Estes Summer 2022 Weekly Journals

Week 10

Monday, May 16, 2022

In PEP this morning, we held another session of Toastmasters, a communication skills program teaching us leadership skills and giving us confidence to speak in front of groups in a professional setting. Toastmasters allows us to tell our life stories and testimonies to our PEP brothers. This helps us grow together and teaches us to live and work as a team. We support each other and help each other get over our fears. We listened to some powerful speeches today delivered by several speakers. We heard stories about changes, masonry work and setting up a corporation. It is important for us to hear these testimonies to help give us hope and motivation for when we leave prison, and it helps speakers to heal and work through their problems.

Toastmasters is an important part of PEP; it helps develop skills we can use in just about any setting we might find ourselves in. Forging lasting relationships between us and building confidence among us is what Toastmasters is all about. We are all amazed by the amount of support the audience gives the speakers. For those of us who are outside of our comfort zone, the audience is patient and encouraging. People who spoke on sensitive topics were emotionally supported by their PEP brethren. It is an awesome experience to be involved in PEP and Toastmasters. We all greatly appreciate the opportunity and experience Toastmasters gives us.

Alvin M. (aka “Major Payne”)

 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

We had the honor and privilege to have guest speaker Bryan K., CEO of PEP, who proved to be inspirational, informative and insightful. At around 8:30 a.m., we prayed in to start the class and Bryan K. began his talk with us. He gave us his testimony about his life and what led him to prison. Understandably, we could empathize and relate, as many in the “free world” could relate to him and his past as well. It didn’t take long before he made himself clear: as human beings, we all make mistakes, sometimes seriously bad ones. However, with the right mindset and support, we can overcome our past and become valuable assets to our family, business and community. We understand that our character traits have to improve in all areas, and we look forward to that challenge.

Bryan K. also spoke about the opportunities that PEP as an organization currently has for us: transitional homes, after care, eSchool, business and personal development, mentors and more. The most exciting thing about his speech was what is to come and the possibilities with PEP. The opportunities are enormous, such as the implementation of the incubator/accelerator in Houston. Businesses that we start will have a place to start and grow along with an accelerator path as well, where the business will quickly grow into its full potential. We were informed about the explosive growth potential of PEP and opportunities as we expand into communities, states and foreign countries. Bryan K.’s speech made us all realize what an honor and privilege it is for us to have the opportunity to be “living between the wings” in PEP!

John C. (aka “Santa Claus”)

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Today was test day for Living in the Village, a book written by Ryan Mack who talks about being financially stable, repairing and building our credit and many other financial security lessons to help us become productive members of society after release.

After our test, we discussed a book titled True North written by Bill George. This is a book about leadership and how great leaders are formed. We were taught that leadership is a process. All great leaders have experienced failure, but only the authentic leaders continue on to follow their “true north” – their passion – until they become successful and eventually through this process, they become an example of authentic leadership. We came to understand that with great leadership comes great responsibility. A great leader must develop certain character traits through his journey to authentic leadership, including accountability, consistency, discipline, humility, integrity, etc.

Also, our In-Prison Manager, David F., shared with us that a great leader must know the shape of his flock. He used “S.H.A.P.E.” as an acronym. A great leader must know the “S”trengths of his flock. He must know the “H”eart of his flock. He must know the “A”ttitude of his flock. He must know the “P”ersonality of his flock. And he must know the “E”xperiences of his flock.

Leadership skills should be taught to every generation – if that were true, we would have a better world with better leaders leading.

Jeremy S. (aka “Ginger Snap”)

 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Pat M. (PEP’s Director of Prison Initiatives) and Greg P. (In-Prison Manager from Cleveland) came today and spoke to us about our vision boards and life challenges. In the second half of class, we did Toastmasters! This is designed to build confidence in ourselves. To help us in our professional settings, it helps to acquaint us to pressure and the expectation of execution.

Today was a learning day as we listened to testimonies that enlightened us; especially from the business owners, managers and contractors who led good lives before prison. It really helps us to hope for our futures. Whether our lives are similar or different, we will enlighten each other in major ways and achieve whatever we seek to achieve. A quote from someone’s father that was shared was “Every day an opportunity comes along – you just have to be prepared when it does.” It is amazing for all of us to see PEP brothers breaking barriers and overcoming their fears, anxiety and anxiousness. We all are very impressed with the support the audience gives when some may feel uncomfortable speaking to large a crowd. Many powerful stories were shared from many of today’s speakers, and we were all uplifted. We are all proud to be a part of Toastmasters and PEP! We are PEP!

Darius R. (aka “Sideshow Bob”)

 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Today in PEP we participated in a group discussion and watched inspirational videos on the power of attitude and character development. The 10 Driving Values is an important part of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. Our Peer Educator, Thomas S., was speaking about his old habits and lifestyle, but also how he transformed his attitude towards others, especially his family and friends. Character development is designed to correct our old behaviors and thought processes as we become more aware of our thought patterns, actions and attitudes. We then moved on to listening to powerful testimonies from our brothers.

Our 10 Driving Values help us develop skills we can utilize in any setting we may find ourselves in. We are impressed by the amount of help we are given throughout this program!

Stanley M. (aka “Prince Hakeem”)

 

Expressions

“It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day.”

~ Matthew Henry

We have to live every day as if it was our last day on earth. We have to stop being scared and face our reality. Our business should consist of showing courage in making the right decisions; wisdom to know the difference between right and wrong; and most importantly, showing love to everyone. 

It takes courage to do the right thing, but with the learning experiences we’ve had on our journey, we have transformed ourselves to be and do better. Even if we fall, we get back up and keep on going. Wisdom is something we have struggled with, but after seeing the damage we have done in our lives, we can finally say that we know how to choose wisely.

We all have love in us, but I think we were showing love in the wrong way. Now we have grown and it’s time to show love to our loved ones, and most definitely our community, after the harm we have done. We look to one another to challenge and better ourselves while learning how to speak to those who are in the same situation we were in once.

Every day, not only do you have to prepare but also to execute courage, wisdom and love. That’s the beautiful thing about being alive. Any moment might be our last. It’s time for us to stop being afraid and live every moment like today is our last day!

Jesse A. (aka “Speedy Gonzalez”)

Week 9

Monday, May 9, 2022

We started this lovely Monday morning as we do every other morning by giving thanks, praise and honor, to the Almighty and only God. The Word of the Day was given by Jason K. (aka “Wreck-it-Ralph”) about not being hopeless. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program is teaching us 10 Driving Values and one of our favorites is love! Being hopeful is love in abundance. Fun is also one of our 10 Driving Values. One of the most enjoyable and fun moments here in PEP is when we, the PEP family, celebrate a fellow brother’s birthday! In PEP, we learn to break our old self’s “stinkin’ thinkin’” and to embrace change and become someone new. You can see the fun in every smile when the birthday boy gets up and has to dance. When we get to hear a PEP brother’s story of who he is, it’s also a fun time.

Two months in and we are in our business plan pitch’s financial leg. Today we broke into our groups to discuss and brainstorm different ideas to be innovators (and financial wizards) of our business plans.

