Posts Tagged ‘journals’

The following was written by incarcerated men who are participating in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s Class 22 “Business Plan Competition.”

Week in Review: Week 7

Monday (18 August 2014)

Get to the Point

Get to the Point

Today in Toastmasters, Class 22 began our third round of speeches on project number three called “Get to the Point.” Every speech must have a general and specific purpose to inform, persuade, entertain or inspire. The purpose is what helps to organize your speech. We have also learned that choosing a topic that interests us individually helps create enthusiasm about the speech and its subject matter. If you show passion, then your audience will be more engaged. When the audience is interested, then they are more willing to consider your point of view.

As a team we have come a long way in a short period of time. The more speeches we prepare for the more confident we will be when it comes time to stand in front of those executive panels again.

Tuesday (19 August 2014)

Prior participants. “Used by permission from Tamir Kalifa / Texas Tribune.”

Prior participants. “Used by permission from Tamir Kalifa / Texas Tribune.”

We enjoyed the day off from class in the PEP room, but as everyone knows our time is still full of studying and writing, whether it’s our business plans or our letters to our loved ones. There is never a dull moment, and for some that is a blessing. Looking around I see PEP brothers helping others with the study packet that Bert S. gave us last week. None of us could have ever guessed that being in this place would bring about smiling faces and encouragement.

To see people supporting one another is really fitting since we have all vowed to be our brothers’ keepers. Every day we get closer and closer to our graduation and the bonds of unity get stronger and stronger. Some of us have been searching for this our entire lives. This is becoming a true brotherhood that we can depend on.

Wednesday (20 August 2014)

Entrepreneurship A Small Business Approach textbook

Our textbook

Good morning PEP! I’m sitting in the computer lab looking around as brothers stare into their screens learning Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point. This is just another great advantage that PEP gives us. It’s great to get the opportunity to become a little more computer savvy, since many of us have never really learned any computer skills.

Yep, you guessed it: time to put everything under our seats for the test. Our knowledge was tested over Chapter 5: Developing a Mission Statement. Looking around, the brothers seemed very confident that they have prepared well and this test will be a piece of cake. Bert S. gave a lecture on the Economics of One Unit (EOU). We have been hearing a lot of intimidating stories about the EOU test, but the way Bert S. explained it, it does seem fairly simple. Looking around the PEP room, confidence is still in the brothers’ eyes. We know that this EOU test coming up is nothing compared to the dedication, perseverance and discipline that we bring to the table. We are Transcendent 22.

Thursday (21 August 2014)
If I could describe the atmosphere in the PEP computer lab today for Transcendent 22, it would definitely be that of execution. That is one of PEP’s 10 Driving Values that we strive to live out each and every day. Men who have never turned on a computer before are now completing assignments. It takes a lot of self discipline to execute these assignments. I see a lot of interaction with all the brothers since each has his own obstacles to overcome. Each time we step into the computer lab, we become more knowledgeable and gain a better understanding of the business world. This is what it is going to take to become a successful entrepreneur.

Friday (22 August 2014)

Wow! Another week has flown by in the PEP world. Decorian W. prayed us in with a prayer of healing going out to PEP graduate Bobby Colombo. Aaron C., Johnny H., Marty R, and Decorian W. all celebrated birthdays today. Guess where they went? You’re right, to the back of the room! Just when you think you have seen all the dance moves, new ones are created.

Peter N. took us through the next assignment in our business plan which was “Market, Competition and Differentiation.” This deals with general facts about the business, whom we compete against and how we will create a competitive advantage. We also learned a little more about the EOU’s from Alex L. and Pat M. as they went over the revenue model and the income statement. There were a lot of questions, but when all the dust settled we walked out of the PEP room one lesson closer to becoming an entrepreneur.


The PEP 10 Driving Values

The PEP 10 Driving Values

Servant-Leaders are a rare species. For over two thousand years people have studied the Master. Whether you are a person of faith or not, there is no denying the fact that Jesus was a great example of a leader who served all those around Him. There are leadership professionals, coaches, executives and speakers that are making money every day trying to implement these principals into the lives of those in businesses, schools, churches and any other organization that wills to succeed. However, the key element is love. Without love all our efforts are seen as self-seeking and not genuine.

Every day we have a responsibility to add value to those around us. Sometimes that comes in the form of edification, but it also comes in the form of correction. The transformation that takes place in the men’s lives in this place is extraordinary, and there is nothing like this anywhere in the world.

The following was written by incarcerated men who are participating in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s Class 22 “Business Plan Competition.”

