Estes Fall 2022 Weekly Journals
Monday September 12, 2022
Today we showed up to class and prayed in, as usual, with a great prayer. Then we got to share and celebrate a PEP brother’s birthday. It was a beautiful thing to see a group of men coming together to sing happy birthday for an inmate. Wow, that is a touching feeling!
Then we began by watching a BetterMan video. We learned about seasons of “change” in a man. The pastor was talking about where we are with seasons in our lives. He said that going through these struggles together, especially here in “PEP,” is the best way to learn and help each other grow by having friends and brothers. We learn by reading, responding, and reflecting on the word of God. With our PEP brothers, it’s a little easier. They also came in with praise reports. For those who thought that no one cared, someone probably wrote a praise report for you. Many guys who didn’t think they would get one did today.
This has nothing to do with class but, Zephaniah 3:17 says “For the Lord your God is living among you.” He is almighty Savior! He will delight in you with gladness, and with His love He calms all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. We got blessed by having the chance to come to the PEP program. Thank you PEP for moving our cheese and getting us out of our comfort zones so we can better ourselves.
Jeremy G. (aka “Smiegel”)
Tuesday September 13, 2022
Hello everyone! Today was another action-packed Tuesday here on the Sanders Estes Unit. We started our day dancing, believe it or not. It really helps us to get out of our comfort zones. Each of us has a number printed on our name badge. The DJ will pick a handful of those numbers at random and if your number is picked, well then, it’s time to go to the back of the room and dance up to the front! For some of us, it really is extremely nerve wracking – but no worries because our brothers will be there to cheer us on. On the flip side, for some of the guys here it comes natural to just bust a move! So much talent is within the brothers here at PEP.
After we got our blood flowing and everybody was fully awake, we moved on to our Chapter 9 test from our entrepreneurship workbooks. It was a slow week compared to most weeks, since we can usually expect up to three tests. Last week was challenging for most of us, but nonetheless we all pushed through and gave it our best. To put into perspective how talented our current class is, we took our Economics of One Unit (EOUs) test. Known to be the most challenging test to most in the past classes, we had 20% of our class pass. That may not sound like much, but it is a really big deal. That test was hard! Anyway, thank you for taking time out of your day to read this journal. God bless you.
Nicholas M. (aka “Mr. Mackey”)
Wednesday September 14, 2022
Good afternoon! Yesterday afternoon’s speaker, PEP graduate Jason S., was both informative and inspiring. With everything that has been happening lately in PEP, it is very cool to have someone from the program come back and speak to us about how to get started when we are released.
The day started with a test over Chapter 9 of our entrepreneurship textbook. Although we have been extremely focused on the business team scripts and recordings, we have also been busy studying our workbooks. One thing about PEP: there is never a day when you just don’t have something going on. After the test, we watched a video over Chapter 10 on Human Resources. The instructor did a good job describing everything, having experience in the day-to-day functions of a business including hiring, firing and ADA (American with Disability Act) requirements. After that, we dismissed for lunch.
As the afternoon class started, some of the brothers were blessed while others felt a little unhappy with their test scores, but as soon as our “Issues and Tissues” time was over, we were each handed a book entitled The Treasure Principle and told to read it by Monday so we could discuss it. Finally, Jason S. gave us the rundown on his business and how he was willing to help us. It was a great end to a very hectic and busy day.
Demetric E. (aka “Bruh Man”)
Thursday September 15, 2022
Hello families and friends! Today we started class at 8 a.m. sharp and took our Living in the Village test over Chapters 5 and 6. The test went over the importance of maintaining a good FICO score, as well as the need to obtain a beneficial life insurance policy. Luckily for us, one of our devoted PEP volunteers, Carl B., came in today and gave us a lesson on how to properly word our resumes for future employment. He informed us not to be humble when creating our resume, but rather to be truthful and “positively positioned” – in other words, we should avoid any negative traits on our resume. Other key points Carl B. included having a professional email address and steering away from our physical address in our contact information. We now live in a digital world, so phone numbers and email addresses are more appropriate when setting up contact information.
We also learned that most employers use computer software to go through most resumes. Since it is in our best interest to get around the computer system, it is best for us to contact the Hiring Manager and have the integrity to talk about our background so that we maintain an honest relationship with a potential employer. Although our background does not define who we are as men, it gives us extra motivation to prove our worth in the workforce. Instead of wallowing in shame, we can use that energy to motivate us to never allow other individuals to judge us by our background. When we return to society, we will have paid our dues and ready to prove that we are now honorable men.
Thank you for reading about how informative our day was.
Dominick P. (aka “Mr. Miyagi”)
Friday September 16, 2022
Hello everyone! We start everyday with a pray-in and the Word of the Day (or quote of the day). We heard some bad news: one of our PEP brothers lost his mother to cancer after just fighting off COVID-19. There is no right or easy way to take news like that. We prayed for him and his family to be comforted in these times. David F. prayed for him to be at peace and for God to comfort him and his family, and he asked us to keep him in our prayers.
Then David F. spoke to us about one of our brothers who has improved in his work and his memorization of his pitches. Jeremy G. was doing a good job at passing his tests, and he has also improved in giving his Toastmasters speeches. So, we all clapped for him and congratulated him. Then David F. and Gerald D. spoke about the contest for business pitches at the country club here in Dallas. Brothers from PEP participated in the contest, with first place being awarded $35,000 and the second-place winner getting $2,500. It was encouraging to us to hear of PEP brothers doing so well and becoming successful.
Then we set up for Toastmasters and completed Project #5. We listened to brothers talk about their family, hobbies and encouraging words of wisdom. We get to learn about each other through our Toastmasters’ speeches. Today we learned Eric B. was gifted with the talent of playing the drums and has opened up for known bands and artists such as Red-Hot Chili Peppers and artist Jada Kiss. One brother walked us step-by-step on how to inspect a fifth wheel truck and trailer. Another brother spoke on change and where he came from. He sounded very encouraging and lifted up the other brothers. Christopher T. said in his speech that PEP is a team effort.
We ended the day with a pray-out. This is just one of the many good days in PEP.
Randy R. (aka “Snuggle Bear”)
“Show me who you hang around with, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
This is something my dad told me and I’m a strong believer in this, and I say this to my children as well. I always have tried to associate with positive peers to do better for myself, but there are those times when I made poor decisions in life that have led me to where I am now. The bad decisions I’ve made come from when I’ve spent time with negative peers I chose to be around – I don’t know why I do that to myself when I know better, but that’s my past. Everything is changing now that I’m in this wonderful program, PEP, and surround myself with positive peers and nothing less.
Guadalupe R. (aka “Pedro”)
Monday September 5, 2022
Tuesday September 6, 2022
Today in PEP really felt like a Monday, especially with that long three-day Labor Day weekend, which allowed those of us who are bookworms an extra day of studying. Even though not everyone was prepared, we began the day with two tests: one on Chapter Seven (Finance and Accounting) which wasn’t too bad at all; and the other test on Chapter Eight (Business and Financial Analysis), which was a tad bit tougher because it had a lot to do with business ratios. But here in PEP, we hold ourselves to a higher standard of excellence, so therefore we absolutely love ratios!
After the test we had the opportunity to watch a retired judge explain our Chapter Nine PowerPoints which dealt with legal issues and new businesses. To say the least, he was longwinded; however, he was very informative about a subject that isn’t too exciting on a good day, much less a Tuesday that felt like a Monday.
