were posted, and everyone was relieved by the progress they had made from last week.

Around 5:30 p.m., I stood at the window in my cell and enjoyed the sunset, thinking about my family and wondering if they were out there looking at the same thing I was seeing.

Matthew L. (aka “Aladdin”)

 

Thursday                                                                                             December 28, 2023

Today we had a volunteer named Jim H. come and speak to us. It is a blessing to have someone who wants to come in and speak to inmates. It is not easy starting your own business, so today we talked about the importance of cash flow for a company or business. Jim H. broke down an easy strategy for us to generate cash flow; he also talked about all the hidden fees and taxes, including payroll, income, licenses and utilities. It really hit home for those of us who have tried to start businesses before. Fixed costs that need to be paid include rent and truck payments among other things, and he touched on all of these.

For me, I used to have a “Hot Shot” business, and on the days we did not have work, we still had to pay all costs for the week, so we really could relate to what he was talking about. Jim H. did a great job answering all the questions we had bfore moving on to talk about assets and their importance.

A lot of people don’t know the difference between current assets and fixed assets. Current assets are assets such as cash or those assets that can easily be converted to cash, such as accounts receivable and notes receivable. Fixed assets are assets that have a physical presence, including land, buildings, office equipment, machinery and vehicles.

We just want to say thank you for taking time out of your day to come see us, Jim H. It is people like you that keep this program great. Thank you again, and God bless.

Tommie L. (aka “Fake Robie”)

 

Friday                                                                                                 December 29, 2023

Today was a productive day in class. We got together in our groups to talk about our business pitches with our CEOs. Right now, we are currently working on our CMO and CFO pitches and hope to pitch them next week in front of our peers. Also, we went over Living in the Village by Ryan C. Mack. Chaplain Bruce T. has been very informative and knowledgeable in teaching us key factors in each chapter.

Everyone is excited in our classroom because the holidays are upon us. We recently had an awesome nacho party and movie before our Christmas break. Many volunteers showed up to help serve the food as well as talk with us. Thank you so much for the volunteers who came – it was a very nice gesture. They really do care. With our stomachs full and hearts warmed, we knew that these are great people who actually care about us and want to see us happy, but most importantly they want to see us succeed upon release.

We are here in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program to make our families proud, but most of all we want to help ourselves to become productive citizens when we are released. PEP has already taught us many valuable life skills, and we still have two months left, which tells us there is plenty more to learn. We have to be willing to change in order to succeed and be successful men in this world. This program offers many opportunities, but we have to put in the work because nothing is just given to us.

Ricardo L. (aka “Oompa Loompa”)

 

Expressions

“Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you.”

~ Marilyn Monroe

 

Success is a sensitive topic. I vow to change the way unsuccessful people look at people who have experienced success. The way I see this can be changed is by providing a way for unsuccessful people to be successful. When I accomplished my goal to start a trucking business and get my semi-trucks, a lot of people showed a lot of hate toward me and did not want to see me doing well because I did not bring them up with me. How could I do that when they were the ones telling me I wasn’t going to accomplish it and always put me down? They didn’t help me with anything.

When you are doing well, you will see how many people want to be around you and eat off your plate, but never seem to be willing to help you when you need a hand. They expect you to help them when they need a hand. People are always going to try to make your accomplishments break to break you down. You have to be prepared to have all that negative hatred hit you and try to break you. My advice is to keep pushing like you’ve been doing and don’t let them get in your head.

Being successful made me bond with my family in a stronger and healthier way. I chose to build this business and be successful for my kids, so when I pass they will have a successful future and not have to depend on anyone else. So regardless of all the negative energy and everything else I faced, I never lost sight of the vision to be successful. I had to lose a few people along the way because of the envy they showed toward my success. I have come to understand that this is not a bad thing, because if you couldn’t be proud of me and my success, then you were not good for me in the first place.

Cruz M. (aka “Penguin from Batman”)

Week 5

Monday                                                                                             December 18, 2023                                   

Since I’ve started PEP, I have learned new things every day in many different areas of my life. The 10 Driving Values push me on a daily basis to constantly become a better version of myself. PEP also pushes you to go beyond what you personally thought you could achieve. Today was no exception. It was a day to focus on the book Living in the Village as we studied Chapters 5 and 6. Chapter 5 hit home because it was talking about the importance of estate planning. I lost my mother due to cancer in 2020, and she didn’t have an estate plan due to the lack of a clear plan. There were family members who had different beliefs on what should happen with my mothers’ personal belongings. So because of my personal experience, I know that an estate plan is essential to leaving the proper legacy for those you can.

We also worked on Toastmasters, which has always been a dream of mine to get involved with. I learned that many successful people like Oprah Winfrey are great at Toastmasters. It made me feel really good to know that I’m on a journey to be in the company of successful and prominent people. I gave my Toastmasters presentation on “My Life List,” where I discussed the importance of writing a list of the things you want to achieve in life. It is often said that “the most valuable place on earth is the graveyard” – basically, there are more inventions, ideas, songs, pieces of art, books, etc. residing there because people are afraid to pursue their dreams.

So if you are reading this and you have a dream, go after it! The world needs what you have to offer.        