Week in Review: Week 6

Monday (11 August 2014)

It is an unavoidable and necessary reality that on Mondays our class gets a little smaller. For some, their journey is not yet one of the challenges being conquered through self-examination and a peer-driven curriculum. PEP is not for everyone and that is alright.

At this point, all of us are getting more familiar with all the procedures of Toastmasters, and we are able to execute our roles assigned by the elected officers. The speeches are getting better and the nerves are settling, week by week. Content and confidence permeate each session. Monday is also another great time for us to utilize the computer lab and learn how to operate some of the programs. These skills are new for some and simply a review for others. At the end of each class, we get the much-needed time to look through market research for our business plans.

Tuesday (12 August 2014)

we must live together as brothers or perish together as fools

Members of a prior class.

What is a day off for those in PEP? It’s time to study for Wednesday’s tests and keep honing our Venture Capital Panel (V.C.P.) presentation for Friday which looms just over the horizon. Groups form in the dorms where orange folders brighten up the normally drab atmosphere of the dayroom. The conversations about business and tests are floated around and food is shared; unity through a common journey is developed. We are not Black, White, Hispanic or Asian; we are all brothers who want to cross the finish line and leave nobody behind. PEP is always a force of motion and it stops for no one. As Class 22 proceeds toward graduation, our environment is changed by the arrival of those slated for Class 23. They are the ones who will follow in our footsteps as they shake off the “coach ride” courtesy of TDCJ. It’s custom for graduates and participants to greet the new arrivals with a friendly welcome. This is not done in a normal TDC setting, so everyone is a bit reluctant and cautious. Soon they realize that this a different kind of life, and the journey is just beginning.

Wednesday (13 August 2014)

This day of the week seems to always come quickly and with it the nervousness of test day. Participants enter the room and collect their name badges, ready to meet and greet one another. After a few minutes everyone jockeys for position in the homework line. All assignments must be turned in before pray-in to avoid more homework. After the inspirational reading, we all sit down and put everything under our seats. Clipboards are passed out along with the tests and — for those who are unprepared — the much-anticipated reckoning becomes a reality. Silence is broken only by writing instruments scratching across paper. Each person knows that his fate this week depends on his performance: we each need to score a 70 or better. All those who fail to meet the mark will inevitably have a sore hand due to lots of writing.

As always, we rise to our feet having completed the test to greet and welcome Bert S. so we can start the day’s lesson. There is no avoiding the fact that the curriculum is becoming more challenging and demanding more thought. This sparks a lot of class discussion on competitive advantage, market strategy and all things business. The “Issues and Tissues” session always brings about the same result: smiles and frowns.

Thursday (14 August 2014)

Class 21 VCP

A Prior Participant Receives Feedback on His Pitch From Executive Volunteers.

Pitches and paperwork were the order of the day for Class 22. Some volunteered to go before the class and practice their pitch while others were chosen. Most were great and showed much thought, preparation and practice. Some needed a little more development before the upcoming event. If one of our brothers went before the class and started to freeze up, we would clap and cheer as a demonstration of solidarity in moments of struggle. Sometimes this is all that is needed to motivate and inspire. The end of the day was met with cheers as we were reminded of the importance of the following day. V.C.P. was no longer a date to think about, but a reality less than 24 hours away. It will take nerves of steel to get a good night sleep tonight.

Friday (15 August 2014)

The day has come and with it all the excitement and nerves that always seem to be part of the vibe during events. Everyone was in his best pair of pajamas and ready to present a brief 2 ½ to 3 minute synopsis on his business plan to grab the attention of the executives and hopefully start a dialogue. However, before all of the festivities started we were all given something to add to our arsenal of professionalism: business cards. Our pictures were cast alongside our business name and jingle giving us the first tangible piece of evidence toward what we hope to accomplish. The majority of us have never had a business card and it brought an overwhelming sense of earned pride. It wasn’t long before the music started and the lights were flashing for the executives who were starting to file into the PEP room. They were met with high fives, handshakes and cheers as we prepared to start our second event. It was not long before Bert grabbed the microphone and took charge of the situation to bring order and organization. After the dance team showed their moves and an overview of the day was explained, we were all counted and separated into our room assignments. Each member of the panel would be given an evaluation sheet to help the participants improve their performance. The day closed with more dancing and cheers. Heartfelt stories were told by participants as well as volunteers, and it was hard to avoid the emotions that flooded the room. You can’t experience this anywhere else in the world.