Execution is another one of PEP’s 10 Driving Values, which we see in every brother here. We all strive for excellent execution! Accountability is another of our values, and honestly, many of us are caught off guard by being tasked with the accountability of writing our journal for the day. Accountability is something we have to learn to become better men, better sons and better fathers. We are learning to be accountable for every action we take, since responsibility is the key to transformation.

Xavier R. (aka “Banana Montana”)

 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Today we started as we usually do: giving thanks to God for waking us up and the sharing of the “Word of the Day,” which consists of something positive like a quote or religious scripture that can help motivate someone to be a better person.

After our pray-in and the Word of the Day, we started class with three videos about integrity. Integrity is one of the 10 Driving Values that we all are working to instill into our daily lives. “We model and require complete honesty and integrity in all our relationships and endeavors.” Integrity will get you far in life! 90% of all Americans work for small businesses. These businesses need leaders to run them, and a key leadership trait is integrity. We really learn a lot from the motivational videos we watch.

Then we were ready to take the test on Chapters 13 & 14 from our Entrepreneurship textbook. We all had a week to study, and all of us had it on their minds. After eight weeks of studying and taking tests, this test was the final hurdle – thank God!

Lastly, we watched a BetterMan video. BetterMan is a 30 to 45-minute video that talks about the issues we face and how to deal with them. It opens all of our eyes on how to be a better father, husband, friend and son of God. The video mentioned that we need to grow strong like a tree whose roots are so far down deep in the ground that nothing can move it or knock it down.

Every day that we go to class we are all openminded with what we are learning. All the curriculum is helpful, and we each take a piece of it with us. Whenever we leave after watching one of these videos, we are like the man the video teaches us to be: a better man.

Josue F. (aka “Bubbles”)

 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Today in PEP, we covered Chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Living in The Village. The review of these three chapters caught our attention because it covered several topics that we will see again upon our release. We all know that in one way or another, an emergency will arise. Having an emergency fund and a rule of thumb to have at least 6-9 months of expenses will get us through the emergency. The book states one month in a checking account, and 5 months in a high yield savings account with 24 hr. access, along with a three-month line of credit (be sure it’s FDIC insured).

The next main topic was IRA accounts. We discussed the advantages and the disadvantages of six different kinds of IRA accounts. The main thing to keep in mind is that this is a retirement account and has tax advantages if used correctly. If you withdraw before age 59 ½ you will be penalized 10%, defeating the purpose of having one. The goal is to save, not spend.

The final discussion of the day was about debt risk, credit and responsibility. We discussed saving for our children’s college fund and utilizing the 529 college plan. Student loan debt increased from 1979-2001 at a rate of 80%. The next subject most people ignore is that new automobiles depreciate by 25% once driven off the lot (so buy used). Home ownership was saved for last. We discussed renting vs. buying; 30% of your net income is a qualifier for what you can afford. The last thing is that after 20% of your mortgage is paid, it’s your responsibility to contact the mortgage company and have your PMI removed, lowering your monthly mortgage payment. It’s recommended to pay 10% and have a new appraisal done.

Richard S. (aka “Chris Farley”)

 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Today in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, our class realized that Dominick P. (aka “Mr. Nick”) cannot dance. We gave him an A for effort though. Although we strive to have fun within this program, we also take a serious approach when it comes to rebuilding our lives. We are currently working on our “Vision Board,” a powerful tool when it comes to bringing our future into existence. We all aspire, and it helps when we can see ourselves fulfilling those goals. Today was a more laid-back day for us to gather our thoughts as individuals so we can start planning for our future. We’ve been so caught up with the business aspect of this program lately that it was refreshing to focus on ourselves for a brief moment. We are getting closer to graduation and beginning our lifelong journey as PEP brothers. We’ve all put in the work to make it this far and we hope that it only gets better from this point on.

Dominick P. (aka “Mr. Nick”)

 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Today in PEP we were gathered together and encouraged via our “Pray-In.” Once we were prayed in, our In-Prison Manager David F. spoke to us about what took place the day before when we were creating a “Vision Board” collage. This collage reflects, more or less, what we are about, what is on our mind, how we feel and what our goals for our future are. In order to create our collages, we utilized a poster board, as well as magazines, tape, glue, crayons, markers, etc. Given the limited resources, we managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat!

David F. then expounded his speech on the immense importance of integrity and using it in every endeavor. Indeed, PEP is, for the most part, a launch pad into adopting the values which shape our character for the better. We all agree that David F.’s speech was worth far more for lesson-teaching purposes than having to “put our hand on the stove to get burned ourselves.” Being able to learn a lesson from others is a mark of a man. His decision making was impeccable and worthy of a leader, defined as one who leads by example.

Xavier G. (aka “Taco Bell Chihuahua”)

 

Expressions

“The first step to getting ahead is getting started.”

~ Mark Twain

This quote is very simple, but it is also very true. Everyone has plans or dreams to get ahead, but very few act. You will never get there if you don’t take baby steps in the beginning. Everyone wants the end result, but they don’t want to take the steps necessary to get there. Sometimes that first step can be both simple and the most intimidating. There could be several different reasons, with the main one being fear. I think people fear failure when it comes to their goals – they fear what other people think and therefore won’t move forward with it. This reminds me to trust the process, knowing that I must start somewhere. You can’t expect to get ahead in anything if you don’t first start. This quote motivates me to execute my plans and maintain focus along my journey. It makes me believe that with every step I take toward my goal, things will become easier, little by little, because the first step is also the hardest step.

Another reason I believe people don’t take that first step is that they simply lose focus. They get distracted by something else, which is not to say it has to be a bad thing – it could be a woman, a job, family or just daily life. Another reason people don’t take that first step is that it can be very hard to move on from the past. Some may need support from others because they are not mentally strong and start to doubt themselves. My suggestion to you sir is simply this: take the first step!

Khalil D. (aka “Norbit”)

Week 8

Monday, May 2, 2022

Today in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, we all got to enjoy being a part of a professional setting that prepares us to have the confidence and courage to speak with skills that PEP brings out of us on a daily basis, instilling communication skills we never thought we would ever have or need. Being a part of PEP definitely brings the leaders to light as we sit, relate to and overcome the man in the mirror with the help of our PEP family. We came to this program with every intention of becoming the men our family members saw in us that we were too blind to see. But now with a common goal in mind, PEP pushes us daily to direct our paths in a direction worth pursuing.

Toastmasters is definitely not a program you would want to put on the back burner. Not only does it help us overcome a fear of public speaking, it helps us establish a whole new level of respect for not only ourselves but for our brothers willing to accept the challenge we have allowed into our lives. This program can only be beneficial, giving us a whole new outlook on life and teaching us that we as a family are more than just numbers. Everybody has a story – and some are darker stories than others – but here in PEP, we are taught there is more to life than living in the shadows of our former selves. The testimonies of motivational speakers and successful ex-cons who are now successful business owners have paved a road for us, motivating us to become a part of something more. From the old to the new, from the brotherhood we have with each other to our own success stories, it has definitely been an honor to join the Prison Entrepreneurship’s brotherhood.

