Monday, September 2, 2019
Every single participant that goes through the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) and successfully completes it knows how valuable the class is. There are a number of lessons we learn, and each and every one of us undergoes a transformation process as we address issues that are life changing. Most come into the program seeking a better understanding of the business world and quickly realize that in order to become successful, one must completely change his current negative and criminal way of thinking to a more positive and community-oriented mentality. We all go through ups and downs; going through them together produces better and more effective results that have a lasting change.
As part of the program, we start by seeing hardened “criminals” start to open up more and more and share their life stories with everyone. It is a heartfelt experience to witness a “criminal” become a human being as he reveals things about himself that even his family does not know about him. The only thing one can sometimes do to hold back the tears is to think back over his own life. The men’s “fraternity sessions” by Robert Lewis are also very effective in teaching us how to better our lives as men. The various events that are held – workshops, fun days, business pitch panels, etc. – are all ways that seem to strengthen our brotherhood. Before we even realize it, we start forming meaningful bonds with those who we once considered strangers, but now consider brothers.
PEP does not allow criminals, slackers or perverts in the program. Even the habit of cussing is not allowed. Character adjustments like these are very hard for many to conform to. It is only when we’re willing to change and adapt that the program will become a positive force of change for us. If there is one thing that is in abundance in PEP, it is positivity. We all need change in our lives. Those of us willing to put in the work and effort for it will succeed in doing so, and PEP is helping us do it positively. God bless all of us and our loved ones. God bless us all.
Navy A. (a.k.a. “Tom Hanks”)
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Today we went into the PEP room to talk about the personal finance book Living in the Village by Ryan C. Mack. Brother Eli R. and Bruce T. spoke on both the Great Recession and the Great Depression, and the difference between being reactive and proactive. Proactive people are prepared for when certain things occur; reactive people live in the moment. They also defined benefit plans where the employer assumes the investment risk, such as 401(k)’s, 403(b)’s or 457s, which are common choices for employers. Bruce T. went over the subject and explained how important it is to save money and be prepared for issues that may occur in our lives. Always plan for your future to avoid going through issues that could have been resolved sooner.
In Chapter Two, Eli R. and Bruce T. discussed reestablishing credit, budgeting and growing your savings account. Bruce T. explained a lot about repairing credit and gave several examples. Pushing yourself to have a FICO score of 750+ is hard to do but worth it in the end. Bruce T. explained how we can achieve our goals just by sticking with the program. To all of us it may seem a little rough, but we should all give what Eli R. and Bruce T. are explaining to us a chance and learn some self-discipline so we can accomplish the goals we keep setting for ourselves, because the sky is the limit. We are very much looking forward for the next class to get some more insight on building our financial futures.
Marco A. (a.k.a. “Charmin Booty Smile”)
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Today was a wonderfully insightful and exciting day for our class, “Vision 2020.” Today we began our Entrepreneurship class with Carl B., who got things started in an exuberant fashion. Carl B. brought instruction from a very formal background. The interest of the class as a whole seemed to be captured by the sheer level of experience that Carl B. brought, and this in turn focused the attention of our class on entrepreneurship. It’s a real deal-breaker when an instructor only half-heartedly skims through material. PEP has done a great job encouraging people with great knowledge to come in and share their time with us.
The Q&A that followed the course instruction was amazing, and the participants were full of questions that at a point had to be hushed due to time constraints. We are hungry for the information provided, and it can only be surmised that we will indeed be the next best class. However, let us not forget the fun! The key is to be able to have fun with what we are learning, and as a class of changed men, we had the opportunity to dance a little and laugh a lot. As some of the individual walls come down, we are able to see life from a different perspective. What a great day it is when we come together to learn, have fun and walk away energized and obeying the promise of tomorrow. Today was a wonderful and successful day.
Jimmy A. (a.k.a. “Cindy Lauper”)
Thursday, September 5, 2019
Today we were fortunate to have guest speakers from PEP’s transitional homes. We are grateful and blessed to have brothers like them that dedicate their time and resources to help PEP brothers getting out and transitioning back into society. We learned that the first 48 hours are the busiest because we need to get ourselves situated and get any assistance we might need, as well as report to parole. We all know the saying “iron sharpens iron,” so let’s stay positive and on the right path. Those words always bring hope and motivate us to be the best, because we learn from the best. They gave us positive feedback on what to expect and what is expected of us.
Our management told us to inspire each other to achieve greatness, surround ourselves with positive PEP brothers and live by the 10 Driving Values. We were reminded that we are never too old to go back to school or pick up a book on whatever field or career we choose and educate ourselves to achieve our goals or dreams. We are all excited for what awaits us tomorrow, and that’s our first event as PEP participants of PEP: it’s called “Think Tank.” We are getting ready and preparing ourselves for the questions they might ask us about our businesses and the responses we will give them. All the graduates from the pods are excited for us, and that gets us more excited. It’s like Christmas Eve, and we are surrounded by all the gifts around the tree. We are loved by people who don’t even know us that well, and they encourage us just like our family would. PEP is the best thing that ever happened to most of us. We are truly blessed to be a part of this Vision 2020 class. “We live between the wings!”
Jesus A. (a.k.a. “Nacho Libre”)
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase,
just take the first step.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I chose this powerful quote because it came from a strong and powerful man who walked not by sight but by faith. He believed in something he would never see: what was morally right by either God’s law or the law of man. Dr. King was a man whose heart was full of conviction regarding the equality of all people. He believed and he acted. Just like the body without the spirit is dead, faith does not work if it is dead to you. So what he did was boycott the march on Washington D.C. (the Million Man March). He became a voice for an oppressed people, and all of this happened because he was willing to take that first step, not knowing what would happen. He was a man called to action by his beliefs.
The reason this quote has such profound impact and resonates so deeply is that it is telling me to believe and trust in what I cannot hold or grasp. This quote teaches me not to be afraid of failure, but instead to attempt the impossible and dare to believe when the odds are against me and my back is against the wall. When other defeat awaits me and there is nothing to keep me from the looming doom, I can choose to defy the odds, which takes courage and heart. It’s like standing on the edge of a cliff looking down at jagged rocks – the only way down is to jump and live or be cowardly and die.
Glenn B. (a.k.a. “Buckwheat”)