Saturday (16 August 2014)

No rest for the weary; we were called out to the PEP room early Saturday morning for our third event. We had an opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with the volunteers in order to discuss our concepts or just build bonds. The mood in the PEP room was energetic as always, but with a drowsy side. Thanks to loud music, servant-leaders and Pat M’s dance motivation routine, the energy was turned up. We saw new faces as the executives were greeted, and most were a little nervous and still not sure what to expect from over a hundred men in blue pajamas acting so happy. A lot of the new faces represent Teach for America. This group of dedicated volunteers have taken typical educational placement and thrown all the rules out the window in order to make an impact in areas where some will not venture. Needless to say, they inspired us. It was obvious that they have the skills and compassion to teach even the hardest cases with their ability to listen and nurture others. Everyone gained great feedback from the great minds that volunteer to come and add value to our lives.


every man dies but not every man truly lives

Image from prior class.

Another week in the books as we all take in all that has taken place in the last few days. You never know what to expect from PEP. The most unlikely people will speak life into you, and it will change your whole outlook. Never did anyone come to this program thinking that it would impact them in the way that it has already in just a few short months. The revolution that we have all embraced as our own is making the impossible seem possible, one day at a time. From servant-leaders to Class 23 participants just arriving on the Unit, we are a band of brothers becoming the men we were created to be, and each one is an important piece of the puzzle. It will not be complete if one is missing. So we will stay the course and never give up! The work is definitely worth the reward.


The following was written by incarcerated men who are participating in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s Class 22 “Business Plan Competition.”

Week in Review: Week 5

Monday (04 August 2014)

Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International

Once again, Transcendent 22 started the week with Toastmasters. Many are still anxious about public speaking, but everyone is getting better. We can already see how the fellow Toastmasters are beginning to work together by supporting each other. Most still have the uneasiness of speaking in front of a group, but the order of the meetings is getting smoother and looking sharper each week. Keep up the good work Class 22!

Tuesday (05 August 2014)

The computer lab is an important part of the class and a valuable resource that we have started to use. Robert, Grady and Peter are doing a great job in assuring a productive environment as we plod along through the lessons which, by the way, are fun and effective. After lunch put the finishing touches on our Coat of Arms.  We also took photos for our business plans and for our business cards. Each participant confirmed their jingle and business name. It’s all starting to become a reality, one step at a time.

Wednesday (06 August 2014)

Tissue, anyone? (Image via Creative Commons)

Tissue, anyone? (Image via Creative Commons)

Test day! Before we begin tackling the workload we always like to take some time to get all the birthday brothers to the back of the room. Then there was no talking and everything had to go under our seats, because – you guessed it – it was time to test everyone’s knowledge on Chapter 3 and all the handouts. While our scores were being compiled, Bert broke down Chapter 4 and, as usual, did a great job. Transcendent 22 was fully engaged and interested in the discussion. Of course, next on the agenda was the awaited “issues and tissues.” Like always, tests bring joy and tears. Let’s keep marching forward, Transcendent 22!

Thursday (07 August 2014)

Israel was back with us today and this time he brought Max to help us with all of our re-entry questions. While we have lost our “gangsta ways,” Max claimed that he is working on “becoming a little more gangsta.” He wasn’t up for any dancing, but he was hilarious. We filled out our re-entry forms and enjoyed the history videos about how our country was formed. Innovation is really part of the fabric of this country.

PEP's Manager of In-Prison Initiatives, Pat McGee

PEP’s Manager of In-Prison Initiatives, Pat McGee

Friday (08 August 2014)

We began by receiving instructions on the assignments handed out to us regarding our brochures and logos. Pat M. then asked for 10 volunteers to come to the front of the class, but there was no telling what he has in mind. The last time it turned out to be a dance crew. Today it turned out it was the beginning of our brothers giving their Venture Capital Plan (VCP) pitches. The first 10 quickly turned into 30 as people started to realize that this was the perfect opportunity to get over the fear of public speaking. We ended the day watching a video on George W. Bush and the mark he left on the country during his presidency. Another week in the books for Transcendent 22!


There is no greater joy in life than to add value to the lives of the people around you. Over the course of this journey learning how to become a true servant-leader is hard and it goes against everything this world teaches us. It’s amazing to see the metamorphosis take place. This revolution is changing men from the inside out. Transformation from the old life and mind-set to the next will prove to be the hardest road some will ever travel. Along the way we begin to realize that the most deadly traps are the ones we set for ourselves. PEP gives us the tools and the vision to avoid those traps and to pull our brothers out of harm’s way as well. We lead to see others succeed.

The following was written by incarcerated men who are participating in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s Class 22 “Business Plan Competition.”