Lonte H.  (aka “Mr. Brown”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                             December 19, 2023

Today was another good day in class. We watched a video about God, which talked about our faith in terms of planting a tree and watering it. Once we start believing, we have to fuel our belief or faith (or in this case, water the tree). Without water we cannot grow, and without the word of God our faith cannot grow. The more we grow the more or deeper the roots will be and the stronger our faith will be. After the video, we had a good discussion about it.

The second half of class was also good. Gerald D. showed a lot of pictures of food and life out there in the free world. It seemed almost like torture, but after explaining why he was showing us the pictures it was powerfully motivating. Seeing what we are missing gives us motivation to keep pushing forward. We have to want to change, and that’s what we are doing daily. The tools PEP is giving us are preparing us to be better parents, friends and people in general.

After seeing all the pictures, we discussed two of the 10 Driving Values we talked about the day before as well. The first was “Fresh-Start” Outlook, which is what we all need. We are getting a second chance and the tools to change. The second value we talked about was Servant-Leader Mentality. Helping our brothers and people in general is one of the most important values, but really all the values are important and work together to shape us to be better people. Thank you all and everyone involved in this program.       

Douglas H. (aka “Chris Farley”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                       December 20, 2023

This whole week has been about family and our children. I would tell you more, but it’s a surprise. All I will say is Merry Christmas to everyone.

Now usually in class, we take tests and have great speakers come in like Chaplain Bruce T., a volunteer who he teaches us about everything to do with finance, based on the book Living in the Village by Ryan C. Mack. It is a blessing that he takes time out of his schedule to come teach us the ways of wealth and stability, the longevity of our choices financially, and how we can keep the money we accumulate and save. He also discussed with us the importance of why we need to do all of this.

We sometimes forget the irreplaceable blessings in our lives, and in so doing forget to truly care for and take care of them. Once again, Bruce T. reminded us of how to do this and why we do this, which is a true blessing. There are a lot more volunteers who come in and donate their time to teach and speak to us. Being able to work is a gift, and the power to work is a blessing. The love of work is success to me. To all the volunteers not mentioned, we thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read and talk to us, and we thank you for your constant support and love. Without you guys, most of this would not be possible. Thanks and God bless.

Raymond H.  (aka “M.C. Hammer”)

 

Thursday                                                                                             December 21, 2023

Today was a movie day for Christmas which was awesome. We had current participants, servant leaders and PEP outside management come in and eat with us. I really like when executives come in and give us the inside scoop on entrepreneurship, leadership, taxes, better man stories and community building projects. There are so many people who want to do right and move forward to be better men. When people come in who have money, great jobs and different perspectives, it helps us see that people can really change and that you can be successful on the outside if you just put in the effort. All these things come together to show us that there is hope for us as long as we put in the work and commit to change in ourselves. Things like this make me happy and hopeful for the future with PEP.

The movie was awesome because it was about bad guys who actually become good guys, and they see that being good is really the way to go. It is really the ultimate PEP movie! People can change, and it starts in here with this program that is helping me in every way.

Our day finally finished with laughter, smiles, and lots of encouragement and hugs, as well inspiration and a pray-out. To be part of this means the world to a lot of different people, including me. Thank you!  

Tony J. (aka “Red from Friday”)

 

Friday                                                                                                 December 22, 2023

Today was a wonderful day. It started with a little study session which was really enlightening. I learned about sole proprietorships, Limited Partnerships, General Partnerships. S Corps, C Corps, and LLCs. Around 10 a.m., Gerald D. came to get us for the “Nacho Day.” As we entered the PEP room, it was full of life, I was greeted by Adam W. and a Dallas Life Caddie (re-entry specialist) and other current class members as well. This day was definitely uplifting, and I received words of wisdom from one of the emcees for our class.

Once everyone was in the room, Gerald D. made an announcement, followed by voting for which movie we wanted to watch. There were two choices: Jesus Revolution and Bad Guys. Personally, I wanted to see Bad Guys, but I know both movies are good – but in the end, Bad Guys won!

Now, it was time for the Nachos! I received my plate with the round tortilla chips, then my next stop was the chili that cascaded across the chips, followed by the cheese that flowed was like an erupting volcano. Every bite had me begging for more! We had two options for beverages: Folgers coffee and lemonade, which was definitely a hard choice for me, but I decided to get the lemonade first. Let me tell you, it was delicious. It had me thanking God for it to be honest. I am truly grateful to be a part of PEP. The men in this program have taught me how to apply the 10 Driving Values to my life. My favorite one is Execution because to be successful, you have to be able to be precise and execute every task is placed in front of you. Thank you and God bless!       

 Jamieon J. M.  (aka “Crazy Legs”)

 

Expressions

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

~ Mike Tyson

For me this is so true. It does not matter if you’re a rookie or a skilled, seasoned fighter. When you get hit in the mouth, all of your training and all that you have planned or expected to happen changes. Not only does this apply in a physical sense, such as when you’re in a fight, but also in a spiritual sense. I cannot tell you how many times I have thought this because I was deep into the Word every day, praying all day (and sometimes even all night) that I would somehow be guarded from the temptations of the world. It does not matter how much one believes in Christ or how much one studies the Bible, the temptation is real. Evil is a living thing, and being spiritually aware only means being attacked more. “Getting punched in the face” may change my plans, but I don’t let it distract me from my goal. When I get hit, I hit back. I don’t expect not to get hit. I plan for it so that I’m always ready. I’ve planned to be let down, so I expect it.

