Estes Fall 2023 Weekly Journals

Week 8

Monday                                                                                                      August 21, 2023

Today was an interesting day for all of us who are in the program. We started the class by doing Toastmasters, and it lasted all day. Our peers gave wonderful speeches. Albert P. talked about consumer goods such as the Sarah Lee Corporation owned by Sarah Lee herself. Derick D. talked about wealth and how people define wealth in many different ways. Wealth is not always defined in the financial aspect. Everybody in class was respectful while our fellow brothers were speaking. The speeches kept everybody’s attention.

Oliver M. spoke about his experience in having a car inspection shop and how he learned to be a business owner, including some of the obstacles he faced throughout his time of owning that business. Jayaka F. gave a speech that was pretty funny. He called his speech “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.” He spoke about how people lie in different ways, and some lie more than others. We learned that a compulsive liar doesn’t really know that he or she is lying.

There were no special meetings in the dorm today, so it was a mellow evening for everyone in their dorms. Of course, that did not stop us from studying for our upcoming test that we will be taking tomorrow. Without our study time, most of us might not make the grades that we truly want to make. Thank you for reading about today’s progress here at PEP. We hope that you had a wonderful day. We would also like to say thank you to all of our families and friends for always being there for us.

Oliver M. (aka “Porky the Pig”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                                     August 22, 2023

Today we started the morning with a good pray-in, as we do every morning, before the first group of people went to the computer lab to take tests over Chapters 6 and 7, which we studied for all last week. The rest of us in the classroom watched a great and inspirational video based on faith. Once the video was over, the emcees asked who wanted to come up to the front of the room and give their opinion on how they could relate to the video. Several volunteers got up and expressed their thoughts.

After discussing our opinions, we then started Toastmasters to try to finish what we didn’t finish the previous day. This week we covered Toastmasters’ seventh speech called “Researching your Topic.” In Toastmasters, many people gave great speeches that where titled “The Mexican Flag,” “Get Right,” “Pizza,” and “Purposeful and Healthy Eating.” Also, Donald D. the PEP pitch coach came today and pulled our BPC groups aside and gave us pointers on how to do things like perfect our pitches, hand off the microphone, use good language and how to get the crowd’s attention.

Shortly after we finished Toastmasters’ number seven, the next group of men from our class went to test while the rest of us went to go have lunch. It was a healthy chicken sandwich with vegetables and mashed potatoes to help provide healthy nutrients to our bodies and get us ready for the second half of class.

Returning back to class, the rest of us took our test that we have been studying for all week. The test was not to hard and much simpler this time. so long as you put in the time to study the open response questions. The class overall did great on the test and had an excellent day.

Ricky M. (aka “Joe Dirt”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                                August 23, 2023

Today was an inspirational and motivating day. It is also the middle of the week, and we are halfway toward the completion of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. We have a few participants who might have lost their confidence, but they were given the extra push needed by our Servant-Leaders.

Peer Educators have shown us what Servant-Leader Mentality truly means by showing us a video. The video displayed progress made by individuals who took steps of washing away the prison mentality through Character Development. The love shown by the class, In-Prison Management and our Servant-Leaders helps contribute to the path of becoming a better man as well as future entrepreneurs. Dedication has been shown each and every day. Those seeking to become prosperous want that change! PEP is a voluntary program – still, the journey is not easy but must be practiced day in and day out. The amount of ambition that a group of men has when truly seeking their full potential is amazing.

We feel very blessed to have an executive volunteer elaborate on Chapter 14, which is about franchising your business. The lecture he gave us made the curriculum simple to understand. He taught us what a franchise is and the ways for us to invest in them. He gave us tips on what to avoid when meeting with franchise advisors.

The second half of today, we were given a lecture on Chapter 8 out of the Entrepreneurship textbook. The love that is shown through teaching us the curriculum by the volunteers is encouraging to all the brothers. We ended the day watching our Servant-Leaders participate in pray-outs for brothers who have gone home and need encouragement to continue on the right path.

PEP is definitely a brotherhood. We all agree on how thankful we are to have the support of highly favored individuals on our path to becoming better men, sons, fathers and brothers. We want to thank all the executives of the PEP program for all the love, motivation and opportunities.

Reginald M. (aka “Baby Rogelio”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                   August 24, 2023

Today we celebrated the return of our brother Jacob B. He shared with us how bad it was at the unit that he went to for medical chain. As he shared all of this information with us, we realized how privileged we are to be here on the Sanders Estes Unit. Today Demarcus W. and Ryan B. shared with us the “Word of the Day.”  This happens during the first half of class shortly after we do our pray-in, allowing us to start class with a positive mindset. They talked to us about the great American sport of American Football. Some of us believe that this is the greatest sport of all time.

Next, Jason K. set the stage for our BetterMan class. He asked us to open our minds, even if we have different faiths, to what was being taught to us. After our study, we split up into groups so that we could talk to our brothers about our lives and share our opinions on how to become better men. Some of us feel that we have fallen flat on being real men. This is due to the fact that we are in prison. Thanks to PEP, we are becoming better men. Most of the brothers have not realized this until now. We are thankful for all of the tools that PEP has given to us to make all of this possible. We are thankful for all of our family and friends for the constant support that is being given to us. We will see many of you soon at our graduation.

Christian M. (aka “Lord Farquaad”)

 

Friday                                                                                                         August 25, 2023

Today we began our class with some technical difficulties. The Sanders Estes Unit has been without water for multiple days, so class was cancelled for the day. Fortunately, this allowed the class some quality study time. One might say that this was needed, due to the fact that we are currently dealing with financial ratios. We commend the students who took advantage of this time.

Did you know that there are four different categories that we need to consider when doing a detailed analysis? The first is liquidity ratios. Here we examine how able we are to meet our short-term obligations. We can break this down into subcategories: current; quick (also known as the acid test) – these allow us to take a look at how we can turn our current assets into cash and pay our bills. Next, we examine activity ratios. This determines how efficient you are being with your resources. This breaks down into account receivable turnover, inventory turnover and total fixed assets turnover.

How fast can you turn credit sales into cash? How fast can you turn inventory into cash? Are you able to generate sales using your assets? We won’t bore you with all the formulas, but did you think that we would let you get away without describing leverage ratios to you? Now we can use these ratios to determine the percentage of assets owned by creditors; the percentage of your company owned by lenders and founders; and the number of times your firm could repay current interest on all its debt. Talk about earning some credibility! Using this information and comparing it to the industry average will allow you to see where you stand in this competitive marketplace.

We are PEP, and we prefer to stay a step above the rest. Where do we live? Between the wings! Where do we want to go? Home!

Jimmy M. (aka “Lucky Charms”)

 

Expressions

“Until thought is linked with purpose, there is no intelligent accomplishment.”

                                                                                   ~ James Allen

A man should search for a legitimate purpose in his heart and set out to accomplish it. He should make this purpose the focal point of his thoughts. It may take the form of a spiritual idea, or it may be a worldly object (according to his nature at the time of being); whichever it is, he should steadily focus his thought forces upon the object that he has set before himself. He should make this purpose his supreme duty and devote himself to its attainment while not allowing his thoughts to wander away into ephemeral fancies, longings and imaginings. This is the royal road to self-control and true concentration of thought. Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose, the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, as this will form a new starting point for future power and triumph.