Then, to wake up a normally rowdy audience, the emcee made a show of saving a cricket’s life, and all he was trying to do was live! Then we watched a video from the NOOMA series which aids us in establishing closer relationships with God by asking several rhetorical questions. We then broke for lunch, which should have been taco salad, but since the new kitchen captain is playing games, it was spaghetti.
When we came back from lunch, we did our BetterMan video which raised a question we should all ask ourselves: since life is about keeping score, are we truly keeping track of what’s important? Then we got our tests back – some people got homework for not passing, but we all got at least one assignment that’s due tomorrow. At least tomorrow is Hump Day!
Bryan M. (aka “Elton John”)
Wednesday September 7, 2022
Wednesdays are short because they have Servant Leader meetings after lunch. Servant Leaders are PEP brothers who have graduated; they lead us new guys by example.
We started out with our daily pray-in. Then Ashton S. gave us the Word of the Day. Chaplain Bruce T. came in and updated us on his health. He has been out for the past couple of weeks. We then went over Living in the Village, Chapters 5 and 6. We learned the importance of having a will and where we can find free forms (Mama Bear legal forms), and in Chapter 6 we went over the importance of credit scores and how to repair them. Then we had our test on the Economics of One Unit (EOUs). After that, we prayed-out for the day.
We all thank you for reading over our day.
Darren K. (aka “Slingblade”)
Thursday September 8, 2022
Hello fellow family and friends! It’s another day here at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and the day started with a quick pray-in, thanking God for what he does continuously. Afterwards we began our Toastmasters speeches. I know that some of you might be wondering what Toastmasters is. It’s where we give a 5-7 minute speech in front of the class about whatever motivational topic you want. It’s really just learning to be comfortable with public speaking.
A couple of the groups broke off and went to the computer lab so that they could record their 2nd workshop videos on vision, objectives and financial goals. I was one of the people recording, so I was not part of Toastmasters this time, although I was there long enough to remember the word of the day: “shenanigans.” We usually have to use it in our Toastmasters speeches.
Here at PEP the brotherhood is real, and our teacher, David F., is doing the best that he can to make sure that we are learning something new each and every day. Well, after about two hours of class, the power went out unfortunately, so the entire Unit was racked up for a special count. That was it for our class for today. I’m glad you all decided to read this entry, and I love the fact that you all care. Thank you!
Joshua H. (aka “Geico Lizard”)
Friday September 9, 2022
Today class started like any normal day with the pray-in first, followed by our emcee Ryan B. giving us some words for reflection and encouragement during our Word of the Day. Because it was Friday, our DJ decided that everyone in class should dance instead of the normal three or four. By now it seems that everyone is more or less comfortable with the dancing, and we all had a lot of fun with it. After that, one of our class members shared with the class some of the photos he recently received in the mail of the business knowledge he has gained. Then, In-Prison Manager David F. shared with us how his new business is going and some of the insights he recently learned from his mentor that PEP introduced to him.
The devotional that David F. talked about made many people understand the knowledge of God, and it was a great service. Then we returned to the classroom and did pitch panels. We all listened and got a lot of feedback, and the level of success was good. We prayed out and left to enjoy another weekend after another long, hard and productive PEP-filled week.
Michael B. K. (aka “Rey Mysterio”)
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NLT).
~ The Apostle Paul
This man went from killing Christians to being one of the most prominent men to ever spread the gospel, serve the Lord and stand for what was right. We too can change and do the right things with God’s guidance. One thing is certain: we are all going to die. As this verse says, our body will die, but our spirit will last forever. I would have never thought I would say I’m thankful for coming to prison, but if I didn’t, I would not have a relationship with God. That is priceless! I can truly say I believe in something I cannot see. Prayer is so powerful! We too are praying and soon will be reunited.
Robert C. (aka “Dancing Sugar Bear”)
Monday August 29, 2022
Our class started a little late, around 10 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. David F. opened up the class with a pray-in. David’s playful banters are always uplifting. Ryan B. gave us the Word of the Day, which was “Keep Pushing.” Afterwards, the DJ played music while five random people went to the back of the room to dance up toward the front of class. The dancing is to put us in a good mood and start the day off with fun and happiness.
After the dance, David F. called two groups to the computer room to record the business plan pitches. While they recorded, the rest of the class watched a video by “Chef Jeff.” The video was really motivational for us, inspiring us to tap into our true identity and passion while reminding us never to give up on our dreams. Shortly after the video, Thomas S. went over a cool character self-assessment that’s also related to our identity. This is mainly to help build us into a better man.
The last period of the day we broke into our business groups to talk about our next business pitches, this time for the company CEO and CFO. Today was a very encouraging day to us. Thank you for reading my journal for the day and God Bless.
Hillman D. (aka “Roger the Alien”)
Tuesday August 30, 2022
Today began with our pray-in and a Word of the Day by servant leader Kaleb W. on “the mind is a terrible thing to waste.” We all feel that was powerful motivation, knowing where we are with a lot of talent all around us. A lot of us are getting better, or are at least focused on being better than we were yesterday; then the Lord will release us into our destiny.
We watched Jim H.’s video on Chapters 7 and 8 out of the Entrepreneurship textbook; we were able to follow along and input answers into the chapter test packet. Then we watched a video featuring Les Brown on chasing your dream, which we loved because every day we try to obtain the freedom to do what we want to do.
Then we watched another video, this time from Denzel Washington about not being afraid to fail – that hit home. We have all fallen into prison but are not afraid to get back up and change everything in our lives starting now, behind these walls, by being consistent, working hard and continuing to have goals because we only live once.
We then watched Tim Tebow’s video on how “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Then came the most inspirational video yet: Eric Thomas on “do what you say you’re going to do and you will not outwork me!” We believe that here in PEP, we are all here together and have goals that might change our futures for the better and give us a head start out there in the world.
Then Gerald D. shared an interesting quote as well: “If you have to eat a live frog, it doesn’t help to look at it for a long time,” meaning that if you have a task that needs to be done, get it done quickly and don’t fret over it. Finally, we broke into groups to get our stuff ready for the executives for tomorrow to review our vision and objectives.
Andy R. (aka “Homer Simpson”)
Wednesday August 31, 2022
As usual on Wednesdays, some of the guys reported to the back of the room, and this time it was the CEOs of the companies doing our version of the soul train. Next, we prayed in and thanked the Lord for all of our blessings while we waited on our guests by watching a motivational video about Ken Shamrock, “The Godfather of UFC,” and how it all started for him.
Ken Shamrock is one of the first legends of UFC. What many of us didn’t know is that he is truly an entrepreneur. He started out as just a fighter, but then he finally saw a bigger opportunity in what he was doing, so he made his own brand called “The Lion’s Den.” They would train harder together than they actually fought. That was the real secret, and their standard right when the video ending. David F. gave a small speech as the executive volunteers arrived. We made noise for them and clapped it up as we got into out groups. There were fourteen business pitch groups and eight executives today to give us tips on moving forward in creating our businesses successfully. We rotated the executives and ended up getting very bright business minds from all around Texas who were very intelligent in how to operate a business. They did a great job with our “Compartments” (tiny homes) business as far as helping us create a start-up blueprint to get everything off the ground. Today was only a half a day for the participants, so once our guests left, we prayed out and went to lunch.