When I was young child, I had a lot more trust. Trust in the world and the adults around me, with one of them being my dad. My dad was what a lot of people would call a bad person. He didn’t work, and his life revolved around his drinking. My trust and faith in adults around me were shattered, torn from my soul at a young age. I don’t mean to point the finger, but the first person to hit me “in the face” was my father. Not physically of course, but the point is that it is better to trust God rather than people from my point of view. But I continue to be positive, and I am not afraid to change my plans.    

 Joe J. (aka “Ricky Bobby”)

 

Week 4

Monday                                                                                             December 11, 2023                                   

Today was, as always, an exciting and informative adventure. We had the opportunity to enjoy hearing from not only one, but three volunteers. Our day started with a great prayer from Josh B., followed by a wonderful lesson from our Living in the Village book given by Bruce T., who really is an awesome man.

After that, we had a presentation on the Entre Capital bank and loan system that we are offered when we get out. Courtney D. and Tim H. were very fun and gave us good, quality information. They explained how they help out entrepreneurs upon release, but also explained the importance of e-School and a Life Caddie (re-entry specialist). Their discussion about humility mixed with passion was very enlightening and an eye opener. Being able to hear what’s happening in PEP-related programs in the world is very uplifting, and realizing the amount of time and care that these people put into our wellbeing after our release is amazing.

We also discussed some of the other people who have had great opportunities presented to them through PEP. Seeing Mr. Rodney prosper through the love and networking of PEP is very motivational. He took his dream and made it a reality, and we found that to be inspiring. His speech or pitch that he had to present in front of those executives was very touching. Also learning that PEP has a “Shark Tank” style event where we can present our business ideas to actual investors is pretty cool.

All in all, the presentations we saw were very educational. The day-to-day enlightenment of this program does so much for all of us. Becoming better people is always at the top of our agendas, and no program does this better than PEP!

Augustus F.  (aka “Ed off Ed, Edd, and Eddy”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                             December 12, 2023

The beginning of the week is usually very busy for us. Mondays and Tuesdays, we take tests over the information we went over the week before. Today we did not have our morning class. We took it upon ourselves to manage our time wisely by continuing to prepare for our exams. A couple of us finished up the other assignments due at the end of the week, mainly our 3-3-3’s, which is a challenge given to us that has made us stronger as a team while also allowing us to improve our time management skills. Time management is crucial in this program, and it gives us tools needed to maximize our results, as our curriculum requires us to make the most of every day.

As our second half of class began, we were blessed with a prayer from Raymond H. Our emcees, Derrick D. and Joshua B., always bring fun, loving energy to our class. They give us the motivation to move right into the tests. We have all spent the last few days preparing and reviewing with our executives and volunteers. The time they spend helping us is greatly appreciated. The information they provide gives us the knowledge we need to be successful.

Through every step of PEP, there is a volunteer or executive guiding us, preparing us and even challenging us. We share our dreams and visions for our future, and they help us achieve them. We owe it to all of you to be the men we were meant to be – the men you see us as. Thank you for everything. God bless.

Albert G.  (aka “Doug from Liberty Mutual”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                       December 13, 2023

There was an unexpected delay in the PEP educational process for K-pod on Tuesday. We had a scary situation occur, where one of our participants came down with what was believed to be Covid-19. The medical staff put us on lockdown or a 10-day observation. So, we were not attending class. We continued doing the assignments that were due and our 3-3-3’s. A few of us became restless as worry tried to take root in our spirit. People worried about things like health, some were concerned about visits, others were thinking what if we don’t make it to commissary for Christmas. Still in all, we gathered our focus and worked to keep calm. By the second day of missing class, it was clear to us that this could become our normal at least for a while. Everyone began to conduct themselves as if class was in session for us, finishing and turning in our assignments to our pod coach. We held our Toastmasters Session 3 as well. We split up into two groups, and everyone was very attentive and respectful to each other as we spoke. The guys all did pretty well and are getting better as we go on.

The time we spent away from class set us back a bit, but it also gave us time to re-focus. Finding out we didn’t have Covid-19 was a blessing. You can sense the relief from the tension that built up in the pod from the unknown. We are all healthy and we are caught up on our work, so all is well with us. Thank you and God bless.       

 Allen P. (aka “Deacon Fry”)

 

Thursday                                                                                             December 14, 2023

Today when we arrived in class, Gerald D. was sharing some pictures of other PEP students who have been through the same experience that we are currently experiencing, and the accomplishments they have made toward becoming better men. He was showing how TDCJ has a recidivism rate of 46% for the first three years of release, but PEP has a rate of only 7% for the first 3 years. He also showed us photos of the recent e-School graduates and, as sad as it is to say, three of them are currently back incarcerated. It really made us think about how important it is to stay involved in the program when we are released. It also caused at least some of us to rethink where to parole out to – for me, I believe the PEP transitional house will be a step in the right direction.

