Week in Review

Monday, June 8, 2020

PEP has taught me so much over the past year and has transformed me into a new man that I am proud to be. I have learned to strive for excellence in everything I do so that everything I get my mind on is done to the best of my ability. PEP has taught me to find a purpose in my life to push toward. I have learned to be strong both mentally and emotionally in order to overcome the most difficult and stressful situations that may arise in my life or in the lives of those around me. Before PEP, I had a big problem with laziness. I would get depressed easily, blame others for my own problems and be easily frustrated and get into fights over silly, little issues.

Now after graduating PEP, I have learned to find positive ways to avoid letting the little stuff get to me. I realize that everybody has a unique personality, and that the only one I can control is me. So I have become a cleaner person, work out regularly, create daily to-do lists to keep myself busy, read books, learn new things, prioritize my day to be more productive and I even created my own personal mission statement. As a Servant Leader, PEP has taught me to dissolve arguments between people peacefully, help participants with their business plan assignments, help others learn new things, teach math to people in the dorm and put others’ needs ahead of mine to help out wherever & whenever I am needed. Where I used to watch others fail and struggle and not help them due to laziness or not caring, now I find I have a passion to help others, thanks to PEP.

Brian N., Computer Lab Lead (a.k.a. “Tom Green”)

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Today we did our Toastmasters speeches, and it was a wonderful experience. Due to the current concerns about our families and their well-being as a result of the pandemic, most of the individual speeches were focused on these aspects. There were several emotional appeals as my brothers spoke on how difficult it is to be here in prison while their loved ones are facing such adversity. We are limited to what we can do from within, but you can see the effort that participants are putting forth to create positive change in their lives. Being able to voice their concerns about the future and any anxiety that come with it is a step in the right direction. It is awesome to be in this environment and witness the vulnerability that shows when we let down our walls. Seeing the rest of the guys putting in the effort day-in and day-out is inspiring, and we feed off the courage they show getting up in front of everyone to speak.

To meet our obligations and honor the commitments we have made to successfully complete PEP speaks volumes about the character of these men I am proud to call my brothers. Knowing that they have the dedication to stay focused and endure when life throws a curveball, or when their most well-laid plans go awry, demonstrates what they will carry beyond these walls and into the communities from which they come. These communication skills will go a long way toward healing broken relationships as well as enable greater self-efficacy as we labor toward overcoming the myriad challenges we face upon release.

Travis B., Accountability Leader (a.k.a. “The Little Mermaid”)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

When I was asked to write a journal entry to edify those concerned with what our days consist of during the current COVID-19 crisis, my initial thoughts were that the report would be brief and sparse because, in many ways, that is what life is like for us right now. We are not on “lockdown,” but we only leave our pods for meal times, once daily for our scheduled recreational period, and once a week for an abbreviated session in the computer lab (although many graduates are unable to attend at all due to the perceived necessity for “social distancing”). So we spend most if not all of our day with the same people doing the same things each and every day.

Fortunately. PEP gives us something to focus on and a set of common goals to achieve during this difficult time. We have been able to complete the Toastmasters portion of the program. Servant-Leaders have been called upon to employ their organizational and leadership skills in order to keep the Phase Two (business portion of class) progressing and the morale high for all of us. The current class participants are methodically assembling the components for their business plans, despite limited computer time, executive feedback, and lack of classroom instruction.

As all of these things progressed and were continuously confronted with myriad obstacles, I believe that many Servant-Leaders began to view them as opportunities – chances for all of us to grow and to refine ourselves. In many ways, we were set adrift and had to successfully navigate toward the place we must go. Prison life requires many things, among them adjustment, adaptation, innovation and persistence. The many restrictions brought on by COVID-19 drew a line in the sand for our program. On one side, those who embrace our culture, our struggle, and our 10 Driving Values adjust, adapt and persist – these are the ones who succeed. Many of our “brothers” who cannot, will not or may not have ever truly embraced what it is we are dedicated to are now finding themselves most conspicuously on the other side of that line. It’s crowded over there, and more populous than I would have hoped. But I for one am thankful for this crucible because I can observe the refining process, and now I really know who my fellow travelers are on this journey.

I thank God for this program and for those of us who are dedicated to our 10 Driving Values. I thank Him for our leadership and for our faithful executives. Thank you for all that you do for us. For those reading this, we love you and miss you, and cannot wait to see you at visitation, or at PEP events, or when we walk out of these gates. Until then, we wish you health and safety from this side of the line, where we stay living “between the wings.”

Terry S., Pod Coach (a.k.a. “Colonel Sanders”)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The journey I have had here in PEP has had its ups and downs, but overall it always turns back toward the positive. Like any stubborn 23 year old, a lot of this program has been a super hard pill to swallow. When I first joined, nobody could tell me anything. Who were they to tell me what to do? As I progressed, I began to see that it’s not a problem with the people around me, but a problem within myself. I began to notice how my perspective was distorting my view of life around me. Piece by piece, I have been able to realize that for the most part, people here wanted to help me, and that they were there for me, not against me. Someone cared.

In the moment of my incarceration that would either make or break me, PEP cared for me and pushed me toward the Kaleb my family deserves. The person I deserved to become. Without the pressure PEP placed on me to change, I would have been one more lost to the system, just a number. My family members have their son and brother back, and I have them too in a way I haven’t in quite a while. I believe that PEP saved my life and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, in that I believe in myself now. I know my worth and as a result, I continue to learn and grow. God and PEP gave me my life back – a life without the need to hide.

Kaleb E., Graphics (a.k.a. “Canadian Bacon”)

Friday, June 12, 2020

Now that we have decided to live our lives according to the 10 Driving Values, life has become better. God doesn’t always solve our problems instantly, but He is with us in our darkest hours, and we can never escape His all-encompassing love.

We all have gone through hard times, especially during this pandemic called COVID-19. I give PEP and the current class of Epic 2020 my admiration for moving forward and not being jaded by the things that have happened. The leadership stepped up to the plate, and even though David F. and Gami J. haven’t been able to be here, they kept the program going as if this had never happened. The current class has even stepped up into leadership roles that needed to be filled. This class has maintained confidence and integrity through this turbulence. The dorms have been united and the Pod Coaches, Mentors and Accountability Leaders are helping to keep order and have been strong during this difficult time. The Peer Educators have taken on a big role and have been encouraging, issuing words of wisdom to brothers who have come to the edge and did not have the will to keep moving in the program. All of our Servant-Leaders have been wonderful assets to the program, and they have demonstrated that they can accomplish so much under pressure. We all miss everyone involved with PEP and send our prayers to you all. God bless you.

Jesus A., Custodial Engineer (a.k.a. “Nacho Libre”)