Daniel M. (aka “Diego”)

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Today was test day. We all came prepared to take tests on Chapters 11 & 12 from the Entrepreneurship curriculum. Our emcee, Michael R. (aka “Braxton P. Hardnebrig III”) was kind enough to give us a quick review before the test.

After the test, David F. (aka “Sweet Guacamole Dip”) introduced us to released  PEP graduate Jimmy M. (aka “Grandpa Urkel”). Jimmy M. told us of some of his experiences, both challenges and successes. It was encouraging to see another person who sat where we sit and has made the transition to the “free world” successfully. He encouraged us with stories of how God and PEP helped him get to where he is now.

We then went to lunch, and once we all had finished our taco salads (true story), we came back to the PEP room. We dove head first into Chapter 13 by watching a slide show presentation by executive volunteer John S. (aka “Sweet Alka Seltzer”). Developing an exit/harvest/turnaround plan was the main idea of the chapter. The instructor did a very good job illustrating how to value a business.

For Chapter 14, we had our infamous Peer Educator Matthew N. (aka “Dr. Evil”) teach us the basics of franchising and buying an existing business. We can all see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Entrepreneurship textbook, and we look forward to the challenges of the next two months before our graduation in July.

Jason K. (aka “Wreck-It-Ralph”)

 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

This morning we participated in a number of different activities. To start off our morning, our emcee Michael R. did his dance lottery and had everyone clapping and dancing along before we prayed in and had our “Word of the Day.” The next thing on our agenda was testing on Chapters 5 & 6 of Living in the Village. This course is designed to help us overcome destructive spending habits, accumulating debt and ever-increasing household budgets. It is very helpful as far as giving us the information we need to help us be financially stable and debt free when we are released. It is inspiring to see how involved the class is. We can really see a change in our class in just the two short months that we have been here, and we can only imagine what we’ll accomplish once we walk out of these doors.

We were also given our test scores from the previous two Entrepreneurship tests on Chapters 11 & 12. Once tests are returned to us, we are given the opportunity to look over our scores and ask about any questionable answers that were marked wrong. This is called “Issues & Tissues,” and in every sense of the word, it’s inspiring to watch. There are people with 95% trying to get that last 5%. Don’t miss the significance of that fact; some of us, myself included, did not care at all about our education when we were free, and to take such pride in doing it now is a complete 180. This program truly helps those who want to help themselves.

For the last half of class, we had the opportunity to hear Brandon G. (aka “Swagger Wagon”) and Pat M. (aka “Precious”) visit with us from the PEP home office. They both were very helpful and passionate about fostering the best environment for us to learn and grow as men and students. Pat put it best when he asked, “Do you know why the PEP sign is orange? It’s because orange is the color of redemption.” To me, that says it all!

James C. (aka “Jimmy Neutron”)

 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Today we went to class late, which is a rare thing. The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else (a quote attributed to Eric Reis), but I’m sure we all utilized the extra hours to rest.

When class did begin, we worked on our mindset, motivation and methods. We have an “anything is possible” mindset. We keep our reasons and energy level “high frequency” and “high vibration” for motivation. The methods to achieve this are drilled into our minds so the “how” isn’t easily forgotten.

We began with dancing; there’s at least 3 minutes of it every day! Then we prayed in. PEP has proven to us that the mindset-accomplishment connection can’t be ignored. When we aren’t looking up, and centered on what we do, we narrow our capacity of what we are capable of accomplishing.

Today was also Toastmasters. This is a program designed to transform us into natural leaders and create confidence in ourselves. Having a respectable air in a professional setting is vital to our future in life, and Toastmasters is a great way to achieve this, especially if you seek to optimize what life has to offer.

Our PEP class is full of many who led successful businesses, were managers, prior contractors and business-minded entrepreneurs before arriving here, so we share in and increase our perspectives through Toastmasters as well. The sincerity of the connection established with fellow brothers here is a product of Toastmasters. We couldn’t finish as strong as we do without all the support the audience gives us when we’re in front of the class telling our stories to everyone here. The topics sometimes cover sensitive subject matter because all we do and all we are is “heart” when all the distractions are gone.

PEP is a hand up, not a hand out. It takes a great deal of courage to stick with it. Emotionally, spiritually, physically and psychologically, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program is moving us in the right direction and beyond.

Dae’Vyon L. (aka “Eddie Murphy”)

 

Friday, May 6, 2022

We in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program actively engage in a course called Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a formal setting where individuals are called on to speak on almost any topic of his choosing in order to help cope with anxiety or nervousness when speaking in front of a crowd. This part of our class is our favorite part of the program because it allows us to be vulnerable in a sense that maybe before in the “free world” we weren’t able to be, opening up in front of our PEP brothers and share intimate stories. We share to better understand what our brothers have been through in life; what they are going through currently; and how to better understand them today.

We listened to a number of good stories and speeches today. A brother of ours talked about his love for his car called “Slab 101.” We all could relate to his speech because as men and PEP brothers, we appreciate having a nice vehicle to take out, taking us back to the “free world” for a brief moment. Toastmasters also gives us a feeling of “family” within the PEP community even though we’re from different backgrounds, races and ethnicities. We learned from our “Ice Breaker” speech from several weeks ago that some of us had rough childhoods, but in the PEP family we are accepted for who we are. We are all thankful for the chance for a successful re-entry to the “free world” with love, respect and hope for success!

Nicklous M. (aka “Apu”)

 

 

Expressions

Even if everyone else is not doing good, I alone will.

Even if everyone else is doing wrong, I alone will not.”

~ Chin Kung

I have wasted the majority of my life doing the wrong things. I cannot blame anybody but myself for my failures. Everything that happens to us is the result of what we ourselves have thought, said or done. These past two years of my incarceration have shown me a lot. I have grown spiritually and mentally. I have discovered qualities that I never knew I had. Life is a dream, an illusion; unfortunately, life is short. I have learned to overcome greed, ignorance and anger. I am still growing and learning, and I’m not perfect and never will be, but what I do know is that my life changed when I forgave, forgot and found my faults. Sincere reflection of the mind will help me be free and live a healthy life.

Cesar C. (aka “Mr. Bean”)

Week 7

Monday, April 25, 2022

Today the PEP brothers learned the importance of having faith in God through the BetterMan course. We learned that being happy does not come through wealth and possessions but through faith in Jesus Christ. We prayed together and we also learned that God has a better way for us. We also did some dancing too! We watched a lesson on HELOCs (Home Equity Line of Credit) about how to save and buy a home, and to invest by using the equity in our home itself. After this we grouped into BPC teams where we work on our business plans. We have the opportunity to draft our Market, Competition, and Differentiation section of the overall BPC video, to present to the executive volunteers. Our Marketing Strategy also goes along with this. We are learning how to work as a team, and how to properly communicate in a professional manner. We have to meet deadlines, work under pressure, and produce professional material in a timely manner. PEP is teaching us how to survive in the business world both as a leader and as a team player. We are in an environment with a real feel about starting a business from the ground up. Today we were able to execute character traits we are learning. Our teams studied market research to get an in depth understanding of our business. We are truly learning how to compete with other businesses and how to reach customers in the market. We are finding gaps in the markets we study and how to fill those gaps through our market research. We are learning hands on that an idea to a business is only the beginning and that it takes real research and information to actually start and maintain it. All in all, it was a great day for our class at the Sanders-Estes Prison Entrepreneurship Program!