After that, Gerald D. had our class play “rock paper scissors,” which I had seen others playing when I was growing up, but I honestly never played in my entire life. Never did it ever cross my mind that I would volunteer to play while incarcerated, which today I actually ended up playing with my class. Honestly, it was lots of fun to be able to bring the “inner child” out to play. So today I learned that it is okay to have fun every now and then, and that fun has no age limits. It was actually fun and “washing the penitentiary off you” is a real thing.

PEP offers us a better chance to reintegrate back into society as successful men. We greatly appreciate PEP and all the volunteers for all their time and support dedicated to us. Thank you all and God bless!        

Williams H. (aka “Timon”)

 

Friday                                                                                                 December 15, 2023

Today we watched a video about love, and another one about trust and honesty. Love was broken down into two categories: one with emotion and one of lust. The guy in the video talked about how people tend to think they are in love, but actually are more in a “lust” state of mind. To be able to love through emotion, heart, and mind. For instance, if a child is separated from his mom, his world is incomplete without her. He then goes on to show an example of the way a small fire being with a little helping of fuel can turn into an inferno. Your love doesn’t start off as this big thing – it grows. If your relationship started out as a “you and me just hooked up” thing, that can change over time as you continue the relationship and you start to build up the love you have for the other person in many different ways. You connect mentally, and it is a beautiful thing to see develop.

The second video we watched was about honesty. A statistic showed us that 7 out of 10 people will lie about something every day. A lot of those start at a young age. The world around us, let’s say about 80%, is the cause of people’s lack of trust or honesty. It showed an example of a girl who was involved in a relationship with a dude that she had known her entire life. Since they were kids, she thought they were meant to be together, but it goes on to show he was not very healthy for her. He broke the trust they had by cheating, and it was over from there.

We had an awesome day in class, and it was very impactful. Thank you for reading this!     

 Arnulfo H. (aka “Master Splinter”)

 

Expressions

“Hard times”

Hard times can be subjective, and hard times are usually personal, but most of all I think that hard times are whatever the mind makes of the situation … or is it? What is hard for one person may be trivial to another, yet the difficult situation remains oppressive to one’s mind. Hard times are psychologically challenging, whereas physical reality is doing with (or without) something. Without food, the body starves; without love, the heart hardens; without intimacy, the mind introverts. These are all situations when our lives may present to us what our mind perceives as a “hard time.”

When one encounters a situation in life that causes either anxiety looking forward or depression looking back, either way it is hard to deal with. Now help comes in the form of attention and awareness, and after attention is given healing can begin. So when the hard times end, don’t look back. Otherwise, you’ll wonder if it was all just in your head. You are still alive and able to reflect on the hard times, perhaps realizing that maybe things were not so hard and you can move forward now.

Hard times come and go, and it’s up to you to handle the situation so you can move on with your life. I have been through a lot of hard times, but I still push forward and continue to become a great man. Things come up, yet I am able to handle them because my life experience has been a life saver. Thank you, and happy holidays to all.    

 Alex H. (aka “Paula Abdul”)

Week 3

Monday                                                                                                December 4, 2023                                   

Today was an amazing start to this week’s Prison Entrepreneurship Program. We were all anxiously preparing our minds for testing on Living in the Village, a personal finance book by Ryan C. Mack, taught to us by Chaplain Bruce T. Bruce T. impresses on us the importance of saving and investing toward our future.

The second half of class was far more interesting than our morning spent testing. We all had the opportunity to get to know each other through participating in Toastmasters, a wonderful and exciting aspect of PEP’s curriculum that instills a sense of confidence when speaking in front of an audience. We were blown away by how profound Demardia G.’s and Augustus F.’s speeches were today. We can all see the value of this public speaking exercise and the improvements in our fellow classmates’ delivery. It is really awesome to see these guys get up there and show how well they can speak in front of 100 people. For most people, public speaking is very intimidating and is not an easy task at all. These two participants were not the only individuals to receive standing ovations, but we do believe the applause was a few decibels louder than for other speakers.

In closing, we would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read this journal entry. On behalf of the entire PEP family, we send you the universal greeting of peace and blessings.

 Zavier C. (aka “Arthur”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                                December 5, 2023

Today started off with a drag, because a lot of people do not like testing. We tested over Chapters 3 and 4 out of our Entrepreneurship textbook, which covered Businesses Idea Generation, Initial Evaluation and External Analysis. Then the day shifted and the energy rose when Pat M., PEP’s Director of Prison Initiatives, brought in the results from last Friday’s Big Idea Pitch (BIP) event. CEOs were chosen, and 19 people’s lives were changed that day because their dreams came true to become CEOs of their own business. The people that didn’t become CEOs became COOs, CMOs, and CFOs of their fellow PEP brother’s company.