Jeremy B. (aka “Ezell”)
Thursday September 1, 2022
We have been trying to get out of the funk of not having recreation for the past month. It’s like they hired a bunch of people, but it seems like they never hired a recreation correctional officer. We still find time in the dorm to exercise daily, but today was the first time in a month we went to recreation, and that was good. We wish they would be more consistent – it’s upsetting when we don’t know when we will have this opportunity again, but we are staying positive and hoping for the best.
Today we did Toastmasters, sharing our stories and testimonies. There were a lot of good stories that I could relate to. I rapped in front of everybody, and I felt proud. We are ready to see how we are going to progress with the Toastmaster’s etiquette.
Randy G. (aka “Andy Milinaukis”)
Friday September 2, 2022
When arriving at class today, we entered with music playing and a bunch of upbeat Servant Leaders greeting us with smiles. It seemed as if everyone was excited for Labor Day weekend coming up. Shortly after everyone arrived, the music ended, and we were told to quiet down with the words “P.R.O.P.S.” (People Respecting Other People Speaking), which is our cue to be quiet and respect the speaker.
At this point, we had a pray-in followed by the Word of the Day, which consists of one of our PEP brothers coming up to share a quote. Then David F. with In-Prison Management said he was going to show us a little surprise video of one of our PEP brothers, Lamont G. (aka “Uncle Phil”). The video was of his business with Alkaline Water. He described a little bit about what he was doing with his business venture out there in the free world before incarceration. Some of the video was humorous and we all laughed, but overall it was a great video.
Once we were done with that, we broke into our business groups to work on our vision and objectives, financials and our “ask” portion of our business plan. We also watched an example video format to get an idea of what the executives will expect of us to pitch to them when we have our Business Plan Competition. After working on our plans, we got one more surprise: we were released early for the day! With all this being said, we hope you all enjoyed this short journal! Thanks for your time and God bless.
Eric B. (aka “CO Morphus”)
“The real secret of power is conciseness of power.”
~ Robert Greene
As I become aware of power and begin to use it, all my questions will be answered. As I begin to have a deeper understanding of the law of attraction, I can make asking questions a habit and as I do, I will receive the answers to each one.
If I am seeking an answer or guidance on something in my life, I have to ask the question “Do I believe I will receive?” The truth is that the universe has been answering me all my life; I cannot receive the answers unless I’m aware, but the channels those answers can come through are unlimited. They can be delivered in the form of a video that I’ve seen in my PEP class, or a conversation with others, or a newspaper headline that attracts my attention. I have to remember to become aware.
I have found that in my life and others’ lives, we do not think well of ourselves or love ourselves completely. Not loving ourselves can keep what we want from us. When I don’t fully love myself, I will literally push things away from me.
Everything we want is motivated by love. It is to experience the feeling of love in having youth, money, or the perfect person, job, body or health. To attract the things we love, we must transmit love, and those things will appear immediately. The catch is that I have to transmit the highest frequency of love for myself. That’s power!
Ricardo Ap. (aka “Baby Pterodactyl”)
Monday August 15, 2022
Today in PEP, we got a late start, but we “got our dance on” and then did a Pray-In before an exalting Word of the Day. We then took a break for a scrumptious and filling lunch of chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, steamed cabbage and buttered cornbread.
Upon returning to class, we watched some of our BetterMan video series, which was very informative and enlightening. Today’s discussion revolved around being or becoming a better dad. We learned that a lot was determined by the way our fathers were either present in our lives or not. What really stood out was the phrase “Dad is destiny,” emphasizing that it is never too late to close the gap with our fathers or our children. We needed to hear that.
Immediately following the BetterMan videos, we split up into our business groups and discussed our upcoming projects. We need to prepare our pitches related to our products and services. It is critical we are prepared by Wednesday, because we have executives coming from the free world to assist us. We are under a lot of stress, but we are learning to deal with that stress with proper preparation and time management. Everyone is working hard and accomplishing so much more than we ever thought possible. We look forward to showing our loved ones how much we have learned and how much we have improved our character. PEP is the best program we have ever been a part of!
John Paul G. (aka “Daddy Yankee”)
Tuesday August 16, 2022
Tuesdays are better than Mondays. Why? Because Monday got the ball rolling for us. We all know that Tuesdays are our Entrepreneurship test day. The day we prove and show all of the studying we have done. After today’s test on Chapter 11, we had our PowerPoint video to prepare for the following chapter. There is always a sense of inspiration and motivation, whether it be through video or an in-person speaker. It would be nice if the rest of the world could experience the positive things we are able to see and hear. Today was a day to reflect on the past and life itself. Our first video was of Martin Luther King Jr. to motivate us. This was followed by a Nooma video called Luggage. It talked about how we all hold grudges. We want revenge and to even the score. That is the “luggage” we carry all of our lives that weighs us down and drags us down as well. It is unnecessary! One word that nobody wants to consider can help deal with all the luggage: forgiveness.
You always have a beginning and an ending to a day. We begin our days with what we call a “Pray-In‘’ and end with “Pray-Out.” There is never a boring moment for us. It’s truly amazing when we are able to smile, laugh and maybe cut up a little bit while moving forward. Well world, every day is a better day. We all keep pushing and striving forward toward success, educating and bettering ourselves, and not just for ourselves, but for all of our families and loved ones. God bless everyone!
Pablo T. (aka “Yoda”)
Wednesday August 17, 2022
Good day everyone!
Today at the Sanders Estes Unit’s Prison Entrepreneurship Program, we got an awesome opportunity to network and get some advice. We started the day by praying to God for blessings and thanking Him for all He does. And how thankful are we!
Once we got into our business plan groups, executive volunteers arrived to advise us on how to activate our business plans. Our class gained valuable insights regarding business plans. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to return to our housing areas for a recount of inmates. Once all that was successfully accomplished, we returned to the classroom to implement the suggestions given to us. For those of us who still had not done an initial recording of the team introductions, we went to record. We officially closed the day with a prayer to God for all that He does for us and for blessing us with this fantastic opportunity. Overall, the experience of meeting successful executives is uplifting and inspiring, giving us a chance to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our experiences here at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.
Rafael P. (aka “Ricky Martin”)
Thursday August 18, 2022
Today we tried to go to class in the morning, but class was closed, so we came back to the dorm and drank some coffee. About 30 minutes later, my PEP brothers asked, “Are you ready to make a video?” It was our first team video. We went to the computer room and made the BPC video, and it was good! Then after that, we used flashcards so we would be ready for Tuesday’s test on Chapter 6. An hour later, they called us for chow. The classroom still was not open, so we went back to the dorm.
We started reading the book Living in the Village, but a few minutes later they told us to get ready for our PEP class. Once we all arrived, the Servant Leader started talking about our class schedule and the next thing we knew, we were standing in the front of the class explaining our group video.
We reviewed the video, and everyone was happy with it, so we went to the back of the class. The Servant Leader showed a video about self-reflection and how to live as a better person. Each group then worked together on Big Idea pitches before praying out. When I went back to the dorm, I said, “Thank you God for another day.”
