Below are the names of the Class 22 Participants along with the names of their businesses, the industry in which their businesses operate (with location), and their “jingles.” Enjoy!

OWNER COMPANY INDUSTRY (LOCATION) JINGLE
Casey A. Lone Star Land Management Bulldozer Service (Dallas, TX) Where our design team creates your design dreams.
Eric A. A.R.E. (Allied Renewable Energies) Energy (Nation Wide) We are solving tomorrows problems today so our children won’t have to.
McHenry A. Community Homes Home Remodeling (Houston, TX) Where restoring communities one home at a time is in our design.
Salvador A. Fast & Furious Hot Shot Services Trucking (Midland, TX) Where we offer quality services with a need for SPEED!
Alexander B. First Lady Mobile Boutique Retailer (Houston, TX) Every lady has beauty in them, let us bring it out of you.
Brandon B. All-A-Board! Moving Service Moving (Austin, TX) Whether the move is short or long hauling, All-A-Board! Will safely moves your belongings.
Charles B. Breaking Barriers Linguistics Tutorial (Irving, TX) Where language is never a Barrier!
David B. Grease Patrol Service (Houston, TX) Where we find your grime, to give you a peace of mind.
Joseph B. Salad Topia Food (Houston, TX) A Taste of Perfection!
Marcus B. Tantrum Media & Marketing Marketing (Houston, TX) We are throwing a FIT about getting the attention your business needs.
Michael B. Chefs on the Go Food (San Antonio, TX) Creating memories and smiles one dish at a time.
Michael B. Stonz N’ Such Quality Stonecrafts Construction (Houston, TX) We strive for excellence and our work is guaranteed
Rickie B. Motions Towing and Storage Moving (Dallas, TX) When I move you move, just like that!
Thomas B. Laughing Pelican Bistro (LPB) Food (Houston, TX) HA HA HA,The Laughing Pelican Bistro where the food is no joke!
Walter B. Unique Designs by Walt Flooring (Denton/Amarillo, TX) The guy that not only brings your ideas to life, but builds friendships.
Xavier B. Campus Compass Technology (Houston, TX) Stay Connected!
Aaron C. Upward Call Tree Service & More Tree Trimming (Kerrville, TX) ” Where your call is as important to us as the call from above.”
Christopher C. Sky’s the Limit  (Houston/Dallas, TX) We set the stage high getting to the bottom of your problems.
Crispin C. Crown Commercial Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration A/C (Houston, TX) “No time like comfort time, when your needs are my deeds.”
Edward C. Celistics Barbershop Cosmetology (Fort Worth, TX) Celistics Barbershop; Ensuring flawless & sculpted design each & every time.
James C. Tipsy Taxi Transportation Service (Houston, TX) If you cant drive we’ll keep you alive and make sure your vehicle is by your side!
James C. J’s Lawn Service Service (Crosbyton, TX) If your grass is to high, J’s your guy!
Joseph C. Tex-Mex Labor Solutions Employment (Brownsville, TX) Where solving your labor needs is our specialty.
Julian C. Chop Shop Food (Amarillo, TX) Choppin up the competition, one pork chop at a time!
Richard C. OFF THE STREET FAMILY OUTREACH Counseling (Lockhart, TX) Where we dare to care, by helping change the world we share.
Benjamin D. X-treme Waterpark Entertainment (Lubbock, TX) X-treme Waterpark, where we challenge your strength, agility and endurance in Xtra-ordinary ways.
Dean D. Brand-a-Brand Workshop Brand Development (Houston ,TX) When you need your image to be outstanding, let Build-a-Brand Workshop create your branding.
Jerime D. Sky Voltage Environmental Energy Systems Sales / Services (Houston ,TX) Where you can choose to use your God-Givin Power.
Mark D. A Caring Lawn & Landscape Design landscaping/Service (Houston, TX) Developing relationship, creating smiles, and beautifying our communities one lawn at a time!
Heath E. The Workshop ” Gym and Lounge” Fitness (Richardson, TX) On or off the clock, the workshop is the stop!
Amos F. “Suits You” Landscape & Designs Landscaping/Service (Houston, TX) Proud founder and owner of “Suits You” landscape and designs where we take pride in what we do and the beauty of our skill suits you!
Jarvis F. Fitz Ribs Galore & More Food (Austin, TX) If you wanna satisfy your taste, Fitz Ribs is the place.
Jerry F. Advertising Lighting Plus More Electrical (Fort Worth, TX) Bringing customer to your door one light at a time.
William F. Pic 7 Design Clothing (San Angelo, TX) We’ll make your dreams a REALITY!
Baldomero G. Reliable Trucking Company Trucking (Fort Worth, TX) The best deals on 18 wheels!
Gerard G. Spectrum Commercial Painting Commercial Painting (Dallas, TX) Protecting your brand with trend changing colors and life style enhancements!
Hector G. Precision Cuts Cosmetology (Houston, TX) To have you looking and feeling the best, Precision Cuts is a cut above the rest.
Jamaal G. B-Sure No Ones Left Behind Security Security (Houston, TX) Got to much on your mind, use B-Sure no one’s left behind. Just in case to keep everyone safe
John G. The Master Auto Inspections Automotive (Spring, TX) We keep you rolling
Steven G. This Food Be Blessed Catering Food (Woodland, TX) It would be a blessing catering to you!
Aaron H. Isolated Fragrances Fragrances (Dallas, TX) “Isolate u’r freshness with conservative quality”