This quote is inspirational to me because I have spent a lot of time in deep thought. Before my incarceration, I had a few business ideas, but I could not bring myself to act on them. Now that I am enrolled in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, it is helping me put my business ideas into action. The Business Plan Competition is helping me to expand my business ideas. I feel like PEP is leading me to become more business minded. Like the quote says, “Until thought is linked with purpose, there is no intelligent accomplishment.”      

 Martin M. (aka “Mary Poppins”)

 

Week 7

Monday                                                                                                      August 14, 2023

Hello! To start today off, we had Chaplain Bruce T. come in and teach us about the importance of managing our finances. We also learned about several different kinds of insurance and which ones to choose from. As soon as that was over, we broke into our Business Plan Competition (BPC) groups so that we could practice our business pitches.

After about 20 minutes, it was game time, when each team’s COO and CMO had the opportunity to record our individual pitches and ask for feedback from our executive volunteers. We were for our turn, but instead we were released for lunch. We went to our local cafeteria and ate an exquisite meal that consisted of two slices of bread, a chicken patty, cabbage and green beans. Then after we ate, we went back to the PEP room.

It was around 1:30 p.m. when Adam W. came and announced for us to return. “Finally, it’s our time to shine,” we told ourselves. So, we showed up and showed out because that is what we do in the PEP program. After our team (Arenas Concrete) finished, we were allowed to return to our dorms. A group of us in L-pod got together and began helping one another get ready for our Chapter 9 test on entrepreneurship. It was amazing to see all of us come together and produce such enthusiasm about studying.

Here in PEP, we are dedicated to pursuing excellence in every area, despite the difficulties which arise from setting high standards. We also place an emphasis on execution – the ability to get things done. Overall, today was a great day.

Joshua J. (aka “Barack Obama Jr.”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                                     August 15, 2023

Today in PEP, we found it to be a productive day for all involved. We started the day off by taking tests over Chapters 9 and 12. Our test consisted of ten multiple choice questions, two open response questions, and four peer-reviews for each chapter. While some were testing, the others stayed behind in the classroom to watch motivational videos and study for the test. During the second half of class, everyone was able to complete their CFO and CEO pitches. Overall, it was a productive day in class.

In the Prison Entrepreneur Program, we feel like the current class can better themselves, helping both themselves and their family members. We would have to say that taking the test was our favorite part of today. We love seeing the work we put in pay off with good grades to show our kids and wives. We think about the importance of what we are doing in the class and how it helps each individual grow in a meaningful way. We are learning to better ourselves in ways we never thought possible. Doing what we are doing is going to help us be better and more productive members of society. This will help lower recidivism rates by teaching us that we are better men than we thought we were. No matter when things get hard we will not give up. We will strive to continue on so we can have a real sense of pride when it’s all over. We are grateful for everyone’s constant support that we have received so far.

Samuel J. (aka “Droptop”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                               August 16, 2023

Today was a very informative day with the volunteers who came in to speak to our class. The first volunteer speaker was Jim H., who gave us a lecture on Chapter 6 from our entrepreneurship textbook. Jim H. elaborated on the cash flow of the business and gave us some helpful information from his past experiences as an accountant. He went into detail about the start-up graphs and how we can put them to work for our own businesses. We learned the difference between liabilities, equities and assets, as well how to put them into their proper order.

During the second half of class, Jimmy W. came in to speak to us about Chapter 7 from the same entrepreneurship book. He shared his opinion of financing from his past experiences in the field while speaking on what the book illustrated about financing and accounting. We learned the techniques of funding our businesses and different sources we could go to. We were instructed on approaching investors, as well as applying for grants and loans. No matter which source we decide to choose from, Jimmy W. explained where to put the numbers into a graph and how to use the graph.

We appreciate all of the useful information both of today’s volunteers shared with us. We all agreed that this is a vital part of running a business. Without the concepts of financing, accounting and cash flow, many of us would have gone into the world blindly and suffered the consequences. We really appreciate the time and thoughtfulness the volunteers put into their wonderful presentations. We finished the day off with praise reports, leaving everyone in a good mood, followed by a closing prayer to cap things off. We would like to say “thank you” to all the people who were involved in making today possible.

Dalton K. (aka “Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                   August 17, 2023

Today was a good day for the men of L-Pod: we started the day by dancing to the front of the room – what fun! Ryan B., our class emcee, started the day off getting our class pumped and ready to tackle the day. Dalton K. shared a fun fact with us about ducks’ quacks not having the ability to echo – who knew that? Adam W., our In-Prison Manager, spoke to the class about the entrepreneurship test, as well as how we would be operating bathroom breaks during the upcoming test. We also received positive feedback from Adam W., in that we had been doing a good job with our open response questions. However, we need to tighten up our game when it comes to our punctuation.

Two of our Servant-Leaders spoke with the class about what it takes to be a father and how not having a father growing up can have a major impact on a child’s life. Next, we proceeded into the BetterMan video series. BetterMan spoke on trying to rebuild relationships with our fathers and spoke to the guys who are fathers (or future fathers) to be there for their kids. It’s important for us to let our children know that we care about them. Most importantly, we need to remain in their lives so that our good habits can be passed down to them. In our small groups, some of the PEP brothers talked about the pain they felt growing up without a father. After that, each group had one person speak about what was said in their group. We picked Nick D. to represent our group.

At the conclusion of these presentations, our day was complete by one of the men closing the day with prayer.

Montrell K. (aka “Donnie from Wild Thorn Berry”)

 

Friday                                                                                                         August 18, 2023

Today was a wonderful example of winding down the week with style. The morning session of our day was a spiritual encouragement service. Our PEP In-Prison Manager, Adam W., presented a devotional service which was open to the entire unit. PEP teaches us about entrepreneurship and so much more. It shows us the high-quality way of living when one is in the right frame of mind. It gives us spiritual enlightenment by illustrating that contributing and giving back to our fellow man is essential for the blessings we receive from our Creator.

The second half of our class session began with a dance intro which is always a lot of fun. We had our classmates who stay on L-Pod (dormitory) starting it off. They all lined up at the back of the room and danced to the front of the room with some really fancy moves. We always have a good time in starting the second half of class.

After the dance intro, we opened up with prayer and then we got down to business. One of the Peer Educators, Sergio A., introduced us to the process of creating a resume. The resumes we are making will go into our personal business plans. This resume will consist of information such as educational history, professional experience, previous work history and personal skills. We will have the ability to update our resumes after we graduate. We were given the weekend to complete this assignment and turn it in on Monday before pray-in.

Next, we talked about the prep work we have done to complete our recordings for the business advisors. We were also told that our next goal is to work with our teams on our upcoming presentation for the Business Plan Competition (BPC). We will be presenting our semi-final Big Pitch competition in September to executives who volunteer with PEP. This presentation is to last six to nine minutes, and we definitely have to be ready for it.

We appreciate you for all you support. Thank you.

Anthony K. (aka “Major Payne”)

 

Expressions

“PRIDE.” This is the primary reason individuals die early. To drop a few words of wisdom, always take the time to contemplate your actions, as well as all of the possible consequences that your actions could have on your future – we all need to maintain intelligence over emotions, mind over matter. A bit of creative thinking can get you through anything in life.

Life is precious. This is how I look at things: if it doesn’t contribute to whatever my goals are, its irrelevant. I learn how to foresee a situation before it even happens. If I notice a person that I sense either can’t or won’t support where I’m trying to be in life, I don’t even look their way, let alone become acquainted. I truly believe the only way to achieve true happiness is freedom, in all its forms. Mentally, there’s nothing like being at peace with yourself and who you are. The mental ability to be that person without any outside pressure to be someone else. Physically, we all understand this but you ever still feel trapped even when in the streets? Like time is going to run out on you? This goes back to being free mentally, as long as you loving a lifestyle that you know can take your freedom away at any time, you will never be free mentally. Financially, To me is when I can live the way I want without worries of where my next dollar is coming from. I had to be the better man and learn how to say no. A leader is simply going to say no when he needs to.