Rafael P. (aka “Nacho Libre”)
Friday August 19, 2022
We all went into the PEP classroom, grabbed our ID badges and then sat down in our assigned seats. Some of our brothers got called up to dance. I’ve seen that we are getting more comfortable with each other by the way we dance. Our brother David F. and Gerald D. danced as we sat down after our Pray-In and the Word of the Day. When we were seated, we listened to Pat M. (aka “Precious”) and Ryan B. (aka “Fake Drake”) give us a speech. We also listened to Mario B. as he “owned” his fun name, which is Animal; it was funny, and everyone in class will agree with me about that.
In the afternoon, Louis S. showed how he owns his fun name of “Mr. Potato Head.” So as Pat M. went on, it was time to take the Living in the Village test. Chaplin Bruce T. was not here this week, so we had a couple more days to study, which was good for a lot of us. The class passed the test, which was excellent for all of us, but for a few need to have more integrity to study for it the next time!
After that we went to chow, but it still wasn’t ready, so we had time to get started on our discussion about our book True North. We had a good discussion about it. (Some of our brothers really didn’t read the book, but we will try to help each other out with that next time.) Once we got back from chow, we watched a movie. The movies that we could pick from were Dr. Strange and Jurassic World. We ended up watching Dr. Strange, and it was a good choice! That was what finished our day in PEP.
Sergio T. (aka “Flacco”)
“Any concern too small to be turned into prayer is too small to be a burden.”
~ Corrie Ten Boom
Most people take their anger out on themselves because they don’t know how to handle certain problems. What we fail to realize is that we don’t have to handle anything at all! All we have to do is pray and put it in God’s hands. He will take care of the rest. A lot of us don’t know who God is because we won’t allow Him in. If anything is bothering us, and we don’t call on the one true healer, then maybe the problem isn’t as complex as we think. Maybe it’s just reality, but we can still pray about that too. It doesn’t have to be a big problem for us to pray, because God can fix all problems, big or small.
We all are human, and we all go through certain phases in life. We have to learn how to cope and build ourselves up in order to get to the next level. By lifting up our problems, we also gain knowledge, so when the next problem comes up, we will at least have an idea about how to deal with it. One example has to do with the loss of loved ones (friends, family, etc.). We like to dwell on it, grieving over the fact that we lost them. We sometimes hear people say things like, “God took them away from us.” But when we pray, God relieves us from all burdens, including the loss of loved ones. Remember that God loves all of us, and we can call on Him any time, through both the bad and the good.
James T. (aka “Prospector [from Toy Story]”)
Tuesday August 9, 2022
Today, class began as usual, with our “Pray-In” followed by the “Word of the Day.” We then jumped right into our weekly test on entrepreneurship. This week’s test was different from previous weeks, because we only had one test with thirty minutes to complete it. Before we’ve had two tests with twenty-five minutes to finish. Next, we viewed an inspirational video by Eric Thomas entitled Start from Nothing. It featured Arnold Swartzeneggar, Michael Phelps, Serena Williams and others. After the video, we picked teams for the “Big Idea” competition. Then, we had our first test as a team: we had to compete by building a tower using three feet of tape, three feet of string, 10 pieces of spaghetti and a marshmallow. Our team did well! Then, we went to lunch.
After lunch, David F., spoke about a leadership book True North written by Bill George and Peter Sims. The book was handed out, and we were instructed to read it by next Friday. Carl B. went over Chapter 11 with us via video. The practice tests and flash cards were passed out and our nerves, emotions and brains are geared-up for next week’s test! Yeah!
Today’s test was handed out. Then, Alberto L. went over the answers and met with PEP brothers who had issues with their test scores. Louis S. spoke with our class about Friday’s event, when executives met PEP brothers to discuss our “Big Ideas.” The event was a huge success and everyone was very happy. Thank you cards were handed out. We were given four, but many PEP brothers wanted more. We don’t want any of the executives to feel left out. We wish the best to each one and hope to see them again. Every PEP brother is thankful to every executive! Even if the executives didn’t speak to every individual, he or she did speak with a PEP brother, and for that we are grateful! Thank you all!
Following all of today’s events, we had an accountability reckoning for Jack B. and Adam R. They each had to face the “Wheel of Doom.” Jack B. had to pose as a sheep and Adam R. had to pose as a wormy dog. Yes, the “Wheel of Doom” is real, people!
As is our custom, we prayed out. Our day was both educational and entertaining.
John M. (aka “Roy Orbison”)
Wednesday August 10, 2022
Hello and good morning! This morning was a little hectic. Today was our Living in the Village test. Just like any other test day, we got right down to business. The DJ set the timer and everyone was off. For the first time in this class, everyone – and I mean everyone – finished before the clock ran out. Afterwards, we had video time with the chaplain, Bruce T. He sang, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” and all at once, everyone said “won’t you be my neighbor.” We all watched videos on the next chapter. We also watched several videos about budgeting. A handout was passed out to list all of our tangible assets (a net worth statement). You list all tangible assets and possessions to sum up your net worth. One of the videos was about life insurance and the different plans and rates that are offered.
Afterwards, Bruce T. gave us all good ideas about the type of policies we should get and the types not to get. The main thing to remember is that they want, and their goal is, to separate you from your money. And no, buying insurance is not investing. On Wednesday, there is no second half for class. So, after the last video we all prayed out, returned our badges to the board and filed out of the room. There is really something about this class.
Thank you everyone and God bless.
Nasser A. (aka “The Penguin”)
Thursday August 11, 2022
Thursdays in PEP are always my favorite. Today in the first half of class, we didn’t start out the traditional way, but it was still enjoyable. We finished part two of the BetterMan series, which was very enlightening. The title of today’s lesson was “Unpacking.” We talked about not carrying all the baggage from past experiences into our future. Then we were blessed to hear some of the wisdom on execution from our PEP brother, Brandon G. He opened most of our eyes to the fact that an idea is worthless without execution.
For the second part of class, we had “Toastmasters,” my favorite part! It was amazing to see some of my PEP brothers open up more to the class and grow their abilities to speak in front of us all. Toastmasters plays a huge role in training us to become entrepreneurs. We have to be able to articulate our thoughts and ideas in a proper manner, otherwise an idea will just be an idea.
We here at PEP would like to thank you all for the support you’re showing us and the knowledge and wisdom you share with us all!
De’shon H. (aka “Money Mike”)
Friday August 12, 2022
Due to our devotional, we started class around lunch time today. Matthew N. went over the thank you cards we were asked to do. He stated very clearly that moving forward, he will not let any thank you cards be sent with errors on them.
All the business team CEOs got together with their “employees” and were asked to add and edit their product/service offering. The class seemed thrilled to get the experience and understanding of what it takes to open and run a successful business. We went to lunch and returned shortly afterward.
James L. read all of the praise reports that were given out to the brothers. Quite a few brothers who had a significant amount of praise were allowed to take a picture with a sign around their neck that identified them as “being caught doing good”! Everyone in the class felt proud of themselves for the praise!
Gerardo U. (aka “Baby Joker”) had forgotten to put his nametag on during class, and he was definitely held accountable. He was allowed a “Wheel of Doom” in lieu of homework (but all of this was done in good fun). Unfortunately, he landed on “Shakira” and had to do a funny dance to her music. The class had a good laugh, and it also taught us never to forget to put our name tag during class, and that we need to pay attention to what’s going on! Otherwise, you might have to shake your tail feather just like Shakira!