Luis S. (aka “Mr. Potato Head”)

 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Today was a productive day in PEP, our class had testing on Chapter 9 and we executed very well. Chapter 9 was a subject that a lot of us expressed interest in learning about, so we buckled down and studied and the majority of us got high test scores. Chapter 9 was about legal forms of business such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations. The chapter also examined contracts, leases, regulations, copyrights, trademarks, patents, insurance, and boards of advisors.

After testing, we went over Chapters 11 and 12. In chapter 11 the overview focused on a workable marketing plan and in Chapter 12 the overview examined a number of practical, process-based actions necessary to begin operations of a business. After we went over the chapters we watched motivational videos. Then we got in our groups and worked on our business plans that we will present this week. After our groups we dispersed to our dorms.

All in all, the majority of us PEP brothers have a servant-leader mentality. We are pursuing excellence in every area, despite the setbacks of being in prison. We still have set high standards for ourselves and we intend to achieve excellence through having a pioneering spirit and executing our plans for our lives.

Adam S. (aka “Radio”)

 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Today when we turned out for PEP, we were greeted by Bruce T. aka Mr. Rogers. We all clapped as he swayed down the center aisle to get to the front of the room. He was singing the Mr. Rogers theme song “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” followed by a “won’t you be my neighbor?” After we followed his lead, we immediately jumped in to chapters 5 & 6 in the Living in the Village book. As we opened up our books he put on a PowerPoint slide show that we could look on and fill in the blanks on our worksheets. We discussed debts, living wills, and life, health, and disability insurance. We also discussed credit scores and how important it is. Also, we learned how too much credit may be troublesome versus the “proper” amount. We also learned how to establish and build our credit. Disputing incorrect information on our credit report was the last thing we went over. Although we took in a lot of information, it was fun and informative!

Eric B. (aka “Peek-a-Boo Princess”)

 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Today in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, we participated in Toastmasters. This is a program designed to enhance our communication skills, raise us as leaders, and give us the confidence to present ourselves in a respectable manner in professional settings.

Toastmasters also allows us to tell our life stories to our PEP family, helping us grow closer together, gain new perspectives on life and overcome our fears of speaking in front of a large audience. Today, we listened to powerful stories delivered by multiple speakers and we were all able to benefit from this. It is important for us to hear testimonies from our peers to enlighten us to possible outcomes for different actions we take. More importantly, we get to listen to former business owners, managers, contractors and many other men who lead successful lives before prison. That in itself is a huge motivation for us; discovering people exactly like ourselves who are capable of success in major ways.

Toastmasters is an important part of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program; developing skills we can utilize in any setting we may find ourselves in. Forging lasting relationships between us brothers and building confidence amongst us all is a product of Toastmasters.

We are all impressed by the amount of support the audience gives the speaker. For those of us who aren’t comfortable speaking in front of people, the audience is patient and encouraging. People who spoke about sensitive topics we emotionally supported by their PEP brothers, giving the speaker the courage to continue in difficult parts of their speech. It was emotionally moving for us all to be involved in Toastmasters and the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

Mykal G. (aka “Meow Mix”)

 

Friday, April 29, 2022

No class

Week 6

Monday, April 18, 2022

Today, the PEP brothers watched a couple of videos in class. The first one featured Bryan K. showing the strides that PEP is making in Houston. PEP has partnered with others to establish a virtual “one stop shop” concept to assist enterprising participants. We will be able to take our ideas from paper to reality, which gives us an edge that will allow us to transition smoothly from design to concept for our business ideas, all in a supportive family setting.

The second video we watched was Dr. Ben Carson. We enjoyed watching this video because it showed us that no matter your race, creed or background that you can succeed in whatever you put your mind to. He grew up from an early age in a rural area determined to become a doctor, and he refused to let anything or anyone stop him from achieving his goals. He was ridiculed and called the dumbest boy in the world (according to his classmates), but he persevered and continued to study and succeed at all costs. Once Dr. Carson found his niche, he was no longer the dumbest boy in the world; he was the smartest guy that everyone turned to for help. He is truly a success story that every child from a disadvantaged background should strive to emulate.

The second half of class, we broke up into our Business Plan Competition (BPC) groups and worked on developing marketing strategies. We also filmed our introduction videos in the computer lab with Pat M. For the most part, we all had a good, productive day in PEP, and we were able to get a bunch accomplished in a short period of time.

Roderick M. (aka “Fred Sanford”)

 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Today was test day in PEP! We started our day with our daily pray-in and “Word of the Day.” It’s always fun watching our PEP brothers dance to the back of the room, or even being one of the dancers. It puts a smile on everyone’s face and takes that little bit of “Test Day Stress” and anxiety off of us. It’s really awesome the way we start our day here at PEP by thanking God for all of our many blessings and also hearing His inspirational word.

Afterwards, we started our test on Chapters 7 & 8 from our Entrepreneurship textbook. These tests can be challenging, but we enjoy creating study groups and making these tests a brotherly competition. This helps us work harder, helps our brothers, and holds us accountable if we do not achieve to our full potential. So, test day is always fun!

We started viewing our Chapter 9 video after our test, and it was very helpful for learning the material. Our Peer Educators are always very helpful too. We are given handouts, practice tests and flash cards to help us study. They also go over, explain, and answer any questions that we may have. That was it for today, so we enjoyed another day at PEP!

Michael M. (aka “Meatloaf Mike”)

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

We worked out of our Living in the Village book today. This is a book on personal finance that helps to teach our class to be mentally prepared to handle our money when we are released from prison. Today our instructor, Bruce T., specifically spoke on insurance – life, auto and health. He taught us how to figure out what policies we need and how much coverage we will need. Living in the Village has opened a lot of eyes in our class. Many of us, for whatever reason, never thought about our finances before we came to prison. We lived day-to-day, paycheck-to-paycheck. The information we are getting is outstanding; learning to be financially stable and independent will contribute not only to us but our whole family. Understanding our financial needs, goals and limits helps to put everything into perspective for when we step out of prison.

We are taking in a lot of information quickly while working through this book, and it can be a challenge, but the rewards we reap will be well worth all our hard work. Once we are able to start implementing the techniques we are studying, we will truly be able to understand the value of what we are receiving right now. It will be a great achievement and a great day to stand on our own two feet with our heads held high and no longer be a financial burden to anyone.

There was a lot to take in today, but the work is very rewarding; all the men in our PEP program are proud of each other for their accomplishments.

Jeramie H. (aka “Woody Harrellson”)

 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

No class

 

 

Friday, April 22, 2022

We began class with another edition of “Issues & Tissues,” which is when we review our test results and state our case – or “issue” – regarding test questions marked incorrect. Shout out to our Peer Educator Matthew N. (aka “Dr. Evil”). His job takes a lot of time and effort, and his position is essential to the program. No one could do a better job at it! We reviewed three tests: Chapters 7 & 8 from our Entrepreneurship textbook as well as Chapter 3 of our Living in the Village curriculum. After the drying of a few eyes, we split up into our BPC groups to further discuss our approach to the upcoming workshops: Marketing, Competition and Differentiation for our COOs and Marketing Strategy for our CMOs.