Aighirey H. Global Records Entertainment (Dallas, TX) Where our goals is to take your music global
Brandon H. S.H.I.N.E. Records Entertainment (Nashville, TN) Shining through music!
Christopher H. Ecocentric Rendering (Houston, TX) We ensure responsible disposal of your waste vegetable oil.
Dustin H. Gofer.com Service (Houston, TX) If you find yourself out of time, and in a bind, go to GOFER.com where we’ll ease your mind and be your gopher, and we will go for this and go for that.
Frank H. Wall 2 Wall Janitorial Janitorial (Dallas, TX) where we provide quality services for facility care.
Isaac H. Fresh Catch Food (Palacious, TX) For the best catch call FRESH CATCH!
Jeremy H. Handle It Employment Service Staffing (Killeen, TX) Whether looking to employ or looking for employment.
Johnny H. Abstract Electrical and Shocking Designs Electrical (Dallas, TX) Abstract Electric and Shocking Design’s where we help you to unlock the art within your wire in which you desire- call us any hour when you need power and never fear cause we are near
Pedro H. Rollin’ Around Dynamik Sound Entertainment (Houston, TX) When you want to get a ROCKIN’, we’ll get it ROLLIN’ promptly and at your convenience to fully entertain you with what America loves to do.
Stephen H. A-Z Flooring Flooring (Houston, TX) We do it from wall to wall
Adrian J. Cut ‘N’ Up Cosmetology (Houston, TX) When you need it cut down Cut ‘N’ Up is around and when you want it cut right, we’ll cut it on site. This is where quality and convenience unite!
Kenneth J. Burritos & Wrapps Food (Houston, TX) We specialize in Burritos and it’s a Wrap!
Shon J. New Life Landscape Architects Landscaping/Service (Houston, TX) At New Life we bring things to life
Thomas J. Just US Kennels Animal Husbandry (Argo, TX) Dogs? We got Dogs!
Ryan K. Keilman Land Services Arbor care/ Landscaping (Austin, TX) Where we specialize in all Arbor care and landscape design.
Adrian L. Hands On Demand-Massage Therapy Massage Therapy (Houston, TX) Hands On Demands… where when you need a massage… call us, and we’ll get there in a rush!
Juan L. Make It Right Construction & Remodeling Home Remodeling (Lubbock, TX) “Wall to wall we’ll do it all” Top to bottom we remodel!
Randy L. Made In The Shade Construction (Houston, TX) “Don’t let the sun ruin your family’s fun, call Made in the shade… we got you covered.”
William L. Fitness Guru Fitness (Dallas, TX) Improving the quality of life one hour at a time!
 Shu M. Master Massage Healing Massage Therapy (Corpus Christi, TX) Taking the pressure off of life.
Arturo M. The Mobile Masterpiece Art Services (Houston, TX) If you see it and want it, just say it and we’ll spray it.
Barry M. Absolute Paint Painting (Lubbock, TX) Paint… Its not just what we do its our name.
Bryan M. Dr. F.I.N.E. Gym Fitness (Houston, TX) Dr. Fine(discreet, reshaping, for, individuals, needing, exercise) Where if you’re looking for a fresh start- men come to Dr. FINE and we’re show you a caring heart.
Chase M. Print On… Screen Printing (Houston, TX) We print anything in any season on any item within reason
Chris M. New Image Fitness Fitness (Houston, TX) We generate total transformation through Fitness and innovation
Christopher M. Dynamic Interior Resolutions Construction / Cabinetry (Dallas / Fort Worth, TX) We offer resolve from the inside out.
Eric M. Texas Bug Bullies Pest Control (Dallas, TX) We are here to eliminate what’s buggin’ you!
Everitt M. Superior Surfaces Flooring (Humble, TX) “We Provide elegance for life”
Joseph M. CHIPPER’S Tree Trimming Services Tree Trimming (Houston, TX) Where we are rooted in giving TREE-mendous service.
Lamarcus M. Moore Sweet Bakery and Café Food (Irving, TX) If you want Moore treat, we have Moore Sweet’s
Martin M. Refined, Restoration & Real Estate  (Cleburne, TX) Restoring the American Dream one house at a time.
Scott M. Stacked Living Movers & Storage Moving (Conroe, TX) We will move your whole world!
Russell N. Contacts to Contracts Construction / Sales (Deer Park, TX) Here is the deal, let’s us do what we do, Contacts to Contracts, will work for you!
Juan O. J.O.’s Handyman Service Constuction (San Antonio, TX) Where we are not your average Joe.
Labarros O. Exquisite Wear and Accessories  (Dallas, TX) “Where you do not just show up, You Stand Out!”
Barry P. Acumen Medical Group, L.L.C. Medical (Houston, TX) When you get sick, you’re not alone. Our doctors treat you in your home.
Brian P. Capital City’z Fitness Foods Food (Austin, TX) Providing healthy food to keep your body running smooth.
Cary P. Beyond Beauty and Cuts Cosmetology (Houston, TX) Where you are treated like family no Ifs, Ands, or Buts!
Emanuel P. Lost Memories Photography Photography (Dallas, TX) We freeze memories so you can have them for a lifetime.
Enrique P. Execution Freight System Trucking (Fort Worth, TX) where we specialize in the transportation of your material.
Gabriel P. Revoltz Paintballing Entertainment (Robstown, TX) Where nothing else matters, but painting memories.
Nicholas P. Don Milano Fashion Attire (Houston, TX) Don’t just be confident, wear your confidence by Don Milano
Samuel P. Precise Logistics Trucking (Dallas, TX) Because our mission is to move your freight with precision.