Week in Review: Week 4

Monday (28 July 2014)

Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International

Good afternoon Toastmasters! As we walked into the PEP room I could see on the guys’ faces that they were anxious about giving their first real speech. We still had a few brothers who needed to give their icebreaker speech and they were excellent. There was one speech given by Gerald “Boo Boo” about how to train your dog to sit and listen to your commands that was very interesting, detailed and clear. Everyone was attentive and seemed to enjoy the topic. Let’s not forget about the thank you cards that were passed out for all of Class 22 — no amount of preparation could have prepared us for those. Each day gets more and more exciting. “Go Transcendent 22”!

Tuesday (29 July 2014)

Today we were given a day off from class, but of course not from homework and studies. We studied the handouts that Bert S. gave us as well as continued reading in our entrepreneurship books. As I look around the dorm, brothers are in study groups and going from table to table asking if anyone needs help. How about that for unity? Everyone is still working hard to finish their thank you cards without any errors, which will result in more homework. The 2 ½ minute pitch looms just around the corner. No matter how difficult it may be, we will endure and keep moving forward.

Entrepreneurship A Small Business Approach textbook

Our textbook

Wednesday (30 July 2014)

Today, the atmosphere in the PEP room was that of seriousness for Transcendent 22. As soon as we sat down we were taking the Chapter One test, and when that was complete it was right on to Chapter Two. Then the unthinkable happened: a pop quiz for Chapter Three, or so we thought. That was a close call! Bert S. (a.k.a. Chocolate Truffles) started to lecture on Chapter Three, and the primary focus was on choosing a single business idea starting with a list of three to five ideas. Then, we are to identify one business on which to perform a due diligence analysis. The purpose of this is to see if a sufficient business opportunity exists and if you have the resources to take advantage of it. The spirit of being an entrepreneur has begun.

Old computer ad

Thursday(31 July 2014)

Transcendent Class 22 XXII started its first computer class today, and for some it was probably their first time ever to turn a computer on. For others, it was just another day at the office as they breezed right through their assignments. After that, we met with PEP’s Re-entry staff. Harvey M. and Luis A. gave us all helpful information about our transition into society. It’s good to hear from men who have been where we are and can tell us the obstacles we will face when we walk out the door. They went in-depth on what is expected from the men who are going to the transitional house and how to go about getting all the required documents to apply for jobs and start life again.

Friday (01 August 2014)

cover_tki_LAs we filed into the PEP room we broke up into our accountability groups to prepare for another session with Dr. Younker who holds a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology and is also a volunteer with PEP. We started session three of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI), and today’s focus was on understanding and respecting individual differences and effectively managing conflict situations.  Then we switched gears and took a Thomas-Kilman conflict mode resolution assessment. It was designed to assess an individual’s behavior in conflict situations and helps people identify how different individuals tend to act when conflicts arise. Mike Potts said, “This is the meat and potatoes of what we are trying to accomplish.”

Saturday (02 August 2014)

Laura and Theresa

PEP Family Liaisons Laura Stiehl and Theresa Black

We were headed to the PEP room to finally meet with PEP’s Family Liaisons, who are two very important ladies within the PEP family. Theresa Black and Laura Stiehl are amazing. They introduced themselves and gave us a quick insight into their lives and why they enjoy doing what they do. It’s such a blessing to know there are people like our Family Liaisons who reach out to our families and help mend relationships. Looking around, the brothers were very excited about this day. Once again, brothers had a lot of questions, and after that we began our one-on-one interviews. It was a blessed day for Class 22 to be part of the revolution.

Sunday (03 August 2014

Today was the final day of our beloved Family Liaisons, as Laura and Theresa finished interviews with the brothers that didn’t get a chance to see them yesterday. It’s amazing to see the dedication that those two women put into helping us build our relationships stronger with our families. Just by looking into some of my brothers eyes I could tell how grateful they were to have this opportunity to become better men because of the PEP family. No matter what, we will persevere because that’s how Class Transcendent 22 does it!!


There is a Texas A&M quote that says, “From the outside looking in you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out you can’t explain it.” I know that we all can relate to this feeling. As each of us transcend through different levels, it becomes harder to put into words the life transformation that we all experience in our own way. God is using PEP as a pen to write a new destiny in the heart of every man and woman who comes into contact with it.

The following was written by incarcerated men who are participating in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s Class 22 “Business Plan Competition.”