Before breaking for lunch, we celebrated some April birthdays for Tommy S. (aka “Easy Bake Oven”), Michael M. (aka “Meatloaf Mike”) and a few other “old schools” (40+ years of age). Today was an extra special day because it was our PEP In-Prison Managers 35th birthday! Happy Birthday David F. (aka “Sweet Guacamole Dip”). All of the birthday brothers met in the “back of the room” and danced to the “No Flex Zone” in the front of the class before we sang the birthday song.

We concluded our week after returning from lunch with a few videos prepared by PEPs In-Prison Director, Pat M., PEPs COO Phi T. and PEP graduate Mikey G., who has found success since being released from prison and is giving back to the program in big ways. The tutorial videos explained what the executive volunteers are looking for in the pitches our COOs and CMOs present next week, giving us a much clearer picture for us to execute, setting us up for success.

We put in a lot of work, day in and day out, doing our best to become better men for ourselves, our families and our communities.

Cameron S. (aka “Quagmire”)

 

Expressions

“The longest journey begins with the first step”

~ Confucius

The steps we take help us to define who we are, where we have been, and where we have yet to go. Life is a long journey. We may never know where we will land; we only know we have to keep walking, keep going, even when life tries to drag us down, no matter what is going on in our lives. I am taking baby steps now because I do not want to stop my journey again. Time is something I know I cannot get back no matter how hard I try. I put my best foot forward each and every day. I am learning to enjoy the “not so fun” parts of my journey, knowing that it’s all part of the journey. This isn’t the end of my journey, only a different path to get me to the finish line. We must continue to help others who get stuck on the weary road as well. Through the Lord, we will never walk alone. Our paths are chosen, and for that I am thankful. If we wait to take our first step, then how will we begin our journey? Always know that you can control the outcome of your life.

Patrick T. (aka “Mucinex Booger”)

Week 5

Monday, April 11, 2022

Today, many of our PEP brothers executed their first speech for membership in Toastmasters International! The speech was entitled “The Ice Breaker” which teaches one to begin speaking in front of an audience while discovering which public speaking skills are already present and which need attention. We have 10 speeches in total, and we’re excited to get to them!

We also broke up into our Business Plan Competition (BPC) teams to continue working on our group business plan. We worked on two sections today. The first was Vision & Objectives, which is what we want our companies to “look like” after a certain amount of time. The next was our Products and Service. This is very much what it sounds like; we highlight our product’s most compelling aspects.

We had another great day of learning and character development. The daily struggle we experience with prison life can be very taxing on one’s psyche and soul. PEP offers us a break from this life in prison and helps us to refocus on what’s important. We will all be leaving these walls someday, taking these tools we have been given with us. We also watched videos of some of our PEP brothers who have left prison and are back in society. Videos like that show us that it can and will be done.

Paul L. (aka “Dr. Phil”)

 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Our morning started with all of our PEP brothers praying in and giving the Word of the day. This begins with an introduction from our Peer Educators and/or participants with a trip to the back of the room (to dance to the front)! We had a visitor, Laura S., who is the Family Liaison; she was very kind and helpful!

Our first order of the day was our Economics of One Unit (EOU) test. This helps us to figure out how much one of our units of product cost. We also watched some pitches and videos of previous BPC pitches to give us an idea of we need to shoot for.  We also watched Chapter 7 from our Entrepreneurship lesson on TV. A volunteer with accounting experience gave us a lesson on ratios.

The second half of class, after lunch, we all gathered together to go over “character assessment” words and the way other people may view us. It was a busy day and we managed to enjoy and have a little fun. As the day came to a close, we bowed our heads in prayer and were dismissed for the afternoon. It was another good day with our PEP brothers, and we believe that David F. is doing a great job in leading our class!

Adam A. (aka “Mr. Miagi”)

 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Today in PEP was very productive! PEP is more than just another program. It’s very well structured, and we can definitely feel the love and dedication our teachers and special guests have! Today, we learned all about money, credit cards and loans with Bruce T. and Living in the Village. PEP is not only teaching us the proper life skills we need to stay out of prison but also have a comfortable retirement. We learned how to specifically manage our money, get bills paid, and still put money aside for retirement. It helps a lot that PEP provides everything from textbooks to school supplies like journals, pens, etc. All we have to do is come and be willing to learn.

We all agree that going to PEP is our escape from prison, as it feels more like a large family, or a “free world” college setting. We look forward to learning every day, discovering abilities we never knew we had and becoming the men our families need! It’s definitely earned and not given away as a handout. We look forward to being entrepreneurs and assisting our communities when we are released! PEP is teaching us that it’s not only about receiving but also giving back to our families, or even society. We now feel better prepared to take on the challenges of the world and live lives full of integrity, and rather than procrastinating executing on all the right things!

Alan B. (aka “Salsa Bin Laden”)

 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

PEP is where we are able to learn about various aspects of business, including what is expected of you in starting up a business. Today we broke up into our BPC groups to go over our business plans and the next set of videos we are creating for PEP’s executive volunteers. Everyone in class was assigned to a group and each of us assumed the role of an executive, like the CEO or CMO. We work on the plan and then shoot a video pertaining to our role for the executives to watch and comment on. It’s a good way to learn the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur. It’s also a good way to help control our nervousness by speaking on camera. Toastmasters also helps with this as well.

The feeling of the program is great for character development too. We spent a few minutes today talking about character development and how it affects our families. The program makes you feel like you’re a part of something special that will help you in life. Being a success in life and business is something that PEP strives for in all of its participants. This program feels like a second chance at life.

Erich B. (aka “Bobby Hill”)

 

Friday, April 15, 2022

No class. Good Friday!

 

Expressions

They put it on its stand, and it gives light to the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.”

~ Matthew 5:13-18

 

I believe God has given me the ultimate task. It’s not just doing good things but seeking to glorify my Father in heaven. We are each called to be a bright lamp that shows people how to find God. I absolutely believe God wants me to do better in life and achieve many goals, but He is looking for far more from me – far more than me becoming a man who went through some tough times and a self-improvement program in the eyes of others. Our father God knows our real intentions and wants to see and receive positive feedback from the many blessings I have been given.

He also wants other people to see Him working in me by giving others His grace and spreading His words and knowledge to other people to make this world a more loving place. He has transformed me for the better in life; I’m no longer the undisciplined child in His eyes. Instead, I’m now an obedient child who’s willing to serve Him. The ungodly crowd I used to hang out with looked down on me when I decided to change for the better, though a few did commend me for changing my ways and asking for my thoughts and guidance. I tell them to pray to God and repent of their sins because I’m already praying, our debt to society is being paid for in prison.