Elio L. (aka “Haw from Who Moved My Cheese”)

 

Week 6

Monday                                                                                                        August 7, 2023

Today was a great Monday. We started off the first half of class with a wonderful speaker, Bruce T. He went over Chapter 3 in our Living in the Village book. He explained to us how to break down a budget for practical monthly use. Next, he showed us how to find bogus deals by explaining the way companies and sales representatives try to lure us in with deceptive practices. This was done so that the whole class can understand what to look out for when we are released.

After he had finished, we went straight into a video about Chapter 7 from our entrepreneurship textbook covering financing and accounting, which are essential tools for all businesses. Key financial issues involved with starting a business and the importance of proper accounting were the main topics of the presentation. Before breaking for lunch, Adam W. gave us a motivational speech to help us keep our heads up and our spirits high.

When we returned from our lunch break, we jumped straight into learning how to break down the “Economics of One Unit” (EOUs) so that we can create a financial summary for our business plans. This portion of the class is essential, as it explains how you know when you are turning a profit. At first, a majority of the class was having trouble understanding the concepts presented, but thanks to the servant-leader mentality of Joshua B., Sergio A. and a few other Servant-Leaders, everyone was able to begin understand EOUs. They also helped explain executive summaries to the class.

After that, we broke into our big pitch teams and went over our game plan for our upcoming event. It is truly awesome what we get to do in this class, and we are so proud to be a part of this program.

Chad H. (aka “Bobby Hill”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                             August 8, 2023

Today was full of activities that were both fun and very insightful. Like always, we arrived at the PEP room at 8:15 a.m. First, we grabbed our badges and turned in all homework that was due before beginning our pray-in. The emcees made everyone who was wearing blue shoes go to the back of the room to dance. Then after a short talk, we prayed in while standing in community and thanking God for everything.

Next, after a moment of being anxious, we were told that we would be recording our pitches today. As PEP likes to emphasize, our cheese can always be moved! Suddenly, some teams were called to go to the computer lab to start recording. At the same time, the Gavel Club of Houston began to setup for Toastmasters’ speeches. Yes, we utilize every precious moment in class to its fullest potential.

Right before count, we paused for table topics, which is where a class member is chosen at random to speak for one minute on a pre-selected topic with no preparation, keeping us all on our toes. After count, we resumed with our speeches, which proved to be very interesting. Shortly after 11 a.m., those with special diets were called out while the rest of us were returned to the pods for regular chow.

At 2 p.m., we started the second half of PEP with those teams that had not recorded in the morning doing so in the afternoon, while the rest of the class continued the Toastmasters portion for the rest of the day. After Toastmasters and pitches were concluded, we broke into our Business Plan Competition (BPC) groups so that we could get to know one another a little better, as well as to share information for individual positions such as CEO, COO, CFO and CMO. A video was shown giving us an example of what a full pitch should look like.

We prayed out at 5 p.m., placed our badges on the board and returned to our dorms. Today was an amazing day filled with real life-changing experiences that we appreciate so much. Thank you, PEP, for all the hard work you do for us. We know that our families highly appreciate everything this program does for us.

 Roberto H. (aka “Charlie Brown”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                                 August 9, 2023

Today started off by preparing us for the journey into the life that we have chosen to live. We were blessed today to have two guests come in and visit with us. They came in to teach us and to review Chapter 12 in our entrepreneurship textbook, getting us ready for our upcoming test. They also gave us great feedback on any questions that we had.

PEP is an amazing program which helps us in any way that they can. Our guests were very good at summarizing and teaching us the information that we needed to know for our test. They showed us the importance of a critical path chart; they also explained how production charting is accomplished and how to break it down. Other topics they covered included time management and how important it is to start a business. It was all important, and we each found something in what they shared that we could improve on. One question asked today was about location and how important choosing the right location is to your business’s development.

Many inspiring words were shared with us today, and we would like you to keep in touch with us along this journey as we progress and become better men and entrepreneurs. Always remember: “iron sharpens iron.” We are a brotherhood here at PEP! Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read all about what we have been doing in our classroom.

Daniel H. (aka “Baby Dinosaur”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                   August 10, 2023

The first thing that we did before we started class was pray in and thank God for another day that wasn’t promised. We asked Him to give us the strength to keep going even when times get hard. Ryan B. the class emcee discussed the importance of planting a seed and how what you plant will be what you reap.

Jason K. came up to present a short video that showed us why it is effective for dads to be a part of their children’s lives. After the video, we opened our BetterMan packets. The session we went over gave detailed information about understanding the present, envisioning the future, and addressing the past. Unpacking our baggage, we hold onto what creates addictive habits, like alcohol and drugs. It gave us ways to address trouble spots, like naming and sharing baggage so we can engage it with a plan to become a better man.

Last but not least, we got into our Business Plan Competition (BPC) groups to practice going over our pitches for our videos next week. In our groups, we got into the depth of what exactly our CEO is bringing to the market so it can guide us in writing the company’s market strategy. Our CEOs gave us key points that will help us remember if we have trouble reciting the information on camera.

Finally, we prayed out, thanking God for the knowledge we learned, the videos that we watched and the time He gave us with our group so that we can use the information given to us to become better men, not only for ourselves but for our families as well.

Rahkeem H. (aka “Abraham Lincoln”)

 

Friday                                                                                                         August 11, 2023

Today we woke up and ate some breakfast: pancakes and sausage with grits. Some of our brothers went back to sleep, while others read books until lunch time. The reason for this is because we didn’t have the first half of class today due to our In-Prison Manager, Adam W., holding a devotional. A couple of us went to the library and checked out books too.

Earlier this week, we went through Chapters 9 and 12 in our entrepreneurship textbook. We have learned to keep going and come together as a team for the team competition. At first, we realized that just because it gets tough, you don’t just give up – you need to keep going and push through it.

After lunch, we entered the PEP room and once again, they moved our cheese. At first, they had the room set up for Toastmasters; then they said we were going to go over the second packet of the Economics of One Unit (EOUs) pre-test; but we ended up breaking up into our Business Plan Competition (BPC) groups. Some groups did really well, coming together and getting their pitches in order for video recording this coming Tuesday. We then watched a video where our great Character Development Specialist, Gerald D., was on ABC news last year. The video was about how our organization gives inmates some assistance upon release. It started with assistance of clothes for employment and clothing for everyday use, which has been provided by PEP.

We then prayed out – but our day did not finish there, as we also then practiced our pitches in the dorms later on that evening. This concludes the summary of what was done on Friday August 11, 2023. Thank you.

Delmarquis H. (aka “Sam from Lean on Me”)

 

Expressions

“Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive; you won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain: when you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.”

~ Unknown

I really like this quote for several reasons. First off, it is true for whatever hard times or stress we go through – the storm analogy applies. We don’t always remember every little detail of our personal storm that we are going through, but we could wake up one day and look back and say, “It is officially over.”