We then broke into groups with our newly-formed teams and worked on an activity of how to make a tower out of spaghetti noodles, yarn, scotch tape and marshmallows – they set the timer for 25 minutes. It was a problem-solving activity, and it took the whole team working together to accomplish the task. Then they gave us balloons in different colors and had us put our names on them before throwing them over the divider. As a group, we were told we needed to go find our balloons in two minutes without talking or touching someone else’s balloon – not easy in a small, cramped area. But with the great camaraderie within our teams, we managed.

We also got our heart check assignment from PEP known as a “3-3-3”! We have a lot of writing to do in the next couple days, so I am going to get busy. God bless!       

 Joshua C. (aka “Angelica from Rugrats”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                          December 6, 2023

A group of us woke up really early this morning to continue working on our 3-3-3 assignment that we were issued yesterday. We like to stay ahead and accomplish our tasks early. We got about an hour and a half of solid writing in before we were called to PEP this morning. Every morning in class, once we get settled in, the DJ will make a random selection for people to dance at the back of the room and show it on the screen. This morning was a perfect fit as it read, “Everybody who has completed two or more pages on their 3-3-3 ‘to the back of the room!’” That really sets the mood for us and gets us excited for the day.

Our class is really becoming a brotherhood. We lift each other up and push each other to be the best we can be. After we prayed in and heard the Word of the Day from the emcees – always inspiring and humorous – we then welcomed special guest Chaplain Bruce T. He comes in to teach us chapters out of the book Living in the Village, and he is a financial genius! Today he taught us all about insurance, from health insurance, automotive, and all the ins and outs of life insurance. Our class was very engaged, and we had many great questions.

Once he finished his lesson for the day, we had another surprise guest: Jeremy J., a PEP Life Caddie (life coach). He gave us an amazing and inspiring testimony of his journey from prison to his now very important role in all of our lives. As a Life Caddie for PEP, he might be our re-entry specialist when we get out as well.

At this point it was chow time, so we took off for the day and went back to our pods to do some more homework. Thank you and God bless!  

Channing D.  (aka “Tom Hanks”)

 

Thursday                                                                                             December 7, 2023

Today was another great day in PEP. We went over Chapter 4 of Living in the Village by Ryan C. Mack. Bruce T. is a very educated man and helps us build solid financial futures through his lessons. We went over the importance of having insurance in life. He showed the class different types of insurance that are essential to have, especially depending on your lifestyle and budget. He also informed us about the types of policies and which ones are really not worth having and are a waste of money. He also preached to the class about the importance of saving money and having a plan for the future. The class is always honored to have someone like Bruce T. to share his knowledge so we can all grow as individuals. We thanked him and had an awesome day to be honest.

Jeremy J. let us know about his job and how we can use him to get advice and life skills that we might need to be better men. He also told us about the transitional houses and what they are like to live in. We all asked questions and were given great answers. It was cool to hear all the success stories that come out of PEP and that we can truly be great men. We have a great second chance, and all of us will take advantage of it.

Thank you for reading our journal – we cannot wait to graduate and go home.

Annthony D.  (aka “Wak Dak Prescott”)

 

Friday                                                                                                 December 8, 2023

The class was very energetic today. We started off our day in class like most days, by dancing, laughing and just generally having a good time. The lesson of the day, which I thought was especially important, was about our character. We learned about many key flaws that we struggle with that have made a huge impact on our lives and eventually got us in the predicament we are in today. The class had many similar negative character flaws to work, on such as procrastination, slothfulness and apathy – these represent the majority of problems, especially apathy (not caring about anyone else’s problems or shortcomings). That one hit home with me as well. There are not enough people in society that care enough to make a difference or to help build up the community or his fellow man.

The Servant Leaders did a phenomenal job, and the whole class could tell that they were passionate about what they were teaching. They were very insightful, and every day the class can appreciate more and more what the program has to offer. Also hearing the stories of fellow PEP peers who are back in society thriving and doing so well is inspirational and gives the class confidence in our future.

Next, we were all given a test. At first everyone was worried because it had been a few days since we had studied the material, but we quickly realized that we have progressed and are starting to understand the curriculum. So all in all, everyone was confident that they did well. We have come a long way, but we are not done climbing.  

 Colten E. (aka “The Fake Justin Gilbert”)

 

Expressions

“Second chances these days are hard to come by.”

~ George Strait

I have truly ruined a lot of chances and “sure things” in life. I have had certifications in just about every trade and been given so many job opportunities, making so much money legally, that I did not know what to do with all of it. But this last time I got out of prison, nobody wanted to hire me, even for some low-paying jobs, and my grandmother had to get me a job working with her in food service at the local community college. (I hate food service and fast-food restaurants.) The one thing I never wanted to do again was my only option. I ruined the job opportunity over pride. And now I do not know where my next chance is going to come from, or if I will ever be given another chance. I am going to complete this program and use all of its advantages to the best of my abilities and make my own chance a better one. I have to give everything to what I love to do and also learn to ask for help and accept criticism to make the next chance a successful one.

If we are given a lot of chances in life, they will often not be taken advantage of. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and squandered most of the ones that I was given, unfortunately. People have given me jobs and career-type jobs, and I quit them after one paycheck or when the work got hard. Now the time to change has come, and drugs and my bad choices are out the window. I have to take hold of my life and move on to be the man I am supposed to be. I have finally decided to take control of my life and use the chances that I have been given to live an awesome, happy life. I want to show the world that second chances are meant to be cherished and taken full advantage of. Thank you.        