Week in Review: Week 3

Monday (July 21, 2014)

Michael P. opened Toastmasters with a special prayer for Bobby C. of Class 9, who was in a bad motorcycle accident. We each gave a four to six minute speech called the “Ice Breaker.” Some of the guys were naturals at public speaking, while others had probably never spoken in front of a group of people before. You could feel both excitement and nervousness as we each got up and delivered our speeches. The ice breaker was a good topic because a lot of guys shared their backgrounds, interests and ambitions which allowed us as a whole to learn something about each other.

Tuesday (July 22, 2014)

We are moving along in our efforts to learn more about what is necessary to put together a proper business plan. One of our servant-leaders took to the lectern to give a PowerPoint presentation about what we would be expected to have completed in three weeks for the next big event, the Venture Capital Panel (VCP). We will need a company name, jingle, strategy and practiced pitch. In order to do those tasks we will look to our peers for help and support.

HAnding out grades

A prior PEP class (handing out test grades)

Wednesday (July 23, 2014)

The wait is over. The tests have started, and for some it’s reckoning day. Basic Business, chapters one and two were the order of the day as Bert S. came to see what we had retained. A test and a pop quiz – “welcome to PEP!” was the battle cry from the lips of our servant-leaders, who not long ago occupied our seats. After the tests, Bert presented the class with our lesson and took questions from us. There was no lack of ability or motivation to participate. Servant-leaders graded our tests as we continued to learn today’s material.

Thursday (July 24, 2014)

Transcendent 22 met at noon and it was Pat M. who was conducting the class. We were given our family liaison forms to fill out with the three people that we want PEP to contact. We were to evaluate the relationships with our family members now and in the future so that insight could be gained into how to approach those family members with love. Additionally, we filled out forms for our children to receive Christmas gifts, which is a true blessing. Israel gave a great presentation on accountability which really resonated with those who are still skeptical. The brotherhood is going strong as we saw photos of PEP brothers doing life outside. Whether it was skydiving or lending a helping hand to a brother in need, the network is held together tightly with love and accountability.


With the first few weeks on the books, I have watched as my PEP brothers have settled in to different roles everywhere. Servant-leaders have stepped up to fill the voids left by those gone home and to the Venus unit, but the greatest joy has been to watch as the PEP revolution starts to work its way inside even the worst of critics. Day by day we see the lights come on, the hope resurrected and the camaraderie formed as men start to unlock the gifts that God has placed inside of them. Class 22 is on pace to transcend all those before it, and it is up to every man to make sure nobody is left behind.

The following was written by incarcerated men who are participating in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s Class 22 “Business Plan Competition.”

Week in Review: Week 2

Monday (July 14, 2014)

Toastmasters International

Today is the first day of Toastmasters for Transcendent 22.Toastmasters is an international organization that helps people improve their public speaking skills. Looking around the room, I see anticipation and excitement on the faces of my classmates. The class is very large and we are squeezed together tightly in a semicircle around the room in multiple rows. Servant-leaders demonstrate the duties we will assume in future meetings. Rolando T. opened with the definition of a servant-leader, Jerry H. was the Toastmaster for today and Mr. Arnold was our distinguished guest. Mr. Arnold, our public speaking mentor, talked about what it means to be a servant-leader. Andrew T. spoke on the importance of Toastmasters and the role it plays in the business plan competition. At the end of the day, we elected our own presidents for each session and vice presidents for each Toastmasters group.

Tuesday (July 15, 2014)

PEP Classroom with Coat of Arms

PEP Classroom with Coat of Arms

It was Throwback Tuesday for Transcendent 22. We took a trip down Nostalgia Boulevard and participated in arts and crafts. Glue sticks, glitter and stickers lay out on tables ready to be used for creating a “Coat of Arms.” We were tasked with creating our own personal Coat of Arms that would reflect the personality of each class member. For some this was a painful reminder of a lost youth, but for most it was smiles and yet another chance to build bonds with people who were strangers just weeks ago.

The day was not all arts and crafts, though. We were introduced to the resume and personal story portions of the business plan. We also continued to focus on our character. We will put into writing personal characteristics and flaws that need work. All these activities are important to the PEP development cycle that leads to success in business, as well as on a deep personal level. To be bankrupt in one aspect of life is to be bankrupt in all of life.

Bert Smith Teaching in PEP

Bert Smith Teaching a Prior Class in PEP

Wednesday (July 16, 2014)

Class 22 was all ears today as CEO Bert S. (a.k.a. Chocolate Truffles) arrived to deliver the inaugural lesson and show a glimpse of what lies ahead. There is no doubt about it: the next several months promise to bring stress, homework, sleepless nights and unrelenting assignments. Having the lessons delivered by a real professional, though, makes this adventure so very worth it! We are lucky to have such an incredible opportunity. To Bert, Class 22 sends a Transcendent thank you!