We watched some videos and received a lot of helpful and valuable information. David F. explained and did an illustration on the whiteboard for the class on how to save money when paying down your home mortgage. He explained to the class that if you have a fixed rate to pay monthly, that not all of your payment goes to the principal. A percentage will be taken out to pay for the interest accrued. David F. stated that if you pay additional money than what you’re expected to pay each month, no interest will be deducted and that money goes to the principal (depending on your contract stipulations). The class learned why it is a smart choice to pay extra if you can afford to do so. Then we prayed to end the day.
Alejandro S. (aka “Mr. Clean”)
“I am a product of my circumstance.”
~ Stephen Covey
I am a product of my decision. What this quote means to me is no matter what I’m going through rather it be good or bad it was my decision I choose to make! Also, the choices I have made have been bad ones, but I do not let that define who I am as a man. I’ve learned from my mistakes and I ready to move on for the betterment of my life. I refused to stay stuck in the past.
I haven’t been to prison in over 10 years. It’s hard on my family because I’m here again; especially my kids, mom, and sister. My kids are so used to me being around even though they are grown. They’re use to being able to call me and talk about things they are going through. They know one thing; I’m encouraging them if they need me. It’s also the same for my mom and sister, so if they call me they know I’m coming. Recently my pops died while I’m stuck in here.
My family told me he held on as long as he could, he thought I would’ve made parole by now. He wanted to talk with me and tell me himself if he was sick. This situation made me reevaluate my life and also think about who I would let into my life again. The choice I made to try and fix a relationship that has been broken for years is costing me 3 years of my life now! “I am not a product of my circumstance, but a product of my decision.”
Reginald J. (aka “Morpheus”)
Monday August 1, 2022
Today’s class started a little later than normal, meaning we had to wait to go to lunch, so some people were getting a bit grumpy. Once class started and our guests Tara F. and Jeff H. arrived, we all calmed down and enjoyed ourselves! Tara F. gave us some insight on PEP’s Driving Value of “Love” and how some of us use it – maybe without realizing it – in our everyday lives. Tara F. also informed us that the executive volunteers are really excited to see us at the live event this Friday. Our other speaker, Jeff H., talked about what the Driving Value of “Excellence” really is. He said something that left the whole class with ideas: “We don’t necessarily have to be great to do something, but to just simply start is great.” After stating this, Jeff H. talked about how being excellent in everything we do helps us become better as men. After they spoke, we had a quick lunch break before returning to class. When everybody had returned to class, Tara F. and Jeff H. answered a few questions pertaining to starting and managing our businesses. Tara F. also told us that the executive volunteers have a lot of business knowledge to share with us.
After thanking our speakers, David F. showed us a video of a graduate and how he is marketing the business he started. We think he may have wanted to show us that he still works out, too. Another video showed us a new parolee to one of PEP’s transitional homes. He is doing well now, and he showed us his brand-new Chevrolet Equinox that he just purchased! Everyone felt motivated and inspired. We ended class with a project that we are still working on – it was nice interacting with each other while we were creating our “Vision Boards.”
Well, that was it for today. Thanks for reading about what’s going on in class!
Joshua H. (aka “Geico Lizard”)
Tuesday August 2, 2022
Assalamu’ alaikum! Peace to you!
Tuesday seems like the Goliath day of the week: uncertain, outmatched, and under-rated, we still seem to overcome. All we have to do is apply ourselves and not allow the small things to distract us from our purpose. Instead, we should look forward to the beginning of each week as a chance to pursue excellence.
Today we arrived and conducted our Pray-In as per usual, but not before we turned in all our assignments as instructed. Everyone seemed anxious because we had a test over chapters 3 & 4 of our Entrepreneurship textbook. Time management is essential to your personal success in this program. After the test was conducted, a segment of the program called “Issues and Tissues” granted my PEP brothers to state their case if they disputed any answers that were marked wrong.
We began watching a video from one of the executives that covered Chapter 5, which was very informative and valuable. We always find inspiration through the support of those executives who believe in us and utilize multiple resources to make us successful. We are truly grateful! Cindy V., one of the PEP business advisors, spoke with confidence, and we could tell she was knowledgeable on the subject. We also noticed her personality come through the video, so that was refreshing.
After viewing the Chapter 5 video we were dismissed for lunch. We had the luxury of enjoying gourmet sausages (LOL). The sides today were macaroni and cheese and beans, plus the cake was pretty good too.
After a brief lunch break, we returned to the classroom where several individuals, including myself, broke the ice by going to the “back of the room.” That’s something that is done several times a day by any and everyone who participates in PEP. This includes executives and staff. Both sides of the classroom stand to their feet; the DJ selects a tune; and you dance down the center aisle, either individually or with a group. We tend to relax after this, and then we watched a heartfelt video that reminded us of our importance in our homes, communities and our loved ones’ lives. It reminded us to be more time conscious and to make sure our desires and our actions align with one another.
David F. gave a talk about IRAs and financial literacy, which is always appreciated. We tend to tune in more when he speaks about personal finances. Afterwards, we finished our vision boards, which allowed us to escape the environment for a while.
That concluded our day, and we are looking forward to tomorrow. We sincerely appreciate any and all support. We are praying for you as you are for us. Thank you for your time and consideration!
Leo G. (aka “Crazy Legs”)
Wednesday August 3, 2022
Hello Friends and Family!
Where to begin; there is so much we did in class today, it was amazing. Today in the classroom, Chaplain Bruce T. came to teach the class about budgeting from the book we are reading called Living in the Village. There is so much to know about handling money the right way and not getting caught up in consumer traps. This chapter on budgeting has some useful information we learned that should be shared back home with our families. This information could help them get a head start on controlling their money and creating a budget. That way, when we are released, we are ahead of the game because our loved ones are on board with us about money. That was the first half of the day with Bruce T.
The second half of the day was a servant-leader meeting; this is a meeting that only involves the servant-leaders (PEP graduates) of course, but also includes team leaders (either PEP graduates or current participants) who are appointed to a position. In the meeting, we watched a movie based on the book called The Hate U Give. Basically, it is about a young black kid who gets killed by a cop when the officer mistakenly thought a hairbrush was a weapon. The whole time, the kid’s friend witnessed the events from the passenger seat. Now it is up to this friend to speak up and be a voice for his friend who died. There was something that the dad in the film said to his kids that really hit home: “Reasons to live, give reasons to die.” That statement really hit home. Truly this is a must-see film with a great and powerful message.
Overall this program is really pushing us past our limits. Honestly, the scariest part to all of this is change. We have been so conditioned to be comfortable and not change that when we go through change, it is like, “Hold up! Slow down! What is going on here? This is not comfortable at all!” In reality, we must be willing to change in order to grow and develop into the men we were always meant to be. We must change for our families; we must change for our communities; but most of all, we must change for ourselves.
Frederick O. (aka “Bubba Gump”)
Thursday August 4, 2022
Well, today stared with the same song and dance – literally! Every other day, a song is put on and a few guys are picked to dance from the back of the room to the front. This is done for a couple of reasons: first is to lighten the mood, and second is to set the tone for the day. We then prayed in and a fellow brother recited the inspirational Word of the Day. We then got stared with Toastmasters, which is what we usually do every Thursday. Toastmasters is an exercise in which we all pick topic to speak about, and then we go to the front of the class to share it. This is done to help us get comfortable with speaking in front of a crowd.