I’m tired of coming to prison and being absent from my family, missing out on special moments and precious memories. No more being selfish, pleasuring and satisfying my own needs over my family’s needs. They have been the ones who’ve been by my side and supported me during my incarceration. That is why it’s time for a change. Now that I’m seeking to know God more, He has filled me with peace, joy and fulfillment in life. God is to be glorified at all times, and that is my goal now: to bring glory to His name. Therefore, I will continue to keep my light shining and provide light to others!

Corey T. (aka “Baby Ray Lewis”)

Week 4

Monday, April 4, 2022

Today we had a test over Chapters 5 and 6 in our Entrepreneurship book. Everybody studied hard, because after the test you could see the smiles on everyone’s face. Our goal was to understand business missions and strategy. We learned how to recognize how businesses create assets and hone their capabilities. We PEP brothers are doing well and focusing on our goals of becoming better men. Through hard times, we come together against all odds. We pick each other up and help each other. Everybody wants to go to the computer lab to learn more about their business. PEP offers us a lot of information; we use it to help one another as we strive to be a better person, husband, father and man. I have never seen this before; I know that everybody really cares.

Tomorrow we finish up on the first part of our Toastmasters “Ice Breaker” speech. PEP is preparing us to speak the correct way in formal situations and leave the slang behind. It’s a struggle, but we all help each other and hold each other accountable. It was a great week here in our class at the Sanders Estes Prison Entrepreneurship Program!

Carlos D. (aka “Baby Usher”)

 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

No class

 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Today, we had a lesson on personal finance, where we learned about savings, mostly 401(k)’s and 403(b)’s. We learned how important it is to start a plan for retirement early on. The PowerPoint presentation we watched was very helpful, and it really had a “college” feel. Chaplain Bruce explained the Living in the Village lesson to us, and everyone was very attentive.

We “pray in” every day with a selected speaker, followed by the “Word of the Day.” It’s always funny to see our classmates go to the back of the room and then dance to the front! It’s great to see all the different personalities and different goofy dances we come up with. PEP really has had a profound effect on us already. Our Peer Educators and Servant-Leaders work hard every day to keep things in motion. It’s crazy how we all come together from where we once were and put our minds together to create ideas and put forth an effort to follow through and succeed. We have our Business Plan Competition (BPC) groups, which is where we brainstorm ideas for our own company.

We have so much fun learning things here! Some of us knew nothing about how to discuss original business plans, but the conversations have brought nothing but laughter! It’s funny when someone just comes in and isn’t used to what’s going on, and then you see them try to hide their smile or try not to laugh. We have a true brotherhood in here, and it is definitely a learning experience.

Judson B. (aka “Sweet Similac”)

 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

In PEP we do countless things that will definitely be beneficial in life. We learn about finances, which is something that the average person knows very little about, and that gives us a boost in life. On that subject, Tim H., PEP’s CFO, came and taught us a thing or two about EOU’s. That’s short for “Economics of One Unit.” We use this to figure out how much it costs us to produce one unit of whatever it is we plan to sell when we’re business owners. For the majority of us who haven’t had a math class in a while, it was a little confusing and somewhat frustrating, but we pushed through and executed with excellence! We also discussed actually starting and running our businesses, working with banks to finance that (and the accountability involved) and EntreCapital, which is available through PEP. It seems like a great way to finance our businesses once we get out into the free world. Planning for all of this is crucial to our success!

The afternoon session saw us doing Toastmasters again. We’re almost done with our first project, “The Ice Breaker” speech, and we’re getting to learn a lot about our brothers through this project. While most of us are nervous about getting up in front of an audience, we’re making it happen and doing a great job of harnessing this nervousness and channeling it to something positive. It shouldn’t be too long before we’re masters of the toast, rivaling both Obama and Churchill in our speeches!

Khalil D. (aka “Norbit”)

 

Friday, April 8, 2022

Today we had a wonderful and successful day at PEP! The first half was devotional and it’s always good; it is a heart- and mind-changing inspirational message from the Word of God. Some of us couldn’t attend, due to being enrolled in other classes, but everyone still got to go to the second half of class, which pretty much consisted of Toastmasters. We are learning to speak fluently in front of a crowd, and it gets our “gears” turning in our heads. We’ve been doing Project #1, the “Ice Breaker” speech, where we give a-  minute speech about our lives from the beginning to this point in our lives. We all agree that it’s the best program we could be in, with PEP’s capacity to change lives. We all love the fact that PEP doesn’t view us as criminals or as “trash” but as potential businessmen and humans. For most of us, that’s really encouraging and helps us keep pushing forward.

The Servant-Leaders always make it easy and fun for us. We never get bored in class, mostly because there’s always something to do, whether in class or back in our cells, and that helps time fly by more quickly. At the same time, we’re learning something new every day, and it’s mostly tools and knowledge that will help us become successful and efficient workers. We enjoy every day here at the Sanders Estes Unit; it’s always productive and a wonderful day in PEP!

Gustavo S. (aka “Baby Pinky Toe”)

 

Expressions

“If we can’t have hard conversations, how can we expect our children to?”

~ Anonymous

Today when people talk, they don’t want to talk about the hard issues we have in the world. The world is changing so fast that it seems like we can’t keep up. From COVID-19 to wars around the world, everyone’s so distant and numb to the point of giving up on life. It used to be that people were real and could trust each other when times got hard, but it seems that values are gone and kids are out of control. It seems like their minds are being crushed by what they watch, hear and are being told to think. We need to reach out to them and teach them the right way, showing them that they can make something of themselves and make a difference in this world. They can be the light that others can see as a beacon of hope!

So yes, we need to have hard conversations about this with our children, showing them to be genuine and sincere with other people and take a stand for what they believe in and what’s right. Life is too short: live life to the fullest every day and don’t look back. In a world full of hate, humble yourself and seek God with all of your heart. He’s the only way to a peaceful life. When times get tough, you can turn to God for help. It’s okay to have hard conversations and be comfortable talking about it all. If we keep it bottled up inside, it’s not a good scene when it finally comes out. So open your heart to someone close to you, namely your kids. Young people have a voice too; love conquers all.

Joey V. (aka “Six Flags Guy”)

Week 3

Monday, March 28, 2022

We started off this Monday morning with the tests over Chapters 3 and 4. The majority of our class did well. Then while our Peer Educators took the time to grade our tests, we got to watch the review videos over Chapters 5 and 6, covering mission statements, capabilities and economic rents; how to develop and apply the strategies of a cash flow analysis; how to prepare a budget and a cash flow statement; and how to identify and utilize other financial tools which are very important for those of us that plan on starting our own businesses.

During the second part of class, we reviewed the answers on our tests over Chapters 3 and 4 in what we call “Issues and Tissues,” where we can bring to attention any answers that were correct but marked incorrect, or those that we may have had questions on. I’m proud to be part of this PEP class!

Cody O. (aka “Hawkeye”)

 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Today in PEP we had our first day of a class called “Toastmasters.” It is a class designed to help us with our public speaking skills. Looking around the class, it was easy to see that the majority of us were uneasy about giving our first speech called “The Ice Breaker,” but we were excited about getting out of our comfort zones, as well as getting to know our brothers’ stories.