Entrepreneurship A Small Business Approach textbook

Our textbook

Thursday (July 17, 2014)

Wow, an unexpected day off! Well, that gives us more time to study and catch up on homework. Everybody on the dorm is digging into his entrepreneurship book or practicing the icebreaker speech for Toastmasters on Monday. A day off from the classroom doesn’t mean a day off from the books, especially with business plan assignments and our Venture Capital Panel event approaching.


Days of rest and weekends go unwritten, but the journal of our journey never stops. Transformation comes etched in our hearts as we grow in little ways, the dark, the empty and the large. Like peaks and valleys, activity is easily seen on the mountaintops, but much life and growth spring from the hidden paths. Schedules will change, curriculum will range from business to character development, activity will pick up and slow down, and people will come and go. Let it all be etched at all times throughout all of you. These are the depths, the steps, the work and rest, and the breaths of Transcendence.

The following was written by incarcerated men who are participating in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program’s Class 22 “Business Plan Competition.”

Week 1 in Review

Tuesday, 08 July 2014

We entered the PEP classroom surprised by the graduates lined up for us. They gave us high-fives, pats on the shoulders and hugs to welcome us to this new chapter in our lives. What a feeling! After all that, we gathered into groups by pods and had a dance-off in the center of the room. It was a surprise to see how many guys can dance – it was also a joke to see how many guys cannot dance.

The fun didn’t last too long, though. “Everything under your chairs, test time!”  We took the AP Style test and PEP’s Survival Rules test. The real test of the day came when Pat M. gave the entire class homework: two copies of AP Style, two business vocabulary lists and two 10 Driving Values lists. Basically, this is a lot of handwritten homework. We were surprised and curious when Pat gave us this minor test. Being Transcendent 22, though, we will get it done as part of our efforts to change our lives no matter what it takes.

Wednesday – 09 July 2014

Today, again, we walked into the PEP classroom, where different graduates showed up sharing the same PEP love as yesterday. Again, it was test time. After business vocabulary and personal finance tests, the fun began. Anyone up for balloon popping? What does balloon popping involve? Mass hysteria, adrenaline and tons of fun. Around the room men were all smiles and having fun. It is an amazing feeling to experience community, happiness and fun despite our circumstances.

Thursday – 10 July 2014

Testing, testing… Our final two tests were given. A collective sigh of relief was heard throughout the unit.

We were joined again by two members of the PEP staff to discuss their favorite of PEP’s 10 Driving Values. Kristie (a.k.a. Mimi) discussed Servant-Leader Mentality and showed a video on the life of Bill Crawford. Afterwards, Al (a.k.a. Granny Panties) shared his favorite Driving Value: “Fresh-Start” Outlook. Al told his story and shared his reasons for his dedication to the PEP way of life.

Friday –  11 July 2014

Class 22 was treated to a visit by Dr. John Younker today. Dr. Younker specializes in maximizing performance at the executive level in corporate America. He utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in his approach to building and sustaining effective relationships. Class 22 was all ears as Dr. Younker explained the goal of his role in our development and future growth after release. Throughout this first week, the love and encouragement has been constant. The layers of a hardened outer skin are beginning to peel back. For the first time in a long time, the future looks amazing.


“Be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”

– W.E.B. Du Bois

There is nothing so hopeful as a new beginning. From the guests through the tests to the chicken dancing, each step becomes a chance to participate in our own new creation – ourselves.

We send special thanks to PEP staff for their steadfast commitment to this revolution. Thank you for being here Kristie, Phi, Pat, Mike, Al, Marcus, Jeremy, and special guest Sara. Your participation in the Class Transcendent 22 internal kickoff makes you Transcendent.

The following was written by our incarcerated participants. It was originally written for their families, but we wanted to share it with you so that you can get a glimpse of what we do inside of prison… from the perspectives of our participants!


Week 10: Week in Review

Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International

Monday, March 10, 2014 — Toastmasters is evolving and competent speakers are emerging from the woodwork. The level of preparation from the speakers is increasing and the topics are vast and all-encompassing. This is coming from just the second round of speeches; once we reach the tenth round the metamorphosis will be astonishing. Everyone is doing great and the atmosphere is very relaxed as our bond of brotherhood allows us to speak comfortably to everyone present.

a9643c6b3146c8515bd2c53a38dc55b2Tuesday, March 11, 2014 — We have gotten into our groove with the entrepreneurship book. This is our second week in a row with a 90 test score average, a 92 to be exact for today. We have earned our namesake as Class “Triumphant” 21, for we are victorious and always prevail. We have almost reached the halfway mark of our class and I can’t help but think of the mantra for the Roman legions: “In Omnia Paratus,” which means “ready for all things.” By our actions we have proven that we are ready for all things and triumphant in everything we encounter.