Marty E.  (aka “Patchy the Pirate”)

Week 2

Monday                                                                                              November 27, 2023                                  

This morning we started off with a volunteer speaker by the name of Chaplain Bruce T. He taught us about how to create and manage a budget, describing in detail how a budget can and will set you up for success for retirement. Bruce T. also opened our eyes about these so-called 25%, 50% and 75% off sales. A lot of us never knew the stores spiked their prices and then marked them “on sale” to where you end up paying the original price – or sometimes, you’re paying even more than the original price.

After Bruce T. was finished our lesson, we started delivering our business pitches. You could tell a lot of us were still a little nervous, but we are starting to get the hang of it. We are growing together as a true brotherhood, and you can feel the brotherly love. Adam W. and Gerald D. are working really hard with us and are awesome mentors and leaders. We also work really well with our Servant Leaders and accept their knowledge and feedback openly.

There was one business pitch that stood out to all of us: “Hot Diggity Dog”! We all seemed to engage with this a little more than the others, probably because it was about food and we were hungry. Hot Diggity Dog is also a catchy name of a company selling New York-style hot dogs.

We want to thank you all. Just knowing that you are all supporting us helps us more than you know.

Christopher C. (aka “The Dr. Pepper Man”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                             November 28, 2023

Today was a great day. We woke up to another beautiful day here in PEP.

Once we got to class we prayed in and then Adam Woods the in-prison management had us get ready to practice our Big Idea competition pitches which we have all been working really hard on for the past few weeks. The reason we have been working so hard on them is because we will be preforming the pitches in front of executive volunteers from all walks of business and life this Friday the 1st at the Big Idea Pitch Competition. We have been using the time to practice in class to come out of our comfort zones and become more effective speakers and communicators. We are working to break the nervousness and shyness that comes with speaking publicly or in front of a large crowd. This practice has helped us to learn to loosen up a little and be more comfortable speaking in a more professional manner.

After everyone had an opportunity to present their pitch we prepared to take a test on chapters 1 and 2 of the Entrepreneurship textbooks. We have all also been becoming better at time management having to find time to study multiple courses as well as practicing and mastering our pitches.

We were shown a video of a former PEP participant from the class of Limitless 23’ who was recently released. We were able to watch him enjoying a meal on his first day out, the meal was provided by the PEP. We are all thankful for the support and encouragement we receive from all of our families and friends. We are working every day to become better, better men, fathers, sons and husbands.

Gustavo C. (aka “The Map from Dora the Explorer”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                       November 29, 2023

Today we were asked to deliver our pitches, and to grade our peers on their pitches as well. This proved to be a great opportunity to not only give our very best, but to uphold real integrity as well. The grading process was simple, a “Y” for yes, and a “N” for no. Easy right? Integrity is paramount within PEP, so now was time to utilize it with our peers. The idea is not about holding anyone back, it is about helping, through constructive criticism, our PEP brothers to grow and to seek execution through outstanding and timely results. I am proud of my PEP brothers! What was initially seen as an impossible task is now being accomplished with success. I told them that impossible does not exist, it just takes more time and effort. They have proven this with their pitch deliveries through a little more time and effort or practice. We are ready for Friday’s pitch panels in front of the executives. I am proud of these guys and its awesome to see this. It is amazing to me to watch them breaking the chains of doubt and insecurity as they perform their pitches for their big ideas. For myself, it is simple: seize the opportunity to be the man I was born to be. Give my best honest effort, and deliver. There are some great ideas being pitched. I know some family members will be proud of the changes and growth evident here. Thanks to everyone involved in PEP and it is a pleasure to be a part of this movement.

Eugene C. (aka “Care Bear”)

 

Thursday                                                                                              November 30, 2023

This has been a very eventful week as we prepare for our bug pitch competition in front of the executives and our peer. We have been working hard to finalize and prefect our business pitch ideas and to present ourselves as professional and serious entrepreneurs, but most of this is about having fun and making possible new connections in our new path of life. Today we were treated with a volunteer speaker, Carl B. Who we very much enjoy. He delivered a lecture on chapters three and four in our Entrepreneurship textbook. He also knows in great detail the history of dish soap in the 20th century. The difference between Palmolive, Dawn, and Ivory which is almost nothing. The only difference is the marketing strategy. It truly is a blessing to have people like that come in and give his free time with us on the inside, sharing valuable knowledge and experience gained over their years. After that we took some time to relax and joke around. Then we broke into groups for some more leisure, really showing our own humility by cutting out pictures of ourselves and pasting them to cut-outs from magazines or print outs of cartoon characters. It was really fun day to be able to sit around and joke about stuff and see everyone’s faces plastered on cartoon characters. Being able to see everyone’s humorous pictures really brought a different perspective of what life can be like when you have people around you who are all like-minded.