This was only the second time the class has done Toastmasters, but the difference between last week’s speeches and this week’s was huge. We could all see how much more comfortable everyone was speaking in front of each other. Everyone participated and made sure to uplift and encourage our fellow brothers. The day ended with David F. letting us know what to expect tomorrow at the Big Event, which everyone is excited for. We then prayed out. In closing, it seems as though the class as a whole is becoming closer every day, and the camaraderie is infectious. Even PEP brothers from previous classes can feel it.
Thank you all for taking time out of your day to read about ours. God bless!
Eric D. (aka “Eeyore [Winnie-the-Pooh]”)
Friday August 5, 2022
Hi to everyone interested in reading the big and small challenges we go through in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. We are learning many things about ourselves that we didn’t know before. When we are ready, we can show others the many talents we have to offer in a positive environment. We are designed to work either for the greater good or for positive ways to make a right connection to the universe. Now that we fully understand, we are prepared to do what is right to make it.
Our first in-person event in two years showed us that we have great support from PEP’s executive volunteers. We may all have different backgrounds, but we came out swinging and did a wonderful job, thanks to everyone putting in the effort. We were glad that the executives took time out their busy schedules to share some of their experience with us.
After the Pray-In, we watched recordings of our pitches as well as the executives vote and speak about their selections. There was silence in the room, but it was good to see fear mixed with pure excitement on each other’s faces. After the event, we ate a variety of cookies and took pictures as well. By the grace of God, everything went well, and we prayed out. We all said our goodbyes and hope the next event will be even better than this one.
Dexter I. (aka “Tyrone Biggums”)
“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less
than the one you are capable of living.”
~ Nelson Mandela
There are people in this world who find their passion and what they want to be in life by age 12. Only a chosen few actually pursue their dream of success, whatever that may be. When hardship, trials and tribulations happen, it’s tough for a lot of people to continue pushing forward to unlock the human potential within themselves. I believe that happiness comes from achievements. Everyone in this world has a goal to one day live a great life. The problem is that people aren’t willing to sacrifice and give what it takes to leave a legacy to remember.
A person who can’t think will always be at the mercy of a person who can. With that saying, the message is deep in many ways. For example; you had plans to one day have your own business, but instead of going to school and earning a degree and putting it to use, you settled for a job you absolutely dread going to that pays $14.50 an hour. That’s settling when you have potential to be the next billionaire. I tend to look back on my own life diary and see that I settled for a life that way less than my capabilities. I thank God above that he’s giving me another chance to live the life I’m capable of living. I 100% guarantee that not one homeless person had a goal to be homeless. With no direction or determination, it’s easy to settle rather than grind and make a difference in your life. Coming to prison was nowhere in my plans or dreams, but I’m here. I am thankful for this experience because it has opened my eyes, and it hurts to see I am not living the life I am supposed to live. People, places and choices are very important to consider while in pursuit of obtaining the life you want to live. Nobody can do it alone.
I’m determined to reach my full potential of myself and live the life I am capable of living. Being a positive role model for my kids, family and community is the goal. I have to hold myself accountable at all times and be receptive when someone holds me accountable. I will lead others to live the life they are capable of living, if they are willing to do all that is required. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
Devonte G. (aka “Chocolate Drop”)
Monday July 25, 2022
This morning, we had a little bit of a late start but nonetheless we got right down to business! Everyone was on time and had homework turned in right before we had our daily Pray-In. Those of us who did not record our Big Idea moved into the computer lab and finished up while the rest of the class watched Nooma videos 1 and 2. There was still a good number of us who needed to record, but due to the lack of MTC staff we didn’t have an officer to sit in while the rest of the group finished. David F. spoke briefly on our tests for Chapters 1 and 2, informing us to be ready and the importance of these first two tests. Before everyone went to lunch, we made a little game out of the test questions, gauging the readiness of the class for tomorrow’s test.
After lunch, market research requests were passed out along with examples. We were instructed to keep and return the paper the following day. Then we dove right into our BetterMan video while following along in our booklets. Afterwards, David F. gave an amazing testimony of his own experiences relating to the content of the video. After BetterMan, we topped it off with assigning the last of the fun names. The guys were laughing and clapping – the energy was really good and very uplifting. It was a beautiful thing to see the guys coming out of their shells and having a good time. We were at the end of the class, and it was time to pray out. As everyone bowed their heads, you could see some holding of hands and some shoulder hugging. As the prayer ended, everyone said amen and clapped as one.
Nasser A. (aka “The Penguin”)
Tuesday July 26, 2022
Today was our second day into our second full week of PEP. We started out quickly awaiting the Pray-In and the Word of the Day. Tests were passed and words of integrity were instilled. Many of us were relieved as the first two chapter tests were completed. At lunch, we enjoyed a great taco salad while folks were thinking about their results.
Upon returning to class, we sat and viewed the Chapter 3 introduction given by Carl B. (aka “Annie Lennox”) which lays the groundwork for business idea generation. The objectives included a systematic means of examining skills in order to generate viable business ideas and discussing opportunity analysis and its elements. We also analyzed how to go about choosing a business. It was very informative and to be honest, there were probably some whose interest was piqued after Carl B. stated his credentials of accounts he oversaw during his career (Proctor and Gamble, Telecom), which were both impressive and motivating.
Afterwards, we moved into the “Issues and Tissues” portion of the class where we go over test answers. Overall, the class did well. We will strive to help everyone achieve the best grades through supporting each other and strengthening everyone’s knowledge, understanding and retention for a higher overall class standard.
My observation of program participation is one of a desire to succeed and achieve excellence. As one fellow PEP member says, “A step at a time” – but my favorite quote so far from him is this: “It ain’t but a step for a stepper.” It’s all about taking those first steps to build the beginning and eventually being fully vested in character, stepping surely toward better men and bright futures on whatever paths we choose in life. Thank you for your time and attention!
Clyde B. (aka “Jackie Chan”)
Wednesday July 27, 2022
Today we had a prosperous day in class. The class started with our daily Pray-In, and after that we were blessed to have Chaplin Bruce T. teach us Living in the Village. He did a great job breaking it down even better with a little history about the Great Depression; we also discussed financial literacy (always know what is going on with your money), pension plans, and the importance of being disciplined with your spending and your money so that we don’t go back to doing the things that got us in prison. Bruce T. emphasized following a great game plan, so we need to know our skills and how to use them. After that we watched a “NOOMA” video that shared some good messages as well.
Then we had a lip sync contest and an ugly face dance off, which was fun for the class! We also watched this great video that was a Navy SEAL Admiral speaking about how making your bed is your first accomplishment of the day. Even if you don’t do anything else that day, you know you made your bed. You will also run across “sharks,” which are the people who want nothing more than to bring you down. So knowing that there are people like that, you must stand your ground and be able to do positive things in your life. That is what the video was all about. Soon after, count cleared, and then we all prayed out for the day. Thank you for reading!