Living in the Village by Ryan Mack

“Living in the Village” by Ryan Mack

Wednesday, March 12, 2014— Brian T. has been giving us tons of useful and beneficial information from our readings from Living in the Village. The importance of saving and investing becomes clearer and clearer as our studies progress. I know that we will take the information learned here and apply it all in our lives upon our release. The arsenal of new information we have gotten ensures only one thing: success!

Thursday, March 13, 2014 —We spent a majority of the day engulfed in educational videos. At the end of the day we had Pat M. and Marcus H. give us encouraging words which always recharge our batteries and prepare us for whatever comes our way. An important fact that Pat brought to our attention was that in a few months we will not graduate, instead we will go through a rite of passage. A graduation signifies finality; a rite of passage represents but a single step in a long journey through life.

Friday, March 14, 2014 — Today was a special movie day, as we were able to watch The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete. This was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I got caught up in the characters and their struggles to survive. It kept me guessing all through the movie as to what was going to happen next. In some way, form, or fashion all of us could relate to something that transpired on the screen.

Check out this trailer from the film here:


It’s nice to see the variety of fruit starting to manifest in Class 21 from all the seeds that PEP and all our brothers have been planting. Keep up all the good work, brothers!

The following was written by our incarcerated participants. It was originally written for their families, but we wanted to share it with you so that you can get a glimpse of what we do inside of prison… from the perspectives of our participants!


Week 9: Week in Review

smellyMonday, March 3, 2014 — After the furious pace of the past few weeks, it almost seems that we have hit a spot of smooth sailing. Is it the calm before the storm? Possibly, as this week will reveal the results of our character assessments. I can share from experience that it’s not always easy facing the character quirks others see in us. However, as all of those events began to unfold, we enjoyed another great day at Toastmasters.

I would like to give special recognition to four guys for the exceptional way in which they have grown during our brief tenure in Toastmasters. Geoffrey M., Rolando T., Clayton B., and Francisco M., your brothers would like to give you a public pat on the back. The transformation we are witnessing is remarkable. Here’s a Toastmasters toast to you. And may I also say that Michael G. should change his business plan to stand-up comedian. Michael gave a speech on the five levels of stench that had us all in stitches.

CHocolate Truffles Chocolate Truffles… Yummmm….

Tuesday, March 4, 2014— Freezing rain and slick streets couldn’t keep our CEO and business professor Bert S. (a.k.a. Chocolate Truffles) away. We were first tested on types of funding and basic accounting. Then Bert segued into another exciting lecture on marketing, pricing, and promotions. He also shared with us the incredible news that PEP will soon be launching another class at another unit in Texas. The PEP revolution is gaining momentum.

Cruella de VilPast graduate “Cruella de Vil” is a peer educator in PEP

Wednesday, March 5, 2014— As one-on-one feedback on our character assessments continued, we were business as usual with peer educator Brian T. leading us in a presentation on personal finance. We discussed eliminating high risk debt and properly utilizing credit cards while maximizing our credit score. We also discussed how to establish and meet our retirement goals. I think we all left with a much greater appreciation for IRA’s, 401(k)s and mutual funds. In fact, I dare say we are all starting to see that creating personal wealth is a very doable process; it’s just a matter of knowledge and discipline.

Thursday, March 6, 2014 — Today we watched videos on American history and applied biblical values, as well as a class favorite: the Swagger Wagon. If you haven’t seen the Toyota commercial entitled “Swagger Wagon,” I suggest you click here and check it out. I promise that you will never view the family mini-van the same. It never fails to leave us with a smile and our minds awhirl with ideas of how to spin our own products and services into a more favorable light.

You can also check it out here:


Friday, March 7, 2014 — After a short recap of the character assessment by our fearless leader, Pat M., we were given the day off. Yea! However, I suspect that we will spend a lot of time processing the feedback we gained from the character assessment with each other, which is probably the whole point of the exercise. Just as one must open up an old, festering wound to properly treat it and begin the act of healing, so are many of us right now. We are experiencing growing pains; but make no mistake, we are growing, and after all, we are TRIUMPHANT 21!!!!