James C. (aka “Joe Dirt”)

 

Friday                                                                                                  December 1, 2023

Today is another great day. We all showed up to class ready to pitch our ideas in front of the executives. We prayed in first and had a moment of silence for the people in Israel. Then we were directed to go to the gym to get set up for the event that was going on that day. We all practiced our pitches for each other and continued to make changes as we went on. This is a first for me, so I’m very excited to get up there and show off my pitch and how much work I have put into it. We all are ready to show off and hopefully be CEO’s of our companies. We continue to grow in this class by building our character up in a lot of different ways. We all work together to build honest relationships between our brothers around us. We are not just here to learn about how to open a business but to be a man that can open a business and continue to run one. We all hope to be successful and with our character in the right place we will. We finally got all set up to pitch in front of the executives and that was after we all had a chance to meet each other. We were all nervous it seemed but as soon as we walked up there to say our pitches it seemed like we shook the nervousness off and looked like professionals. It was a great day and we look forward to see who was chosen to be CEO’s. I thank the volunteers and everyone who worked that day especially the servant leaders because without their advice and guidance we would not be here. Thank you and God bless everyone.

Xavier C. (aka “Freestyle King”)

 

Expressions

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

~ Socrates

In this quote, the great master Socrates aims to draw our attention to the great power and importance of thought. If nothing else, prison is an unparalleled opportunity for us to examine our lives. This is no cowards task; introspection and self-reflection take courage. For many of us who are incarcerated, our li8ves were moving far too fast and we were all too caught up in the self-made circumstances to pause and examine ourselves and our actions. In the grips of our addictions, our anger, our pain and our sins we decided to forgo rigorous self-honesty in favor of rigorous self-deceit. In lieu of light we chose dark, often deliberately flipping the light switch of truth to the off position to willfully remain in a state of “ignorance is bliss”. If we honestly ask ourselves if the lives we lead were worth, very few of us will answer in the affirmative. Were we worthy fathers to our children? Worth husbands to our wives? Worth sons? Worthy employees? Friends? Through self-examination, we can reflect on our behavior, and through the PEP program, gain the tools to fix our broken lives, thoughts, and actions. If the unexamined life is not worth living, then the inverse must be true. Through examining our lives, we may begin to derive great meaning, worth, purpose and love from them every day. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program has provided me and other participants with the privilege to transform our lives through deep examination of our character, with an emphasis especially on taking responsibility for our lives and holding ourselves accountable. If we take this opportunity seriously, we are sure to lead worthy lives.

Zachariah C. (aka “Homer Simpson”)

 

Week 1

Monday                                                                                             November 20, 2023                                   

This morning we heard a very important and eye-opening story from PEP’s In-Prison Manager Adam W. about his long road to success. He did 20 years on a 20-year sentence and vowed to never go back to that life, so he changed his ways and became successful. We have a lot of young guys in our class, but we all needed to hear a story like that. Afterwards, our two speakers came in to teach us about laying the groundwork for small business and business skills. Today executive volunteers Scott S. and Hank H. came and dedicated their valuable time to help us better understand the lessons taught in the first two chapters in our entrepreneurship textbook.

Scott S. is a businessman in financial planning and investing management, and his input was very helpful. He talked about the importance of laying a strong foundation so that your business will succeed – otherwise, it will fail. So, it is important to know why you’re starting a business and what your true motives are. Also when starting a business, you will start off as a small business. In order for it to grow, you’ll need to have and know three critical elements: sales, profits and finance. (You must have effective sales and sustainable profit margins, as well as being properly financed.)

He also talked about the difference between venture capital-backed firms and entrepreneurial firms. He stressed to us how important it is to be flexible and adaptable to change. It is very common that things and situations change over time, and if you cannot adapt to change, your business will fail. He shared that many people start off with business partners and often overlook the characteristics of this partner, which can sometimes lead to failure as well. This is why we live by PEP’s 10 Driving Values: Love, Integrity, “Fresh Start” Outlook, Excellence, Innovation, Servant-Leader Mentality, Accountability, Fun, Execution and Wise Stewardship. You want to make sure your partner shares these same values.

Because of their help today, we all learned a lot and received a better understanding of what these chapters are about. We all thank both of these men for their time.

Adam B. (aka “Pumba from The Lion King”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                             November 21, 2023

Today was another enlightening and educational day with my Prison Entrepreneurship Program peers. We are glad that we made the decision to sign up for the PEP class. The curriculum continues to exceed our expectations. Today, we had the opportunity to stand before the class and give a brief speech about ourselves. For a lot of us, this was the first time that we’ve experienced something like speaking in front of a large group of people, so today was a new chapter in our lives. We were nervous at first, but we began to loosen up and become more comfortable. Once we finished our speeches without a single error or mistake, we were able to move forward and got a couple of compliments as well.

Today we had a guest speaker who guided the class through the first two chapters of our Living in the Village book. The speaker was very thorough, clearly experienced in the field of finance – we look forward to hearing form him again. Some of the key points the speaker addressed that really stood out to us was the importance of not borrowing money (i.e., taking out a loan). He also addressed the issue of a 750 FICO score and that there are no shortcuts to correcting a FICO score, but that our best option is time. The guest speaker opened his lecture with an invitation to assist anyone with financial issues whether inside or out, and all of us thought that was both noble and professional.