For the second part of the day, we watched the “Better Man” video on Chapter 5. Many of the brothers have said they find this class to be their favorite. We learn to identify the scars we have been carrying with us since childhood, as well as how to correct our errors in thinking and begin to grow into the men we are capable of becoming. Today we learned how the Bible is one of the best texts for direction on how to become a “real man.” For many of us, this class hits close to home, because we have never been sure about what a “real man” is or how to tell if we were behaving how a “real man” would. Today’s class taught us to go to the Bible for guidance in these situations. We learned that if we aim small we miss small, so when setting goals for the type of men we want to be, we need to be specific so it will be easier to recognize when we are off course. This will allow us to get back on target much more quickly.

We learned a lot about ourselves today in PEP, as well as having a lot of fu and sharing many laughs!

Robie L. (aka “Forrest Gump”)

 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Today in class was a great and exciting experience like any other day is for us in PEP. With our PEP brothers, after our pray-in, we had a chance to meet a volunteer, Gerald D. aka “Squidbilly.” After meeting with Gerald D., we had the opportunity to view a pray-out video for fellow brothers returning to the “free world.” By watching the video, it helped us get a better understanding of the purpose and means behind the video. It also gave us a chance to understand how to properly execute this video. We watched two videos of brothers who were recently released. They seemed to be having a great time, eating good and giving us lots of laughs and insights on their paths with help from the PEP community.

After enjoying a few minutes of hearing from our newly-released PEP brothers, it was time for us to take our business pictures. These will be displayed online for our families to view, but before that our In-Prison Manager, David F., gave us some insight on buying a new home. He gave us useful information that some or most of us may have lacked from not having prior experience. All in all, today was an awesome and amazing experience! We look forward to many more days like this.

LaMarqus J. (aka “Steve Urkle”)

 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Today we started off in prayer. It’s always a great way to start the day, and of course watching people dance their way up to the classroom. We did our big business draft, which everyone has been anticipating. Pat M. showed up and of course hated on the Cowboys. We had a bunch of fun though and did some group activities that made us all feel like we were in elementary school again but still everyone enjoyed it and worked together building a tower out of tape, string, spaghetti noodles and a marshmallow. It was a good bonding lesson though and reminded everyone that we are still supposed to have fun.

After lunch we had our first Toastmasters group and had everyone on their heels. Speaking in front of almost 100 people is pretty intense, but I think we can all agree that everyone was positive and gave their full effort listening and participating. Speaking in front of the class really helps us get to know each other more and really helps us understand our PEP brothers’ stories. All and all, it was a great day, and we all look forward to continuing to better ourselves and helping each other get through this!

Kyler L. (aka “Smiley Cirus”)

 

Friday, April 1, 2022

No Class

 

Expressions

“You cannot fathom your mind; it has neither bottom nor boundaries.”

~ Anonymous

This quote is extremely powerful to those who can accept it as a true statement. Our minds are truly capable of so much it is difficult to fathom. Hearing this quote made me so interested, I began collecting and reading as many books as I could on the human mind. My favorite books are all on the subconscious mind. The subconscious part of your mind is responsible for your dreams, which is why they seem too vivid. It also retains all the things that have ever happened to us over our lifetime. The subconscious mind is the source of all the most brilliant ideas ever created and requires training as to how to tap into it and use it more often. Learning little bits here and there even made me more interested in the concept of God, which led me to studying religion and psychology.

This quote has taken me on a journey I never thought I’d be on and shaped me in many beneficial ways. I now have an understanding of people and why we do what we do. I now have a relationship with and understanding of our Creator, which was not even a possibility before since I was an atheist prior to my journey. I am now happy to say that is no longer the case. Through this journey I have become more loving, patient and understanding, and I have become a better thinker. Funny how a quote inspired the beginning of so much character development in my life while being incarcerated. It has truly made my time easier, and I’m truly thankful for the change it’s made and is continuing to make in my life.

Gabriel H. (aka “Lucky Charms”)

Week 2

Monday, March 21, 2022

In PEP class today, we all felt our adrenaline running high as we took our first real tests out of our Entrepreneurship textbook. We also knew that the uneasiness would come soon enough when we would get our test scores returned to us. After finishing the test, we watched a motivational video, which pumped every thought into our brain cells about not giving up, enduring the sacrifices to give it your all and facing all the adversity that comes with it. This mindset inspires your ability to focus on the task ahead, never doubting and never quitting, but instead having a “never say never” attitude that builds the character within yourself as a person who believes change matters.

We ended the day watching videos on Chapter 3 and 4 in Entrepreneurship and getting our test results back. Over 70 percent of the class passed; having that happen gave us hope that anything is possible when you put your all into it. Today was an exceptional day!

Steven B. (aka “Big Worm”)

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Today in PEP we watched a couple of videos about God and loving your children and family. It was a good message to all of us in class. We also filled out resumes and wrote a couple of paragraphs stating our work history, experience and capabilities of running our own businesses and what licenses we hold.

We then gave people “Fun Names.” Fun Names are nicknames we give each other that are funny to help make class fun. For everyone reading this, you can be proud of us/your loved one in here. This is hard work and a privilege to be a part of this class. We all work together as a team and help each other if needed. This is our family right now, and it’s very rewarding. God bless you all and have a good day.

Robert Z. (aka “Tony Soprano”)

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Today, we first watched a video about becoming a better man by addressing the baggage we bring to all of our relationships. We got a chance to learn and understand how our past experiences affect our present lives. We learned that all of our baggage can make us stumble and fall, weakening us on our path to redemption. Without resolving our “trouble spots,” we can never recover or improve our lives or make a difference in the lives of those we hold dear and cherish. Many of us had the “dad wound,” which is when a child grew up without a father. The hurt that comes from absentee fathers in men’s lives is insurmountable when that role model is missing, and most young men suffer later on in life as it affects their outlook.

The next video we watched was about dedication and perception. Our group dynamic shows us that we are all trying to do our best and graduate with a full support system. We always tell ourselves that we can’t keep going, but God is not testing us to our limits – instead, He is showing us that we can surpass the fake barriers we place on ourselves which stop us from achieving our full potential. PEP is not only going to improve our lives but also the lives of those around us. We are learning to better ourselves not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. This program will benefit us all. Thank you so much for this opportunity and enlightening journey to help us achieve new heights.

Rabyl N. (aka “Seven Eleven”)

 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Today we were in the PEP room participating in the Better Man class. During this session, we addressed some more of the issues associated with our “father wounds” and the effects these wounds created in us. We also learned how these wounds can manifest in our own children, causing issues later in their lives. We were challenged to be honest about the presence of these issues in our own lives and to learn to forgive our fathers for their transgressions. In doing so, we become liberated and can grow in maturity. I believe we can all benefit greatly from this course, especially from the Better Man series pertaining to our fathers. We were also given a “dad plan” that will help us become the fathers we are meant to be.

Later on, we spoke about our definitions of love, which varied greatly. I see love as being of service to anyone at cost to self. We are commanded to love others, not for us to love ourselves first. We are commanded to love others as we love ourselves. If we love others first, the feelings of love will eventually follow. We have a model to follow, and the choices we make now will set the pace for how we proceed in life after completing this program.