George M. (aka “Juan Diesel”)
Thursday July 28, 2022
Today in class was a special one – not only for the new class, but for everyone involved. We are the first class to get the executive volunteers back since the COVID pandemic which has been felt by everyone throughout the world. We started the day with a few guys picked at random to dance, then we were graced with a great Word of the Day from one of our brothers during our daily Pray-In. After that, we had our first guest, Michael G., who had us do a nifty little exercise to see how our subconscious is always in action. It showed us a small example about how word association works. Shortly after that, he shared his very moving testimony with us. It never ceases to amaze how far these brothers of ours in PEP have come and all they have achieved since leaving these very seats we sit in now. The motivation and hope it gives us is overwhelming. It is also such a relief to know you will not always be defined by your past. Another brother, Donald J., joined us as well. He is a dancing machine! He had the whole class in a “Soul Train” line. A few guys enjoyed it so much they went through twice. The message he brought with his testimony as well was eye opening. It is a wild feeling when you see men from all walks of life come together through such an amazing program. Well, we hope you enjoyed a small look into this day we had! Thank you so much for your continued support.
Brandon C. (aka “[You Don’t Mess with the] Zohan”)
Friday July 29, 2022
Here at PEP, we began our second time this week on our Toastmasters journey. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a class on public speaking. We each speak about our life experiences or something that interests us. Our brothers had the courage and commitment to stand and speak on some very emotional topics. It is not easy for some of us; in fact; it’s terrifying! We feel the pain in our brothers’ speeches and witnessed their personal growth. When we hear their testimony, it gives us strength, courage and motivation. This will help us meet the challenges and make the changes we will need to succeed. We will use this tool for success in life no matter what is in store for us in the future. As long as we continue to grow as a team, the sky is the limit. We will be able to accomplish anything we set our mind to.
One thing is for sure: here at PEP, change is on the way for everyone! Each man in this program wants to be a better version of himself. We are all here today to make a change, no matter what the cost or sacrifice. So, we will continue to encourage each other, and we hope all of you reading this will show your support. We have come very far, but we have a long way to go. We need love and support in our journey!
Thank you and God bless!
Shannon D. (aka “Larry the Cable Guy”)
“Life isn’t about finding shelter in the storm. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
~ Sherilyn Kenyon
I honestly think that life is made up of constant storms that you either endure or get lost in. I have been lost in a couple, and I can say that at least I made it out okay. Some of the storms I had to take head on and make myself have fun through it, even if it was miserable! All in all, storms make you stronger and give you the courage to stand tall through the next one. Life is not always going to be sunny, and when the clouds roll in and things are looking gloomy, you’ve got to have a little fun and make the best of the situation at hand.
I remember when I got sentenced on this charge, and it felt like the biggest storm was rolling in on me. I was scared and afraid, and I thought my life was over. It hit me – I didn’t know what to do. As the storm was over me, I started to dance and embrace it. I have a lot of time to fix and find out who I really was then and adjust it now in order to make myself a better man. My relationship with my life has gotten so much better. I’m in the best stage of my life; I completed a substance abuse program and have read over 100 books so far. Now I’m in this PEP program and looking forward to being released and starting my new life. This storm has opened my eyes and made me dance like I never have before in my life.
Matthew H. (aka “Macklemore”)
Monday July 18, 2022
This day started a little late due to count time, but once we got there our transformation began! We started the day with our uplifting “Pray-In” and “Word of the Day.” This was combined with our leaders setting the energetic mood with music and dancing. Our first half started with orientation along with more books, badges, and seats being assigned to us. With pen and paper at the ready, we talked of one of our 10 Driving Values: “Accountability.” Sometimes the “snitching” mentality sets in here, and we discussed the differences between holding each other accountable for each other’s mental, spiritual and emotional growth and “snitching.” A lot of emphasis was put on the accountability process and recapped with a short video from other classes that have completed PEP before us. Then we broke for lunch.
After we ate and recharged our minds, we returned and established the “energy” in the room with more dancing and music as a group! David F. started the intro on business structure and learning “the game of real estate.” Very inspiring! Then we were introduced to the history of PEP, starting in 2004 (under a different name) by founder Catherine R. and when PEP landed here at Sanders Estes in 2014. This program is really a fraternity, with each of us being assigned our “fun names.” We ended the day with a special moment: a “Pray Out” where several brothers saying goodbye to another brother who left on parole. (You’re also able to say a little something to yourself if you’re here when the video is made for encouragement later on.) We ended with our “Pray-Out” for the day. OMG – this was just the first day of the week! Thank you for reading my journal entry!
Lamont G. (aka “Uncle Phil”)
Tuesday July 19, 2022
Hello – today is our second day of the week in our PEP adventure! We arrived at the PEP room a little after 8 a.m. Everyone is still getting used to life here at the Sanders Estes Unit. For the most part everyone is super excited about our fresh new start. When we arrived, exciting music was playing over the speakers: the DJ was getting the day started right! It was refreshing being greeted by so many positive smiling faces. We start each day with the “Pray-In” and “Word of the Day.” In order to be the one who says these to the class, you have to go to the back of the room and dance to the front. It’s hilarious! – but also fun. Lamont G. gave a quote from Jim Rome that said, “To judge a man’s true character, take a look at his Top 5 people he surrounds himself with.”
After that, we dove right into the Entrepreneurship textbook. We watched two videos that covered Chapters 1 & 2. We received two practice tests and two sets of flash cards to study for our upcoming test. Lastly, Thomas S. gave us a paper with positive affirmations from famous and inspiring people. Here’s a great quote from H. Jackson Brown Jr.: “The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” We closed the day with Jared B. giving our “Pray Out” – it was a great and inspiring prayer. Thank God we’re surrounded by our PEP brothers!
Charlie L. (aka “Barney Rubble”)
Wednesday July 20, 2022
“Your attitude affects how you behave, whether you realize it or not. And how you behave affects what situations you end up in…” This is how our class began this morning with the Word of the Day from Mr. Bryan M. What he said was very true: our attitudes do affect us in various ways, but they also have an effect on those around us as well. PEP is providing is providing us opportunities to change our attitudes from negative to positive, which allows us to grow within ourselves and gives us a chance to shed, or better yet break down the barriers we were once subjected to. For instance, a brother made a decision that caused him to have to participate in the “Wheel of Doom.” He could have made a big deal out of what he had to do, but his positive attitude kept him from getting in even more trouble.
We also discussed our business pitch ideas and how the “Four Boxes” were to be used as a guide to formulate our ideas into words. Then came the part where we had to share our business ideas in front of the class. Many of us were nervous, and for most of us it seemed like a “Life or Death” situation, but we all embraced the moment, faced our fears and walked off knowing that we took a major step in the transformation process for ourselves – and it felt good! I was not only proud of myself but of my brothers as well. It’s a beautiful thing to see people who want to change for the better take the initiative in doing so.
We all have bright futures ahead of us, and we are grateful that PEP is giving us a chance to achieve excellence. Thank you for taking time to read this, and may you prosper in all that you do!
Jordan M. (aka “Chocolate Yoda”)
Thursday July 21, 2022
Good afternoon! – hopefully everyone had as great a day as we have had. Today was our first Toastmasters session, and there was definitely a lot of anxiety in the room! Being the new class and on our fourth day of Prison Entrepreneurship Program, we didn’t know exactly what to expect, nor how to handle speaking in front of our peers for the first time. For some, it was the first time in their life to speak in front of an audience. Everyone was worried and stressed about having to speak for four-six minutes, but once we started, most of us were still speaking when the six-minute mark was reached. During these morning speeches, it was noticeable that our peers were paying attention to their fellow PEP brothers, and it started getting a little more relaxed.