This time last year, I had nothing. I had no food, no vehicle and not even a place to sleep. After my dad passed away a few years ago, I lost control of my life. I also remember not having any money – I had no job and I had a bad drug problem. It took me a couple of years to get back on my feet and become happy again. No matter what life threw at me during those hard times, I made it out of the storm. Now I may not remember every little thing that occurred during those years, but I do know this: if that storm wouldn’t have hit me, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. When something goes wrong in my life, I feed off of it and learn from it. Yes, I am a firm believer that once you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked into it. You will be stronger, whether physically or mentally.

I encourage everyone to read this quote and think back on what you may have learned or gained from the last storm in your life. Maybe you are going through a storm right now and still don’t see the end in sight. If that is the case, take a few minutes to remind yourself “I can do this” and know that you will get through it in one piece.

                                    Christopher H. (aka “Irish Lucky Charm”)

 

Week 5

Monday                                                                                                           July 31, 2023

This morning was awesome! It all started with a draft, where each business plan CEO was given a number and the option of a position to put on the team. We believe it was the first time that the draft panned out evenly. Then we did a few team building workshops with balloons, spaghetti noodles, marshmallows and tape to understand the importance of working as a team to reach a common goal. We really had a great time.

We also did our Toastmasters Project Four, where the speaker has to give a straight-to-the-point speech. It was amazing to see how a group of rascals can show vulnerability and discuss their emotions to the group to motivate one another. PEP has just gone deeper, where we are starting to put the tools we’ve been learning about into practice.

Today we also experienced how important it is to give the next man his best work to help him in our business teams that we are putting together, as well as how important it is as a team to uphold the responsibilities that come with each position, whether it’s the CEO, COO, CFO or CMO. Together we can achieve great things and allow our minds to work together and build each other up. PEP has provided us the chance to become better men so that we can be productive members of society once we are released. Today was probably the greatest day that we have had in class yet. Thank you, PEP.    

Robert B. (aka “Chomping Chaz”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                                       August 1, 2023

Today’s Toastmasters lesson was on lesson four, called “How to Say It.” We learned it’s not what you say but how you say it that grabs the attention of the crowd. We are learning a lot about public speaking and breaking out of our shells. While conducting Toastmasters, we also took turns in groups to test on Chapter 5’s “Business Mission and Strategy” and Chapter 11’s “Marketing” out of our entrepreneurship workbook. We are also learning computer skills, as we are using computers to take our tests. And since computers are so widely used in the modern world for applications, emails and school work, our learning to use the computer is really helping us.

We dance, laugh and have great conversations with our PEP staff. Every day, we pray in and out for our families, PEP volunteers and our In-Prison Management for safe travels and peace, etc. If any of us needs someone to talk to, they are always available. Our In-Prison Manager, Adam W., shared with us how important it is to take this program seriously and to apply what we are learning to the real world to be the men that he knows we can be: the program works if you work it. We were informed about preparation for Family Day, where we will give contact information for family members we will invite to attend graduation.

At the end of the day, we always pray out after we do some praise reports, which are used to praise fellow PEP brothers of an achievement aligned with one of our 10 Driving Values. The person with the most tallies in a specific area will get that award at the end of graduation. We all strive to apply these Driving Values to our daily lives and also recognize when our peers apply them to their life and acknowledge them for doing so. After we prayed out, we went back to the pod and got straight to work on our business pitches.

Marshall G. (aka “Gerber Baby”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                                  August 2, 2023

This morning started off with an announcement that there would not be any PEP today due to water issues throughout the unit and city. Our class was a little upset about this, because PEP is a major part of our daily lives now. Not only does it help us pass the time, but it also is developing us to be better men and individuals.

Even though we were not able to go to class today, we still had a good day within our pods. People grouped together and made use of our extra time by studying for our upcoming Entrepreneurship and Living in the Village tests, so there was definitely a bright side to not going to class today. We do have a lot of work piled onto our plates, so the extra study time was a blessing. We also were able to work on and revise our business plan pitches for our next upcoming event. All of this was done in the air conditioning of the Sanders Estes Unit which houses our PEP program. Many of us are truly thankful for the A/C after coming from places without air conditioning. North Texas is experiencing record-breaking heat out there right now, but we are in a cool environment which allows us to think properly when studying for our tests. We are thankful to be a part of the PEP brotherhood and are looking forward to graduating this program in the near future. We are very grateful for the constant support that we receive from our family and friends.

Nelson G. (aka “Barney Rubble”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                     August 3, 2023

Today, Don D. had our DJ, Erik R., shared two pictures on the screen: one of the pictures had a gathering of brothers from the Prison Entrepreneurship Program around a bonfire; and in the other picture, they were on a boat at Lake Cypress Springs having fun. Don D. mentioned that we do not have to be drinking to have fun, but instead we can have a great time without alcohol.

Then Sergio A. and Jason K. took us through instructions on the screen about how to write the mission statement, the vision statement and an objective script. We then worked on our BetterMan worksheet for session two (“Looking Back”). After we finished watching BetterMan, we split up into groups and were given 20 minutes to share our own stories. Most of us could relate to what each classmate shared. We all agreed that we have to break the cycle that has been going on in our families for decades. We picked one brother out of each group to go to the front of the class to share our stories and explain why it was important for us to tell our stories.

We are very grateful for the privilege of having the opportunity that PEP is providing us. We just want to thank PEP for making it possible for its constant support. And thank you for taking your time to read about us. None of this would be possible without you guys. May God bless you and grant you love, happiness and peace.

Ernesto G. (aka “Ricky Ricardo”)

 

Friday                                                                                                           August 4, 2023

Today not only marked the end of another productive work week, but it was also a day that was very meaningful and important to all of us involved with PEP. It was a day that reminded us exactly why we signed up for the program and why we put in the hard work that we do. We truly desire to become better men for our families. Today was Family Day here at PEP. Family Day is dedicated to our families and loved ones we plan to move forward in life with. Although our families were not with us on Family Day, they are always in our thoughts and prayers as we prepare ourselves for a very meaningful occasion: PEP’s Fall 2023 graduation, a day that we can hopefully share with our families in attendance. Laura S., (our PEP Family Liaison) was our special guest speaker today. She went over in detail all the specific rules and regulations regarding our graduation guest list. She also explained how she would reach out to our individual family members and open a line of communication that would not only update them on our progress, but would also provide them with graduation information. Laura S. then opened the floor to any questions and answered them accordingly.

She also explained the four different stations that we would individually go through today. The first station was a five-minute talk with Laura S. directly, where she took notes as she gained insight about our personal relationships with our loved ones. Station two is where we provided contact information for the people on our graduation guest list. Station three was the birthday card station, where we were able to select a card for our children to receive on their birthdays. We also provided names and addresses for the cards to be sent. The last station was the picture station, where we took fun and ridiculous-looking pictures for our children that will go inside their birthday cards. There were balloons, props and many different accessories to make the experience fun and in true PEP fashion. All in all, it was a great day devoted to the ones we love most: our families.

 Eric G. (aka “Sloth from Goonies”)

 

Expressions

“Growth is beyond success.”

 ~ Unknown

 

I was reading a book one day when I read this quote, and it really stuck out to me so I made it a point to remember it. Once you succeed (or once you reach the point of success), you are just there. Growing up, I always wanted to be successful in life. What is success? Success to me was money, cars and the nicest clothes with an endless bank account. I thought about it long and hard, about how there has to be more to life than just being successful. It wasn’t until I read this quote that I realized there absolutely was. “Growth!” – that’s what I want.