Alberto L. (aka “Caillou”)

 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Today we took time to critique our two-minute “elevator” pitches, or “Big Idea Canvas.” This is the process where everyone has the opportunity to honestly assess their business pitch videos we recorded earlier this week. Truthfully, we did exceptionally well! There were some who struggled due to nervousness and/or apprehension, but we pushed through and got it done.

With time, however, this program will help us analyze and remove any and all negative character traits from those of us who are sincere and resolute regarding personal growth and progress, further instilling the confidence and courage that will propel us to heights we never thought reachable.

PEP isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill prison program. It’s an experience that compels its participants to try something different. It addresses the problems and behaviors that may have hindered our growth and progress as individuals. This program offers realistic solutions and ways to better ourselves.

It’s safe to say that we are extremely blessed to have the opportunity to partake in such an endeavor. There is so much to be gained here, and we all aim to take full advantage of it.

Oscar F. (aka “TurboTax Guy”)

 

Expressions

“We as people are truly capable of success; it’s in us.”

~ Unknown

For the first time in my life, I’m willing to change my lifestyle. I have always succeeded in doing well for myself, but on the way I have hurt a lot of people that I love very much. I hate that I did that to my children, mother, sisters and close friends. Coming to prison didn’t change me. Something in my heart just told me that this was enough. It’s kind of weird, but for the first time, I feel free not only for myself, but for my family who I have hurt. I believe in my heart that God’s turned me down this new road. I feel a lot better for myself and my family who I love very much and who need me home with them.

There are new plans for a new me; I will take this new business idea to next level for me and my loved ones. I have big expectations for myself and my loved ones who I prepare to bring along for my business plans. In my old lifestyle, I was a big deal in many people’s eyes. With my future legacy in mind, I realize that leading and guiding people down the honest road to success feels hundreds of times better. I want people to remember me as the man who did the right thing and led his people in the right direction.

Marciano C. (aka “Fluffy”)

Week 1

Monday, March 14, 2022

Today we got our first taste of what PEP is all about. Being a basic introduction class, it consisted of mostly going over the rules, expected behavior and the like. However, it also included some good-hearted jesting and laughter as a few people were given their “Fun Names” (class nicknames).

All in all, it was not at all what most of us expected. Our facilitator David F. is one of us! He came from the trenches of prison so to speak, which really put a truth to the rumors, that freedom can be obtained and kept! It feels so great to be a part of all this. The afternoon, really the day in general, passed in a blur. So much information, it was almost overwhelming, yet there was also a feeling of camaraderie in that room as if the everyone’s mind held the same prayer: to overcome adversity, to embrace change and to open ourselves up to the vulnerabilities we usually try to hide to end this cycle of our incarceration. And this, my friends, is only the beginning; the first step on new path.

William M. (aka “Sha Nay Nay”)

 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

On Tuesday, we were up and ready to go to the PEP classroom. Many had a look of determination on their faces, while others just couldn’t wait to dance. We opened class with a motivational speech which inspired the men even more with why it is important to succeed. Following the motivational speech, we did a pray-in and then it was game time.

The first order of business was to hand out books to each one of us. The first book was our Entrepreneurship textbook and the second was Who Moved My Cheese? We received two packets which were additional slides for Chapters 1 & 2 of Entrepreneurship to help us with our studies. After we got our slides, we watched two videos laying the groundwork for our businesses, individual leadership and entrepreneurial start-ups. These videos focused on several learning objectives which included the history of entrepreneurship, the impact of small business and triggers that encourage new business supports. Many of us were nervous the second half of class because we had to record our business pitches. It was time to go big or go home. Everyone had fun today and presented amazing ideas.

Willie M. (aka “Mr. Yeah”)

 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

In class today, we learned a few things from Pat M. (aka “Precious”) who came all the way from Houston. He shared with us about how much the cost of his gas was to fill his tank, which was $30 more than what it was a week ago! The cost of living has gone up. Also, he shared about the availability of jobs out there right now. The fact that PEP has a reentry team that exists to help us in both the Houston and Dallas areas is an uplifting fact. Transitional homes are also available for PEP students to parole to upon release from prison. He also spoke about certificate programs we can participate in through Coursera via the internet.

David F. shared about the notebooks and supplies he will be passing out to us in order for us to write all the lessons we are experiencing while in PEP. Overall, we had a great day.

Waylon C. (aka “Popeye”)

 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Today in the PEP classroom we prayed in as usual, then we were blessed to see a video called Heart Check 2. In that video, it showed a woman and her two children left alone by her husband due to him going to prison for twelve years. The video showed the woman speak about how she felt and her emotions due to her husband’s incarceration.

Her children got to speak and express how it affected them as well. We PEP brothers were moved by the video, and it made us look back on our situation and the families we left behind. Some of the brothers in class were asked some questions about the video, and they all gave some excellent feedback. Most of us have kids, and after watching the video it gave us a better understanding on how our family members feel.

Once we finished with the video and questions, David F. gave us a little feedback, and then we watched a PowerPoint presentation on the Better Man series. From that amazing PowerPoint we learned, as men, we have a lot in common no matter what race we are. All of us agreed that we all want to be better men for our families at home. We also learned that women are surpassing men in the workforce. After some positive feedback from my brothers, we prayed out and called it a day. It was a great message that we received today!

Christopher S. (aka “Chia Pet”)

 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Today was awesome and relaxed. Some of us got the word of God from our leader David F. As the morning progressed, we got into our Better Man series, which we think will be very good for one and all. They haven’t gotten around to giving everyone their “Fun Names” (class nicknames) which has been going on for the last week, but we’ll all get them soon. Later we watched a film on being a better man and after the Q & A, we had a great time. We also talked about the book we were given to read called Who Moved My Cheese? This was a great book! – everyone should read it.

Later in the day, some of us pitched our entrepreneur business ideas in front of the camera, for PEP’s Business Plan Competition (BPC). For the most part, a lot of us got it done. My PEP brothers are really doing a great job with some of the ideas that they have. By putting our minds and hearts in the right place, we’re learning a lot about ourselves, and some things we can do to change and make our lives better for our families. We also are becoming better men here at Estes in PEP!

Terry W. (aka “Fatso Green”)

 

Expressions

 

“Anything lost can be found again, except time wasted.

A vision without action is merely a dream.”

~ Kevin Gates

 

No matter what we had in life prior to the choices we made to come here, with hard work and dedication we can make up for that and more. I know it can be done! There is not a doubt in my mind. I just got to take advantage of the time I do have to try to better myself in all aspects of life. I need to make every minute – every second – count; a minute wasted is time wasted. Time is non-refundable. You can never get away from it or get it back, no matter how hard we try. What we can do is take the time we have now and use it to reflect on the last time we messed up to analyze ourselves. We all have visions of ourselves in the future, what we will be doing in life or what we want to do. Sometimes we’ll make a mistake and sometimes we’ll make great choices. Even though at times we doubt ourselves, saying we could never do this or that, coming up with all sorts of excuses, if we will just stop to think, our choices and our actions will be much better! Right action is what is required to become the successful person you want to become.

Steven V. (aka “Chili Verde”)