Our current class of students left early before lunch so that the recent graduates could take their graduation cap and gown pictures and receive their certificates from Baylor University, as well as support letters from PEP. This wasn’t done on schedule because of the recent lockdown, but PEP made sure they got to experience their cap-and-gown moment nonetheless. Seeing all of this really gives us something to strive for! We already have so much to look forward to by completing this program, but seeing the actual certificate and letter makes it even more real for us.
When we got back to class after lunch, the room was much calmer, and it seemed Toastmasters got less stressful. It felt really good to get the first speech done!
Micah S. (aka “Boomhower”)
Friday July 22, 2022
Every Friday morning, a devotional is held in the classroom, which usually shortens our in-class activities for that specific day. Today, we only had about two hours of interaction and participation. We began the day as we typically do, with a very uplifting Pray-In as well as a much-needed Word of the Day. These are both helpful and insightful, as they show genuine concern to start everyone off on the right track.
Next, we watched a highly motivational movie based on the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” The video was entertaining, but the moral of the story is very applicable to business-minded people, stressing the point of never being fearful of change and always embracing the idea of something different if necessary.
Lastly, we discussed the video for about 30 minutes before watching our final video featuring motivational speaker, Dr. Eric Thomas. Dr. Thomas said very encouraging phrases during his influential speech. One thing that caught my attention is when he stated that he is not a victim but a victor! Every day is a blessing in the PEP program, and today was just a mere glimpse into the peephole of success!
Antoine B. (aka “Pookie”)
“The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder;
a waif, a nothing, a no man.”
~ Thomas Carlyle
What is the purpose of life? One’s life is driven by something. There are hundreds of circumstances: emotions (including anger and guilt), values, worries, fears, resentments, materialism, etc. I was made to have meaning and a purpose in life. I concentrate my efforts and energy on what’s important. I don’t forget that without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has neither significance nor hope. Hope is as essential to my life as air and water. Knowing my purpose always produces passion; it energizes and motivates my life. This is my joy.
Many have spent their lives trying to create a lasting legacy. Some want to be remembered when they’re gone, yet what ultimately matters most will not be what others say about your life, but what God says. What we fail to realize is that all achievements are eventually surpassed, records are broken, reputations fade, and tributes are forgotten. Each of us will stand before the judgment seat of God and give a personal account of everything we’ve said and done. God will say “What did you do with my son Jesus? Did you accept what He did for you? Did you learn to love and trust Him?” So find your real purpose that God made you for. Living on purpose is the path to peace.
Like the ship, we are joined together, built together, heirs together, fitted together and held together. Fellowship brings us together in inspiration and guidance. There are no difficult situations, only pathways to real significance. I learned to love my neighbor and make the most of what I’ve been given. I’ve grown in my character and personality, and I’ve broadened my experiences through knowledge and understanding. I will prevail by living to my fullest potential with God’s blessings. Whenever we have the opportunity, we have to do what is good for everyone, especially for the family of believers: dedication, accountability, excellence, love and fun!
Robert A. (aka “Michael Knight”)
Tuesday July 12, 2022
Today was a great day in class; we all had a fun time! Even though it didn’t feel like the start of a new class because we were taking care of admin things, we still had a few laughs and claps nevertheless; the program leaders danced to the front of the room and did an awesome job. Well, to tell the truth, for being the start of a new class, it was more of an introduction to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program’s (PEP) rules and regulations. We see it more like the beginning of another chapter to our journey. Getting to not only hear what the class is all about but also meeting new faces and witnessing change in some of these brothers will be a rewarding experience. It is wonderful to see the impact that this program has had in the lives of a lot of these brothers.
The program seems very good, and there is a lot to learn. We see a great class commencing very soon. The rules are not that bad at all – what was explained by the leaders is pretty much common sense. There is a lot of seriousness in them, but also the zeal to help us new brothers. Yes, there will be bumps on the road, but it will get smoother. David F., our In-Prison Manager, is a great guy. Not only great, but also a godly man and has a good heart for the people. The same, we feel, for the leaders who have been appointed to help with the program.
We were astonished at the way the Toastmasters brother presented his speech. There is a lot of talent within everyone, and this program is a God-given blessing. We are looking forward to see the great positive outcome for us all.
It has been a pleasure, and I hope this inspires many others. PEP rocks!
Ricardo A. (aka “TBD”)
Wednesday July 13, 2022
Thursday July 14, 2022
We brothers entered the domain of PEP, skeptical or otherwise. This is a new journey for most of us. At the start of the day, after our Pray-In, we went over the Word of the Day. While this isn’t verbatim, it dealt with us “getting in our own way.” Certainly, at least a few of us found truth in that statement. This was followed by a most intriguing video about the separate personality types and character traits. It’s amazing to know how diverse, complex, and unique every single one of us brothers are in our nature. Yet, through development, mental growth, and certain choices or decisions, there stands the potential for each one of our lives to coincide with another. At least some of us may be of that opinion! Afterwards, we filled out a survey that gave us the impression that it would show those of us who have never questioned our characters or personalities a little bit more about who we think we are. It’s very exciting, yet scary, to find out or even just have the thought that we may not know everything about ourselves. How do we find out more?
Next, we had the pleasure of finally meeting a much-anticipated guest, Mr. Phi T. (Chief Operations Officer for PEP). He told us a little more about PEP, which is what we all want to know. Then, he explained the “Four Boxes” for the business idea and how they are to be perceived; then incorporated into our short speeches that will be recorded for the Business Plan Competition. It’s also probable that this is one of the many techniques for getting us out of our comfort zones. Sneaky, yet relevant for character development – essential for growth, but that may have been unbeknownst to some of us brothers.
Next was a visit from Mr. Pat M. (Director of In-Prison Initiatives); interesting fellow indeed! Apparently, both of our guests had come up with a business idea for the “4 Boxes” presentation, and they were initially supposed to present it together. However, the only thing guaranteed in life is change. That being said, due to unforeseen circumstances, Pat M. was unavailable for the presentation, so it didn’t last as long as planned. That isn’t to say that this short experience didn’t bear fruit. He went over his involvement with PEP since 2006 and how his life has been positively touched by it, even though (in his words) he is only a step-child. He himself didn’t sit in our chairs but did work within the PEP domain up close and personal for three years.
Today was a great day, and we all look forward to our journey!
Ashton S. (aka “Smokey Robinson”)
Friday July 15, 2022
“Life isn’t about finding shelter in the storm. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
~ Sherilyn Kenyon
I find that life is really just a series of storms: you either just went through a storm, you’re going through a storm, or you are about to go through a storm. Previously, I would close myself off from everyone. For example, years ago my sister passed away, and I closed myself off from everyone including my own family. I was seeking shelter in myself and while my family was by no means happy, they embraced the fact that that the rest of the family was brought closer and tighter to each other than ever before. I sought shelter while my family learned to dance in the rain.
When I became incarcerated, I once again closed myself off from everything. As the years went by, I realized that there were so many people around me who were happy and clearly embracing their time as if it were their companion and not their enemy. I read a book and I saw this quote and knew that I had to learn to make the best of my situation. Charles Baudelaire has said that life needs to be embraced! Most people go their whole lives without learning to dance in the rain and becoming intoxicated with joy and happiness at the single fact that they’re alive and able to make the best of their time. As I sit in this PEP dorm, although I’m locked up in the midst of a storm, I am dancing in the rain.
Joshua S. (aka “Lucky Charms”)