Before, I was utilizing my time to find ways that would help make me successful. Now I know that I was selling myself short. I want to be more than just successful. So, I started focusing on areas where I could grow. I started in the spiritual area first. It is my opinion that if you don’t have a relationship with the Most High, nothing you do in life is going to line up properly. This is where I laid my foundation. Next, I started on physical growth. I began spending an hour in the gym on a daily basis, which did help me to grow physically. Last but not least, I began to work on gaining education to better feed my brain. These three growth areas – spiritual, physical and mental – were where I wanted to grow, since I figured they were a good place to start, plus I could always grow more in the future. I’m currently working on achieving balance in my life.

Life is more than just success, and success is hard to achieve without growth. “Growth is beyond success.” Grow for your family and your kids, but most of all, grow for yourself.

Xavier H. (aka “Chia Pet”)

 

Week 4

Monday                                                                                                           July 24, 2023

Today was an easy day. We started the day not having to go to class for the first half – they “moved our cheese” due to some sort of graduation that was taking place in the classroom, so we got to enjoy the morning in our pods. Some of us studied, some of us read books, while still others watched TV.

After lunch which consisted of steak, cornbread, mashed potatoes and vegetables, we started the second half of PEP class with a test over Chapters 1 and 2 from the book Living in the Village. This book helps us build our financial future and strengthen our community. The tests consisted of several multiple-choice questions and two fill in the blank questions. The test itself was not all that hard, and everyone is hoping that they passed.

After the tests, we were given the opportunity to go over our BPC pitches. Mostly everyone has gotten very good at their presentation. We have learned that it takes a lot of practicing to be able to get up in front of a crowd and perform. We would like to thank our Servant-Leaders for taking the time to help us perfect our pitches. We also would like to thank the Servant-Leaders for taking time out their busy days to help us outside of the classrooms. Without their help, we would still be struggling to remember our pitches in the first place. Through the dedication of others, we have become not only a team but a family as well. Thank you for your time and support.

Logan D. (aka “Bevis”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                                          July 25, 2023

Today marks our third Toastmasters class as a group. We also tested over Chapters 3 and 4 from our entrepreneurship textbook today. As a group, we have been very tenacious on how we approach our Toastmasters speeches. We push each other to be able to speak in front of groups and to become better men. It is a privilege that we all get to be a part of this. We come together as a brotherhood and study on how we can be better and do good in class.

We did praise reports today, which help us to see what we are improving on or that others see us doing good. Praises are based on PEP’s 10 Driving Values: love, execution, innovation, wise stewardship, fun, integrity, excellence, accountability, fresh-start outlook, and servant-leader mentality. In PEP, we strive to push our brothers to do better. Today we learned about sriracha sauce. One of our fellow brothers told us that the rooster on the sriracha sauce bottle is a Chinese sign for the birthday of the man who made sriracha sauce, David Tran. We also learned about the patience we need to have in all the things that we do in life. Patience makes us better men, not just for ourselves but for our loved ones too. It’s encouraging to hear our PEP brothers open up and share their life stories. It turns out we are alike in some many ways.

Toastmasters has been very helpful in our development, helping us to open up and share our life stories. We just want to say thank you for reading about our day and for your constant support.

Nicholas D. (aka “Ratatouille”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                                     July 26, 2023

Today was epic and started out with Ryan B. giving us an inspiring Word of the Day. He said, “We trust in machines more than we trust in ourselves.” That’s a powerful message that most of us recognized to be true. Later on, our guest speaker taught us business mission and strategy from Chapter 5 in our entrepreneurship books. Our guest’s assistant also gave us some good words from the good book, saying “love God and love thy neighbor.” He also gave the class feedback on our Big Ideas and our mission statements.

Later on, during the second half of class we went over marketing from chapter 11 in our entrepreneurship book. The class found the lesson to be surprisingly interesting and very intriguing. The individual who gave us the lesson is currently a Chief Marketing Officer and was able to explain marketing to us in depth, which will help us with our business plans. The first thing we learned about marketing is that it’s good to have a three-dimensional picture of our customers so we can specify our target customers in our pitches. We talked about focusing on identifying our market to see who would buy our products and services at the desired price. When determining a price model, knowing products and services will help us understand what they are worth in the current market. Next, we need to develop promotions to reach customers in ways that will make us easier for the customer to reach.

We are highly appreciative for the PEP guests who took time out of their day to help educate us on the matters of business and the opportunity for making a better living. Thank you for joining us and your continued support.

Derrick D. (aka “Kel”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                         July 27, 2023

Today was a very eventful day. The Servant-Leaders shared a video of eagles. The purpose of this video was to show us that there is growth in pain. If the eagle reaches the age of about 40, its beak starts to curl over and keeps it from being able to eat. If the eagle wants to live it must break its own beak off by beating it on a sharp rock. The beak will then grow back, allowing the eagle to eat again. It goes through the same process with its talons and feathers. After going through this painful process, an eagle can live another 30 years. We can all relate to this because if we shed all the things that are holding us back, we can begin to live and prosper. This was a great way to begin our day.

We discussed our plans for tomorrow because we will be hosting alumni and executives in the gym. A lot of us have never been in a formal business setting, so our Servant-Leaders shared some networking etiquette and tips with us. We discussed the do’s and do not’s of how to present ourselves in a business setting. After we finished with that, we were handed evaluation sheets so we could evaluate our classmates on their business pitches. We then performed our pitches in front of the class and evaluated everyone else. Next, we did a run through for tomorrow with the executives. It wasn’t very time consuming because the instructions were simple and basic; everyone had it covered. We then learned how we should welcome all of our guests. Everyone had a good time with that. We also learned how to do the Chicken Dance, which was weird and fun at the same time. We all laughed and had a good time together; it turned into a dance off between participants. We crowned a winner and continued on with practicing our pitches a little more.

We closed out with a prayer as always; this was an awesome and memorable day. 

Jayaka F. (aka “Flavor Flav”)

 

Friday                                                                                                              July 28, 2023

Today was a very eventful and emotional day for all of us in PEP. Our day started out with the same usual routine of dancing then thanking our Heavenly Father and our savior Jesus Christ. After we gave thanks, we formed a line and made our way out to the gymnasium to prepare for our special event. We began a practice run for our Big Idea business pitch in front of 12 great executives. They listened to all of our business pitches and gave us excellent feedback, which we are extremely grateful for. After finishing up our pitches, we went on lunch break, where we could mingle with the executives.

After returning from lunch, we went straight back to business, except now there were a total of 40 executives who arrived in order to listen to our pitches and give us some feedback. We love how they took time out of their day to listen and engage in our individual growth in order for us to become better individuals. A total of 67 participants shared their individual pitches to the crowd of executives in order to be judged by them for selection of CEO’s. Upon completion of the pitches, the executives had one-on-ones with us in order to share more insight on our individual business ideas.

Overall, it was a great and eventful day full of fun and learning. Here at PEP, we are thankful for all of our supporters, and we are doing our best in order to be the best we can be in every given moment from here on out. Have a nice day and God Bless.

Leroy G. (aka “Richie Valens”)

 

Expressions

“Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into cup; it becomes the cup. You put water into teapot; it becomes a teapot. You put water into bottle; it becomes the bottle. Now it can flow, or it can crash! Be water, my friend.”

~ Bruce Lee

 

This quote inspires me because this is just a general way for us to look at life. You can either be transformed by the situation that you are in, whatever it may be, or you will allow it to renew your mind and truly be shapeless. As we learn all there is to learn about what caused any situation in life, we find ourselves in 60% of those particular situations, with 40% of this how we choose to respond to the situation. So, we must ask ourselves, “Is our cup half empty or half full?” As for myself, I will choose to keep my cup half empty while emptying my mind. What will you choose?