Javier Q. J.J.’s Playground & Accessories  (Dallas, TX) Where we unfold a backyard adventure for your children’s and more.
Alfonzia R. Smooth Sailing Limo Transportation Public Transportaion (DFW, TX) Smooth Sailing Limo Transportation arrive in style to your destination!
Carlton R. Real Estate to Innovate Home Remodeling (Houston, TX) Where building your dreams is our way of life
Denny R. Precision Commerical Services INC. Construction (Wolfe City, TX) where better building for your business is our business.
Joe R. JORO Herbicide Spraying Service Herbicide (Freeport, TX) Let us know your location, we handle agrilcuture and vegetation.
Jose R. Helping Hands for Harboring Hearts Transional Housing (Houston, TX) A place where bad past and new beginning cross, is Helping Hands for Harboring Hearts!
Jose R. The Beach Bum Water Sports Service (Corpus Christi, TX) When life is a beach, we’re #1 for fun under the sun!
Jose R. YourEvent.com Event Planning (Houston, TX) Where every memory starts with an event… Your Event!
Martin R. Marty Marts Mobile Custom Washing & Detailing Car Detailing (Pasadena, TX) If your running late, or you just don’t have the time, call on Marty Mart and we will give your car a shine.
Marty R. Pay It Forward Welding & Fabrication Welding (Houston, TX) With us it’s a win win situation!
Todd R. Structe Roofing & Exteriors Home Remodeling (Conroe, TX) When your roof is leaking and your paint is inferior. Just call the guys at Structure Roofing & Exterior.
William R. Coast 2 Coast Transport Trucking (Houston, TX) Doing what we love to do, for you!
Arthur S. Good Steward Janitorial Service Janitorial (Dallas, TX) “We’re the Best at cleaning your Mess, Put us to the Test and we’ll do the Rest.”
Christopher S. Kairos Smooth Taste Food (Houston, TX) There’s nothing smoother, than a Kairos Smoothie
Corey S. Reliable Remodeling & Renovations Home Remodeling (Beaumont, TX) If you can conceive it, we’ll  achieve it!
Dantonio S. Date Nites Entertainment (Fort Worth, TX) Tired of going on boring dates? Tired of boring on-line dating sites? Come hang with us at DateNites
Harold S. MircoTechs, INC. Technology (Dallas, TX) We Support Technology
James S. Bama’s BBQ and Catering Services Food (Houston, TX) Bama’s deeps south BBQ!
Johnathon S. New Beginnings Social Development (Houston, TX) Where we destroy bad habits and create new ones!
Roderick S. Eazy Deal Motors Car Sales (Dallas, TX) Where we make buying your car Eazzzy
Bobby T. BlackFriday.com Retailer (Austin, TX) “You don’t have to wait until after Thanksgiving for the biggest sale of the year. Just visit BlackFriday.com, where you can find end-of-the-year sales, year round.”
Demetri T. G.O.D.L.I.F.E. MusicGroupInc. Entertainment (Houston, TX) “God’s melody beats in the heart of man, and our purpose, is to sound it through the surface”
Larry T. Advantage Auto Sales Car Sales (Houston, TX) Come on by Advantage Auto where everybody has a chance to drive away in a new car.
Wayne T. We Cut 4 You Cosmetology (Houston, TX) It’s no other substitute for what we do, we cut for you!
Willie T. Serenity Outreach Society Substance Abuse (Montgomery County) Transforming today’s youth into tomorrows leaders.
Edgar V. Cup of Art Coffee Shop Beverage / Gallery (Houston, TX) At Cup of Art Coffee Shop we believe that a great cup of coffee is meant to be experienced like a a great work of art, in a hip atmosphere and at the right price. Now, that’s a good value.
Rodolfo V. Unique Touch Scratch and Dent Removal Automotive (Houston, TX) IF you got a scratch or dent that needs repair, call Unique Touch we’ll get someone there!
Decorian W. The Sports Lounge Food (Arlington, TX) Come on down to the Sport Lounge’s where you, family and friends can have fun again!
Dylan W. Executive Brothers Catering Food (Dallas, TX) Professional service & exceptional quality, for the executive environment
Houston W. Finishing Touch Make Ready (Houston, TX / Dallas, TX) When the moving mess becomes too much call the Pro’s at Finishing Touch.
James W. Global Mobile Faster Food Food (Houston, TX) We hear your voices for a variety of choices
Jason W. Foxhole Entertainment Gaming (Houston, TX) “Where we bring competitive gaming to its FINEST”
John W. HeartFelt Deliveries Vocal Service Entertainment (Vernon, TX) If you feel it, we’ll express it. Where no other service, can contest it!
John W. Curb Appeal Customs Construction (Dallas, TX) Where we make dreams real, and give homes curb appeal.
Justice W. Justice Comfort Homes Construction / Insulations (Houston, TX) If you want a comfortable home, just ask for JUSTICE.
Leslie W. 1st M-Pression Chair Designer (Houston, TX) Where we do our best to release your stress
Marrin W. Special-T. Screen Printing Silk Screen (Henderson, KY) If t-shirts is what you need, we design extraordinary Tees to pleases.
Terrance W. Bulzye Pressure Washing Power Washing (Lufkin, TX) A new business on a mission to provide a fair rate price keeping customers happy with their homes or business looking nice.
Antonio Z. C.H.R. Custom Home Remodeling Construction (Houston, TX) We’re Innovation start at your front door.