In conclusion, we are proud to be a part of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and it has no doubt exceeded our expectations as it inspires each of us daily to be the best we can possibly be. The Peer Educators did a fabulous job at conducting today’s class, and their compliments are greatly appreciated.

Derrick B. (aka “WB Frog”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                       November 22, 2023

Today is the day before Thanksgiving, and we had the day off because PEP employees have a company dinner to attend in Houston. We still have to keep participating as much as we can though, whether it be int the classroom or the dorm.

We like to wake up early and get things going, usually starting our day at 3:00 a.m. due to Laundry beginning to exchange our outfits out. Right after that, around 5:30 a.m., they called those of us who have special dietary restrictions to get ready; an hour later is regular breakfast. After breakfast was served, we came back to our dorms and enjoyed a nice cup of warm coffee and watched the news.

Since it was our day off, some of the guys decided to get some extra rest, but we decided to be wise stewards of our time, so after lunch (pulled pork in a cheese sauce with stewed tomatoes, a mixture of pinto beans and black beans, green beans and two slices of bread), we took the initiative and started practicing our business pitches for our upcoming event. This consisted of memorizing our pitches by reciting them over and over to one another so that we can deliver our pitches to PEP’s executive volunteers. Some of us also studied Chapters 1 and 2 in our entrepreneurship textbook, while others hosted Bible studies and/or enjoyed working out. Our days spent here in the dorm are almost as eventful as our classroom activities. No matter what we do, whether in the PEP room or the dorm, we always strive for progress. Thank you!

Pierre B. (aka “Papa Smurf”)

 

Thursday                                                                                              November 23, 2023

Today was a very blessed day – it was all about being giving and thankful. We had a great Thanksgiving lunch, and the food was outstanding: turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes and desserts. It was just the right amount to satisfy our appetites. After the delicious meal, some of us watched football games while studying the entrepreneurship book for a pop quiz, and others took a nap. Most of us got on the phone and talked to family, wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. Afterwards we played dominos, something we do in here to occupy our time besides studying.

Our religion is a very important part of making it through this class. Sometimes we want to give up, but we pray and talk to each other and give motivational speeches to encourage one another to keep going and never give up. Writing this journal helps me because it improves my writing skills and inspires my peers. I would like to learn a lot of different things about entrepreneurship, including what to do if the business fails; different ways to get the public aware of your business; and how to partner up with someone with the same concept as you to start a business.

I’m looking forward to finishing this class with a different mindset and incorporating what I learn once I get out to help me run my business as an entrepreneur.

Joshua Br. (aka “Bruh Man”)

 

Friday                                                                                                  November 24, 2023

Hello to all family, friends and loved ones of the PEP revolution!

We hope that everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving, and for those of you who are traveling, we wish you a safe trip home. As for us here, we are thankful for the meal we received. Not quite the same as home, but still we were all very thankful. We know a lot of people look forward to Black Friday, so here is a fun fact: the day after Thanksgiving was generally the day retailers started to make a profit for the year, so since many companies moved from the red (net loss) into the black (net profit), the term “Black Friday” came into existence. As for those of us in PEP on this Black Friday, we are here in the dorm today enjoying a day off. As you all may know, PEP focuses a lot on character development, where we strive to live our lives by 10 Driving Values and apply them to all areas of our lives. These values are: Accountability, Excellence, Execution, “Fresh Start” Outlook, Fun, Love, Innovation, Integrity, Servant-Leader Mentality and Wise Stewardship.

The dorm in general is a little calmer today, so we all have been utilizing our time by studying our Entrepreneurship course material for the upcoming test on Chapters 1 and 2. We have also been studying for the weekly Living in the Village test. Today we are also using this time to practice, polish, refine and tweak our “elevator pitches” for the Big Idea Pitch event. We are all working and putting in the time to get our pitches nailed down, and we will use these ideas to form businesses in the future if our idea is selected.

On behalf of all of the participants in PEP we wish you the best this holiday season.

Cody C. (aka “The real Issac Butcher”)

 

Expressions

“Worry about nothing; pray about everything.”

~ Philippians 4:6a

 

This has become one of the most important quotes in my life. I have heard my mother say it to me time and time again. Of course, as a young man living a boy’s life, its meaning never really hit me. But as I look back, I can remember at a young age questioning that quote.

Today I wish to share what my mother always read to me from the Bible; she said to remember this verse: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; for when I fall, I shall arise; and when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me!” (Micah 7:8) When she closed her Bible, she would always say, “Son, worry about nothing; pray about everything.” Every time I would slip, fall or get caught up in the temptations of life, I would think about what my mother used to tell me, and it would carry me through. Normally it was too late to change the outcome, but it is something I use almost every day now. So this quote is and will always be my biggest inspiration.

Unfortunately, my mother passed away on October 1, 2007. That day was the turning point of my life. After all those years of my mother preaching to me and praying for me, reality has finally set in. Even though she is not here to hear my words today, I thank my mother for being my mentor, my guidance and my rock with her words. Thank you!

Joshua Be. (aka “Boomhauer”)