We must use our situation to better ourselves, even while this situation may break other men. Like the saying, “Iron sharpens iron,” our mistakes can sharpen our minds and help us get through a difficult time that we might go through in the future. Think about it this way: I am a man, and if I get married then I am a husband. If I have a child, then I am a father. Since I have parents, I am a son. If I have sibling, then I am a brother. It’s how you would like to look at yourself. You can be idle or active, and only you can choose.

Justin G. (aka “Roger from American Dad”)

 

Week 3

Monday                                                                                                           July 17, 2023

Today’s quote of the day was, “Strong people need help too.” This made a lot of us think more about ourselves. The two Servant-Leaders that started us off as emcees were Ryan B. and Demarcus W. They are always a good team that work well with one another, and they really know how to liven up the class.

Today we had a very informative guest speaker, Bruce T. (aka “Mr. Rogers”). He is one of our volunteer chaplains at the Estes Unit. He spoke to us about Chapters 1 and 2 from the book Living in the Village, which he likes to call “living in the neighborhood.” He taught us that it is good to have a retirement plan and to take care of our debts so that we can improve our FICO score. We will be taking a test on these first two chapters on Monday before moving on to learn about Chapter 3.

For the rest of the first half of class, we practiced our “Big Pitch” speeches. We all did a very good job compared to how we first started off. The required signature sheets really helped those who needed the practice.

When we came back to class after lunch, we did our second Toastmasters speech. Some of the pods will be doing their Toastmasters speeches in the dorms. At the end of the class, we went to the computer lab to learn how to sign in for the test that we are going to be taking tomorrow. We would like to say “thank you” for all of your constant support.

 Fred B. (aka “Wario”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                                          July 18, 2023

Today was our first test for the entrepreneurship portion of this class. Unlike the previous classes, we were allowed to take our test on the computers that are in our PEP computer lab. Most of us found that this is easier than it would have been if we had taken these tests on paper. Our Servant-Leaders are even having to get used to this new form of test taking and navigating the program. For those who have read Chapters 1 and 2, they will have an easier time, while those that did not study at all will find this test difficult. For those who did not study, we encourage them to do better. Basically, it all boils down to the fact that we need to study more.

The PEP computer lab only has space for 24 people at one time, so we took our test in groups. While some of the brothers were taking their test in the lab, the rest of the class was getting to practice their “Big Pitch Idea” speeches in front of the rest of our peers. Most of the brothers have been working really hard at their speeches, and we are going to do a wonderful job in front of the executives at next Friday’s event. Since this is what happened for most of the class day, our brothers got the opportunity to give their speeches in front of the class more than once.

Thank you for reading about what is going on with us and our lives in the current class. None of this would be possible without the constant support that we are getting from the volunteers and families. Thank you from all of us here!

Gabriel C. (aka “Butter Cup”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                                     July 19, 2023

We started the day’s class as usual with a selected group of our classmates dancing to the front of the room. Some of the brothers have some great moves. We had a special guest speaker Carl M. come in today to teach us Chapters 3 and 4 from our Entrepreneurship textbook. We found what he shared to be very insightful, and he did a wonderful job. We want to thank him for coming in and taking his time to teach us everything that he knows about these chapters. We will be having our second test next week, which will be over the two chapters that we discussed today. Our class believes that we understand these chapters better because of this wonderful volunteer. We cannot wait to get to see him again at our upcoming initial BPC event.

After our fruitful day with Carl M., we went back to our respective dorms to begin studying. Some of the brothers went into study groups and talked about what we had heard in today’s class while others chose to review the work themselves and then start the study groups.  We also had some brothers that went into their weekly accountability groups so that they could talk about what they could do to help their fellow brothers. Some even started writing our next Toastmasters speech – the longer we practice our speeches, the more meaningful those speeches become. We never know who our speeches may impact and give encouragement to.

Thank you for being there for us all.

Adam C. (aka “Baby Chicken Nugget”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                         July 20, 2023

Today was an awesome day, full of laughter and learning. We were all looking forward to PEP’s Re-entry staff coming to explain the particulars about PEP transitional housing, basic house rules and which city we would probably go to. The three speakers are graduates of the PEP program, giving most of us hope of a successful future. The most asked question was, “If we lived in Houston or Dallas, can we go to one of the houses in that city?” The answer was that if you had been arrested in those cities, then PEP didn’t want you to go back to a house or city where that charge took place. More or less, we need to go to a different city to get a fresh start. If you go back to a city where you are known or have old friends or old hangouts, then it is better for you to start fresh.

What made it really fun was how they all said their fun names, and how they danced from the back of the room. It is good to see the graduates who work for PEP come and tell us how it really is, because they have all been in our shoes. The information they gave us will help us in deciding which house will be the best fit for us and our needs. We can all only hope to get a chance to stay at one of the PEP houses. The application for housing must be turned in tomorrow, because that is the last day for them to be processed.

Keith C. (aka “Mrs. Doubtfire”)

 

Friday                                                                                                              July 21, 2023

Our day started off with a devotional that was held in the PEP room by Adam W. Our class was held in the afternoon due to our morning devotional. Once we arrived to class, we started with what we call a “pray-in,” which is simply opening class with a prayer. Afterwards, we recognized some of our brothers who were celebrating their birthdays. We love birthdays because we enjoy recognizing our brothers, including the chance to sing “happy birthday” to them, which is a great bonding moment. We hope that these brothers really do enjoy their birthdays, even in here. We honored our brothers Ramon S. and Ashton S., and we even got to celebrate Gerald D., our Character Development Specialist’s birthday.

Next, we watched an inspirational video from Jordan Peterson on why some people should quit their jobs to allow for a better position. The basic aspect of the film is to inspire us to seek out one’s best assets or qualities that we may have, take them and use them to the best of our ability. After the video, the entire class practiced even more on our pitches. This gave us the opportunity to work on ways to improve our presentations; it also allowed us to work through any nervousness that anyone may have had with public speaking. Everyone in the class is working hard on this and doing a wonderful job.

We then finished the day off by bidding farewell to our brother Thomas S. Servant-Leaders, Peer Educators, and Facilitators made a video for Thomas S. Then Thomas S. was presented with what we call the “OG” award, because his PEP graduation was before everyone else’s. So, thank you Thomas S. for being there for all of us. You will be missed.

Jason C. (aka “Six Flags Man”)

 

Expressions

  • empathy: a feeling which gives you an understanding of how another person thinks and feels by putting yourself in their shoes.

When I was younger and did not really know how to think for myself, I didn’t care who was hurt by my actions. This came about because it wasn’t me being hurt, but rather I was the cause of others’ pain. I did not understand what it felt like to be put down or hurt. The word “empathy” inspires me because it reminds me to treat others as I would want to be treated. It is a whole new experience to walk in another person’s shoes. Empathy has helped me become a better person than I ever was before. I can now sit at a table and talk about our problems instead or hurting someone with words.

Empathy will enable you look at your life and the ones around you differently. It causes you to want to teach others around you about empathy. That’s one of the main reasons I give others positive feedback in conversations. You can really impact someone that has been hurt by listening to their story and understanding how they feel about what they had to go through – things I would not want my children to have to go through. This is what I take into consideration while listening to their stories about their lives. I believe that this is my way of helping others figure out what they need in life without making the same or new mistakes that lead to failure. Showing empathy can make an impact on someone’s life which can transform both parties in a positive way.