In case you haven’t seen this, one of the Class 13 Graduates of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, Clay Tumey, was recently featured on the Dave Ramsey show for becoming “Debt Free” after paying off $44k of debt in 16 months.

Please keep watching through to the end when he talks to Dave one-on-one. Enjoy this amazing story of redemption!

Hire PEP Graduates

One of the biggest challenges facing a formerly incarcerated person is the inability to find a job. In fact, nearly 40-50% of ex-offenders are unemployed for more than 12 months after their release from prison. Unable to find work, many return to lives of crime.

Thankfully, this is not the case for graduates of PEP. Since May of 2010, every single PEP graduate who has worked with our re-entry team has found a job within 90 days of release from prison. In fact, the average time “from prison to paycheck” is less than 1 month!

How do we do this? With your help!

PEP supporters provide valuable introductions to prospective employers as well as endorsements for our graduates. If you would like to see the graduates who are now seeking employment, please visit our “PEP Works” page:
http://iwasinprison.com/pep-workforce/

Here are the current graduates seeking employment. For information on any of these gentlemen (including their resumes), please contact Bryan Kelley in Dallas at BKelley@PEP.org or Gami Jasso in Dallas at GJasso@PEP.org.

Andrew T. (DALLAS AREA)

NAME: Andrew T.

RELEASED DATE: 8-28-2014

TYPE OF WORK HE IS SEEKING : Customer Service

EXPERIENCE: over 4 years of working in the call center environment, with some training management experience .

CONTACT: PEP Re-Entry Coordinator Bryan Kelley can provide resume and more info. Contact him at BKelley@PEP.org.

