Monday, January 14, 2019

We completed our 10th and final Toastmasters’ speeches, and in doing so we achieved something very memorable. It activated genuine fellowship among everyone involved in class. A lot of my fellow peers advanced their confidence in public speaking. The final topic was to inspire the crowd and cause them to feel what was being projected. As we assessed one another, confidence was in the atmosphere, but also a genuine gratitude for God. Of course, as a combined unit we definitely communicated not only life-changing messages but also inspirational speeches that encouraged one another. We conducted these groups quite well considering it was an extended session. Each brother demonstrated a sincere and genuine attentiveness, since it was going to be the last speech.

We also had an excellent Toastmaster in Jeremy B., who facilitated our group with a focused concentration. Guided by his genuine desire to serve, he honed in to keep the men attentive as each speech illustrated deep change in each individual. We have learned so much from this class, and it is evident by today’s outlined speeches. Personally, we performed above the norm simply because we are so close to our Pitch Day in Phase Two. Everyone qualified on their time and some reached real close to being clapped out. Nevertheless, we solidified our place thus far and trained for it to the point that it is obvious to all of us. Lives have been transformed and real skill has been uncovered and upgraded, being verbalized in our concluding speeches today. We are all winners!

Robert S. (a.k.a. “Cinnamon Pop Tart”)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Today was a great day at the Sanders Estes Unit, as is the norm on Tuesdays. Tuesday is our day without class when we study for tests we will have on Wednesday. So it’s not really a day off. Tuesdays are pretty cool as far as the vibe in the pod goes. Everywhere you look, you will see men in groups studying for the next test, comparing notes and quizzing each other. Sometimes we even get into a large group and play a trivia game. Redeemed ’19 has raised the bar as far as studying goes. We are committed to showing up and showing our best on test day. Our seven to twelve minute pitches are due tomorrow, and I am sure that as I write this there are quite a few men hard at work finishing up their rough drafts.

We are more than three-quarters of the way through the program at this point, and all the guys are getting excited. We are ready to become graduates. Most of us have never graduated from anything. Needless to say, satisfaction with a job well done, adversity faced, fears conquered and strengths realized is something we don’t always get to enjoy. It is close enough to taste – the air is thick with the anticipation of victory! We are almost there and it will be worth the wait. I am proud to be PEP!

Joshua S. (a.k.a. “Goldfish”)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Oh what an awesome morning it was. It is always such a pleasure to go into the PEP classroom and share with each other. We continuously lift each other up when we celebrate birthdays with our PEP brothers as we did for a couple of them today. It is so joyous to see the smiles and happiness on their faces as the rest of the brothers are singing “Happy Birthday” to them. The love we have for one another is amazing. We are definitely a family of brothers. It has been an amazing journey we’ve all shared together. Go Redeemed ’19!

After we finished taking the entrepreneurship test, we had an amazing executive go over the slide presentation that covers Chapter 14 in our entrepreneurship handout – it was very educational as we covered franchises. It went in-depth on how to get involved in owning a franchise. The first few steps of the process included getting an information packet and filling out a short application, as well as the phone interview. Once everything checks out, the franchise is sent the UFOC, which is a franchisor disclosure document, and the franchiser has to fill out a more complete application. The last step is the negotiation of the purchase. There are different packages that a franchisor may offer to a franchisee that needs to be gone over carefully. There are clauses that may be added into the packages that need close monitoring, such as only being able to purchase certain supplies from the franchisor. It is astonishing how many people actually want to become franchisees but have no idea the process it takes to accomplish that task. This is an awesome program, and we truly appreciate all we learn.

Johnny S. (a.k.a. “Larry the Cable Guy”)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

I woke up this morning to see another beautiful day and decided to get in the shower to wake me up and get my motor running. To my surprise, the water was ice cold which really woke me up. After taking a quick Eskimo shower and getting myself together, I immediately began reading the rest of the Chapter 14 out of the entrepreneurship textbook. The homework that we have to do for failing a chapter test is tremendous and a real headache. I made a few flash cards to help me study and retain the material that I needed to know.

After completing the flash cards and reading, it was time for lunch, which in TDCJ is referred to as “chow.” We ate baked chicken, carrots, green beans and beans, which come on every entree. After we were done eating chow, it was time for the facility count time. During count time, they lock us in our cells until they get finished counting the dorms. After we were released out of our cells, we went into the dayroom and I proceeded to work on and improve my Business Plan Competition (BPC) speech for our upcoming event for PEP. We are finally at the end of a very long ride. The information that we have retained during these past several months has really helped me in becoming a successful business owner and productive citizen. I am grateful for it all. PEP has definitely had a major impact on my life. Go Redeemed ’19!

Travion S. (a.k.a. “Gingerbread Man”)


“No te des por vencido, ni aun vencido.”

~ Pedro Bonifacio Palacios

This quote comes from the first line of one of my favorite poems, “Piu Avanti,” which translates to “keep moving forward.” It was written by Pedro Bonifacio Palacios, an Argentinian teacher, journalist and poet. The first line goes as follows: “No te des por vencido, ni aun vencido” which means, “Don’t be defeated, even when you have been defeated.” I have always loved that poem because it gives me hope – hope to live, love and succeed.

The line resonates even more at this stage in my life. After being incarcerated, many of us feel that this is hitting rock bottom. This is when we feel that no matter what we do, life is going to hold us down and that we have no energy or the drive to fight the constant battle. We weren’t sure if there was any light at the end of the tunnel, but now we know there is. There is life outside these walls. We don’t have long sentences. We are all going to be released one day. It is up to us to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from our mistakes, lick our wounds and keep moving forward. I am using this time away as a learning experience. I’m trying to better my life and have an opportunity to succeed by using the tools in this program. I have to do this not only for myself, but for the rest of my family too. Even if the white flag is at my side and I feel that the odds are all against me, I will not wave it. I will not be defeated. I will keep moving forward.

Abraham S. (a.k.a. “Jackie Chan”)