Kevin C. (aka “Big Mama”)

 

Week 2

Monday                                                                                                           July 10, 2023

When we got to class today, PEP’s Character Development Specialist Gerald D. introduced himself and gave us a brief summary about the book Who Moved My Cheese? He talked about how in life things are not going to always go as planned, and how we must adapt to the different situations that life throws at us. Instead of complaining about the changes, we have to keep moving forward and find new ways to sustain ourselves to become successful. A few of us were given the opportunity to give our opinions before we were shown a short film that demonstrated what the book was all about. It also helped us to better understand all of the good information that was used to write this book. We talked a little more about the importance of being able to adapt, and then we had a bit of fun.

One by one, we were called up to the front of the room so that the rest of the class could come up with some fun nicknames for us. Everyone was laughing and having a good time together, especially when the person at the front of the room had to “own” his name. Some had to sing while others had to roar like a dragon or dance. The program has just started, and we can already see that our PEP brothers really do care about us. With the help of this program, we know that our lives will be changing for the better.

Josue A. (aka “Fake DJ Kaleb”)

 

Tuesday                                                                                                          July 11, 2023

To start off the day, classmates who were wearing shower slides had to dance. Ryan B. and Demarcus W. shared some good insights with us, starting with a job opening and an entertaining example of a podium setter. Next they both discussed the pre-season debut of the basketball player Victor Wembanyama before asking Michael H. from the media team to introduce himself to the class. He explained how we should behave when he photographs us in our “natural state.” Finally, Demarcus W. and Ryan B. gave us the “Word of the Day” while giving us extra insight.

Logan D. said something inappropriate while class was going on, so we got to see our first “Wheel of Doom” victim today. He unluckily landed on a combo. The class picked two exercises: the Wormy Dog and lip syncing to Beyoncé. We also got a short introduction by our PEP janitor, Warren L.

Next up, John C. and Sergio A. assigned our second Big Idea Pitch assignment, which is the product service offering. They explained how we should word our pitches. We also learned the role of our badge number and how we need to put it on all of our papers. Some of our classmates were allowed to practice their pitches in front of the class before ending our morning class with the Servant-Leaders giving a farewell address to James L., the Administrative Assistant. He is going home tomorrow, and we wanted to wish him the best of luck in the future.

We were not called out for the second half of the day, so we finished writing our first drafts for the second Toastmasters speech.

Daniel B. (aka “Harry Potter”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                                     July 12, 2023

Today was a real therapeutic day for the whole class. To start off, we were prayed in by one of the PEP brothers, which is always a blessing. The whole class went to the back of the room, and we were instructed on how the rest of the first half of class would go. The Servant-Leaders rearranged the classroom for us to perform our first task. We were separated into groups of four to five per table, where we would be working on vision boards. We cut out pictures of ourselves, colored some pictures of action heroes and other characters, then we glued our pictures to the bodies of each character. All of these are glued to different colored sheets of paper that were used for background. Afterwards, we went back to our dorms for a short rest and lunch break.

We then came back to the classroom to listen to some of our fellow classmates who have not yet had the chance to give their first Toastmasters speech. There were 10 to 15 speeches that had to be done today so that we could move on to Project Two. Congratulations to all of these brothers who gave their speeches in a successful manner. Of course, we did some additional table topics to make sure that the entire class was paying attention.

After everyone gave their speeches, we were instructed by a fellow classmate on how to organize our next Toastmasters speech – he even gave an example on how to do all of this. We really enjoyed class today and gained insight that will stick with us forever.

Adrian A. (aka “Alfalfa”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                         July 13, 2023

Today’s class was very eventful and informative for all of us. The day was full of messages and inspiration that came from everyone who spoke to us. One quote that really stuck with us today was something Scott S. shared: “Never allow life to let you forget the reason why you started in the first place.” We were blessed to have him stop and take time out of his busy day to come and teach us. We went over Chapters One and Two of our Entrepreneurship textbook together. He answered any questions we had for him, and he made sure that we understood the material that we were going over. Scott S. also made sure to let us all know that “who we are is not what we have done,” which motivated us. We would like to thank Scott S., and we all are looking forward to the next time that he returns to teach us more.

Today we took some time to get to know each other a little bit more. We discussed how the ability to redirect energy into something positive is development, which we all are striving for. It is essential that we all invest our time into the positive aspects of life. We want to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy day to read about us. Thank you for your constant support of us and this program. Without your support, none of this would be possible. Thank you.

Jacob B. (aka “Grown up Kiyuh”)

 

Friday                                                                                                              July 14, 2023

We started off our day by having one of the brothers leading us in an opening prayer. During the first half of class, we watched a new curriculum called BetterMan. This was very insightful and inspirational to the bothers that are in the current class. Next, we talked about how men are doing in today’s world. This course helps us ask ourselves some hard questions, like “How am I leading my family?” and “Am I leading my family the right way?” We will be learning how to become better men, husbands, sons, and fathers. We feel that men have become lazy and are allowing themselves to become less involved in their family members’ lives. This has been going on for generations. The next topic we discussed was about the four challenges that men face today. One of these is the loss of the wisdom that men can give to their children and their wives. Most of this happens because most fathers are never present in their children’s lives anymore. Most men don’t know what it truly means to be a real man, much less a father anymore. This type of man is a dying breed. We as fathers need to get back into our children’s lives and teach them what the Bible teaches about how to be a real man.

For the second half of our day, we had Sergio A. come up to speak to us about understanding temptations and the consequences that comes with them. Finally, we wrapped up our day by going up in front of the class so we could practice our business pitches. Thank you for reading about what we have been doing in our class today.

Elliot B. (aka “Fred Flintstone”)

 

Expressions

“Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.”

~ J.C. Hare and A.W. Hare

Who I am and what I am has no limit when it comes to character. One can always get better. Being better than who I am is realizing my faults and correcting them – not so much correcting my faults but correcting any wrongdoing that I am so used to. Getting feedback from my family, friends and community can help me notice some things I can work on in order to become a better person.

This quote inspires me because I feel that it can be taught to any age group. Since I am a father, I can teach my boys to be whoever they want to be, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Children and adults alike can keep creating goals and accomplishing more than what they set out to do.

Always strive for more in life because you never know what all you can accomplish. This quote has changed the way that I think about different aspects of my life and prevents me from being stuck in the same situation and getting the same outcome – or worse, letting myself believe that this is who I am. Nothing is going to change if I refuse to change for the better.

Accepting who you are is a good thing, but it is working on becoming better that replaces those bad things. This is something you would have to ask yourself in an honest manner. This has helped me in our PEP class because I was not wanting to stand in front of several people and talk. It became an obstacle, but overcoming obstacles is what this class is all about. So in the end, each obstacle I overcome will make me a better person.  

Steve B. (aka “Fake Jamie Fox”)

 

Week 1

 Monday                                                                                                             July 3, 2023

First and foremost, all glory and praise is due to GOD, without whom nothing is possible and through whom nothing is impossible. Today marked the beginning of Estes’ Fall 2023’s PEP cohort’s journey, and boy oh boy, was it action-packed! We began by learning about the program in general, with special attention paid to ensuring that new participants understood the rules and expectations involved in being chosen to carry the PEP banner. We were also shown some intriguing statistics, including one that showed that less than 10 percent of applicants get selected to participate in the program. Way to apply the pressure, Servant-Leaders! This is probably a good time to remind ourselves that while pressure bursts pipes, it also is required to make diamonds; just saying!