Class 21 is going through a process that is very grueling, and I hope and pray that we all continue to look at our lives on a daily basis to identify what we really need in our journey of change. Because when you require restored hope and a new identity, you have to search for and plant new seeds so your life’s harvest will be bountiful and not pitiful. Identity is not something that is realized, it is something that results from decisions we make for ourselves and the individuals we place in our support system.

The following was written by our incarcerated participants. It is intended primarily for their families, but we wanted to share it with you so that you can get a glimpse of what we do inside of prison… from the perspectives of our participants!


Week 7: Week in Review


PEP Participant Andrew W. Using his Toastmaster Skills to Speak to Executive Volunteers at PEP’s Concept Day (click for other pics from the day)

Monday, February 17, 2014 — Today was Toastmasters as usual, yet that’s not entirely true. Why? Because there was a calm that settled in and that made these Toastmasters whom I saw today scarcely resemble the “fraidy cat” versions seen earlier in class. Men laughed, smiled and delivered speeches with a new confidence. It really was a sight to behold. I don’t think any of us dared to believe that we could actually become competent public speakers, but week by week we actually see the miracle taking place — truly amazing.

Math is fun... :(

Math is fun… 😦

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 — Today was perhaps the most dreaded Tuesday of all: we were given our tests on EOU’s (economics of one unit). Basically, we needed to calculate our profit margins on one typical unit of sale and use that information to determine things like gross profit, breakeven points and net profits in various business scenarios. For those born without the math gene, gulp! True to form, the EOU test gave nearly two thirds of our class extra homework (more EOU’s). One way or the other, we’ll get them down, for we are TRIUMPHANT 21.

The Refining Fire of PEP Continues Its Work in Our Lives

The Refining Fire of PEP Continues Its Work in Our Lives

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 — Peer educator Bryan Troy (a.k.a. Cruella De Vil) led us in a fascinating recap of a couple of chapters in personal finance. We learned about how much a daily cup of coffee saved at an 8% rate would be over 20 years. Suffice it to say, a cup of Starbucks a day keeps a dream home away! We also had a “town hall meeting” to address a growing weariness in us from all the assignments, tests and homework. We were told that we are trudging the same difficult stretch that all previous classes have bogged down on as well, and we were encouraged not to lose heart. The heat of the refining fire is doing its work and it’s not always comfortable. If it were easy, everyone would do it. But it’s not, so only the proud few band together as brothers to unite and see each other through PEP style.

As-Iron-Sharpens-Iron1Thursday, February 20, 2014 — Let’s call today prep day. We mainly practiced our 3- minute pitches on each other in preparation for presenting them in front of a panel of executives tomorrow. Memorizing the most important 3 minutes worth of our business concepts and delivering it passionately and flawlessly to a panel of experts strikes the fear of God in most of us. We needed that practice, because iron sharpens iron.

Class 21 VCP

Class 21 Participant Receives Feedback on His Pitch From Executive Volunteers. Click to see more photos from the day!

Friday, February 21, 2014 — Oh my word! What a day! Class 21 took turns presenting pitches to a panel of executives (think Shark Tank) in an event called Venture Capital Panel (VCP). While butterflies certainly swarmed our bread baskets, the word I would use to summarize the day would be COURAGE. Triumphant 21 stepped up to the plate and delivered despite the fear, displaying courage I’m not sure we knew we possessed. We changed today, but we weren’t alone. The bewildered look upon the faces of the first time executives said it all. Prison isn’t supposed to be like this. Today we experienced life, abundant life. (To see photos from the day, click here.)

Class 21 Concept Day

A group of Class 21 Participants with some of the MBA Volunteers for Concept Day. Click to see more photos from the day!

Saturday, February 22, 2014— Would Concept Day live up to the emotional peaks we scaled only the day before? All we had to do was fasten our seat belts to see. We were visited by a bevy of Texas A&M students as well as several young teachers from Teach For America, and of course some executive “repeat attenders.” Again we met one-on-one to hone our business concepts, and once again hearts collided. It’s hard to tell who impacted whom the most. The excitement really began when we gave our repeat attendees their sweet names (for the men) and tough names (for the women). Now they are truly one with us, part of the PEP family. Just ask Mike, whom we now call “Precious Moments.” (To see photos from the day, click here.)


PEP Class 17 Graduate Roger R

PEP Class 17 Graduate Roger R. is one of our awesome Peer Educators who Volunteers to Guide Class 21

As the days grow long and weeks get shorter, stay consistent with your studies and learn from all your endeavors.  For the road less traveled is the one traveled by courageous men we call PEP brothers.

-Roger R. (a.k.a. Rainbow Bright)