Speaking of Servant-Leaders, who are all PEP graduates, they did an amazing job today welcoming us into the fold and giving us a good look at what is expected of us, as well as what PEP is all about. They helped to set realistic expectations regarding the PEP experience while simultaneously offering reassurances and sharing their testimonies. This allowed us as a new class a glimpse at their journeys, both as individuals and as a group. Needless to say, this resulted in some spiritually and emotionally powerful moments throughout the day. These awesome moments were interspersed with and perfectly balanced by others in which Servant-Leaders and new participants alike were encouraged to embrace the PEP attitudes.

PEP’s 10 Driving Values include fun, with activities such as dancing and a “fun name” roasting session, thereby planting the seeds of another driving value, love, allowing these seeds to germinate. The day concluded with the opportunity for brothers to introduce themselves, with some stirring testimony from proud PEP graduates and In-prison Manager Adam W. His brutally honest and equally inspiring conversation with us about his life’s journey was the perfect capstone for the day. We were all infused with a palpable sense of power of positivity’s ability to turn us from men into walking, talking miracles. After a relatively long day, during which much was covered and accomplished, the energy we closed out with reverberated throughout the room.

In closing, we want to thank those of you reading this for your love and support – truly, a man is only as strong as his foundation, and we are deeply appreciative of the strength you lend us as we embark on this journey with a fresh-start outlook, striving to equip ourselves and others to achieve their full potential.

Maurice A.

 

Tuesday                                                                                                            July 4, 2023

Today we woke up and started with a prayer to have a wonderful day in the dorm. We also celebrated the Fourth of July, the day we became our own country as we separated ourselves from England through the Revolutionary War.

As we went through the day, we ate breakfast and came back to the pod to put out our laundry and sit around to watch the news for a little while. We were called out after that to eat lunch, which was awesome. After that we all pretty much took a nap. We also took time to look through our textbooks and did a little bit of studying, along with reading a little from the book Who Moved My Cheese? We did a group exercise from the book, and it was very interesting. We then went to do some working-out, which was intense. We showered and then waited for dinner to be called. We all pitched in to clean the pod and then started to relax a little bit longer.

After dinner, we had a team meeting where we discussed how our class will be operating in the future, as well as looking over our assignments. We prayed out and then finally went to sleep.

Thank you for reading this. We are grateful for all the constant support that our families and the Servant-Leaders give us. The Servant-Leaders are a true help to those who are struggling and have shown us what true leadership is. May God bless you in everything that you are doing.

Luis Ag. (aka “Ernie”)

 

Wednesday                                                                                                       July 5, 2023

Today’s start was a good one for the new class. Although incarcerated, we are thankful to be alive and kicking thanks to Almighty God. After breakfast, we were welcomed into our PEP class with music. Before taking a seat and getting comfortable, a couple of us danced down the center aisle as the rest of the class cheered us on. It was very welcoming to us!

After praying in, they displayed a list of fun names on the TVs and projector. Participants were then randomly selected and called to the front of the room so that they could get a fun class nickname. The rest of the class then suggested and voted on a fun name for that specific person.

We were picked at random again, but this time it was to answer a question, and we were given the opportunity to share our own perspectives. We also had a guest speaker show up today, Pat M., who introduced himself as PEP’s Director of Prison Initiatives, our new father figure. He gave us a speech about the program that was very informative. He went into some detail about what this entrepreneurship program consists of for new participants, sharing how one of the goals is to help us achieve our own goals. He also spoke about the support system that PEP provides. We were encouraged to ask for help with anything that we may need.

After class, the Servant-Leaders helped us prepare our speeches and presentations for the upcoming BPC event. We shared what we had so far for our Toastmaster speeches and business pitches, and then the Servant-Leaders shared their knowledge of what to expect.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to read about our daily progress.

Luis Al. (aka “Spock from Star Trek”)

 

Thursday                                                                                                           July 6, 2023

In the classroom today, there was an introduction to the full Toastmasters curriculum. Toastmasters is an international organization that focuses on helping to educate its members on how to formulate, express and sell our ideas. Toastmasters also helps teach participants how to stay poised while speaking in public and improve our listening skills by eliminating our fear of public speaking. We started out the session with an encouraging word from some graduates from previous classes. Sergio A. quoted something to us that we thought was very good: “If we suffer for no reason it is undoable, but if we suffer for a purpose or reason, it becomes beautiful.”

We then began to give our presentations that we have worked on to complete the first project of Toastmasters. This speech was our “Icebreaker.” Basically, it was a four- to six-minute introduction about ourselves and our lives. We are learning the core values of Toastmasters, and everyone was very supportive during the speeches. We had a word of the day that we needed to incorporate into our presentations, which was “perception.” We used this lesson as a tool to get to know more about one another, as well as help us introduce ourselves to our new PEP brothers.

Today was our first step into becoming brothers thanks to Toastmasters. We will be required to complete nine more speeches in the coming weeks so that we can improve our communication skills and confidence level. We are working to reach the standards set by the Prison Entrepreneurship Program to lead us to a better, healthier and more productive life upon release.

Silver A. (aka “Chihuahua from Taco Bell”)

 

Friday                                                                                                                July 7, 2023

After one week of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, it is easy to see why it is often referred to as a brotherhood or a fraternity. It’s not often that we will find so many men united together with a single goal in mind. However, members of PEP somehow find a way to rise above and band together. It seems that PEP sticks to us like glue. Most of our conversations in the dorm today are staying in the realm of PEP-related topics. Our actions followed suit, as many of us worked on our business pitches and Toastmasters presentations.

All of our resident Servant-Leaders are of great help. These men are very knowledgeable, approachable and patient. It’s clear that PEP gives us shared obstacles and objectives that have a way of uniting us in camaraderie. This would otherwise be unfathomable given our current environment and situation. In mere weeks, we are becoming a close-knit brotherhood. We share a daily routine together of support which is essential to success. Everywhere that we go, we travel together as PEP brothers. We came here to learn and grow, with a firm goal of commitment in mind.  We have found out that we’ll end up leaving with so much more than we ever could have asked for.

We want to thank PEP for taking a chance on all of us new class members. With PEP’s help, we will become better men, businessmen, sons, husbands and fathers. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read what we have to say and what we are going through.

Shawn A. (aka “Cheddar Bob”)

 

Expressions

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

~ Henry Ford

This quote is very inspiring to me. You can do anything with the choices and decisions that life gives you, including becoming a success in life through hard work and determination. Life is all about making the right choices, which we are learning here at PEP. So if you think you are about to make a choice, first stop, think and then act. Even when you say that you “can’t stop,” you still can choose to do the right thing. If you are invited to go to a party and friends ask you to drink with them, we ask that you choose what is right and not drink; but if you do drink, then you should choose not to drink and drive. When you choose not to do these things, you are in the right because you have chosen to act in a responsible way. When you follow the rules and regulations, you are in the right state of mind. This may lead you to be at peace with everything in the world.

By doing what is right, you have found the best way to live life. Never say that you can’t do anything when you haven’t even tried. When you find yourself in a difficult situation, say to yourself that you “can” get through it. This quote inspires me, because it means that I can do what I set my mind to. All my life, I have made bad choices, and I have always made excuses saying that “I can’t do it – I can’t change.” Now, I say the complete opposite: “I can do it, and I can change.” So do the right thing and make the right choices.

Alan A. (aka “Toucan Sam”)