David M. (DALLAS AREA)

 FIRST NAME & LAST INITIAL: David M.

RELEASED DATE:  8-28-2014

TYPE OF WORK HE IS SEEKING : Tree trimming or Landscape of any kind. Also knows how to do remodeling, construction, and irrigation work.

EXPERIENCE: I have 15 years in the Landscaping field and have had my own business doing trees (“Monkey Business”). On my off time from doing trees, I got experience with remodeling and framing houses.

CONTACT: PEP Re-Entry Coordinator Bryan Kelley can provide resume and more info. Contact him at BKelley@PEP.org.

Paul M. (DALLAS AREA)

 FIRST NAME & LAST INITIAL: Paul M.

RELEASED DATE:  09-08-2014

TYPE OF WORK HE IS SEEKING : General Office Administration

EXPERIENCE: Human Resources

CONTACT: PEP Re-Entry Coordinator Bryan Kelley can provide resume and more info. Contact him at BKelley@PEP.org.

The following was written by PEP volunteer, Jessica Middleton. Jessica is a Criminologist and Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology.It was originally posted here.


THE 11TH DRIVING VALUE – VULNERABILITY

#PEP Reflections 8.15.14 Venture Capital Panel Class XXII – Cleveland Correctional Center

Today was absolutely phenomenal!  First of all, the 2 minute pitches I heard were terrific; sure there were some nerves running wild, as many of these guys have never given a business plan pitch in their lives, much less to a panel of well dressed, real world, should-be-too-good-for-prison professionals and executives…but the meeting of the minds today was truly the eighth wonder of the world…

The vulnerability and intimacy established this early on between the participants and the executives is really quite unbelievable.  The acceptance and anticipation today, again, exuding from both sides of the room, to me was equivalent to what you would expect at the six-month BPC/graduation mark…and we’re only ONE month in!  And the tunnel of love…WOW!  It made a complete track around the PEP room.  It was massive with 118 guys – that’s 236 hands in the air to be high fived!

During the “sweet time”, one young man shared that he nearly quit PEP just a few days ago, but a few brothers lifted him up; I can still see the arm motion he made when he said that, and then he became silent and dropped his head.  The entire room responded with a standing ovation in support. I truly believe that moment is one that he will remember for his lifetime, and I hope that next time he becomes discouraged, as we all do along the way, he will hear the holy roar of clapping and hollering and decide to get up and press on.  Now and then, there are moments when the Spirit floods the PEP room; that was one of them.

An encounter that has really been on my mind, with intrigue of course, not disturbance, was when one participant made an intentional effort to find me at the end of the day to share something that had been on his heart.  He and I got to chat one-on-one at the KickOff, so the familiarity already existed.  He said, and this is not word-for-word, it is what I can remember paraphrased:

“Ms. Jessica, I wanted to make sure to tell you something since we talked at the KickOff.  I was chatting with one of the other guys here, and I heard a little about your story.”  He takes a deep breath and then continues, “My daughter is in a similar situation.  She’s 17, and she just dropped out of high school.  She is having a really hard time.”  I could sense a request for help coming next, and I was prepared to respond with the suggested PEP apology that we cannot make those kinds of promises, blah, blah, blah…  But he didn’t.  He confessed, “I’ve been the ‘amusement park’ dad, and I want to do better.  Your story makes me want to be a better father.”

Ok… I did not see that coming.  This massive dude is towering over me, probably 20 years my senior, and made himself humble and vulnerable before me.  It definitely took my breath away.  Keep in mind, I’m not even entirely sure to what he was referring, but I know for a fact there is no way he is referencing my entire story…  It’s just not possible at this point in the game.  But to be honest, it doesn’t matter.  If this man is inspired to be a better father based on something – anything – he heard about me, then let all of God’s people say hallelujah and amen!  I hate that I cannot remember his name right now, but I know his pitch, and I think he is a contender for the finals. J    

After the guys cleared the PEP room and headed to chow, the CEO, Chief Empowerment Officer, Bert, talked for a few minutes with the executives.  As he shared about the recent Estes Unit expansion, he explained what this first PEP dendritic class is currently doing.  He described the Authentic Man curriculum and went on to discuss how the guys start setting goals by beginning with the end – writing their own eulogy given their present day situation.  As Bert was painting this picture of despair with his words, I began to feel the air sucked out of me…  This is a heavy task, to write a eulogy about someone who has made such seemingly unimaginable mistakes, forfeited time with loved ones, and been incapable of providing for family due to incarceration.  I know this because I recently wrote my father’s eulogy, and it was the second most disgraceful thing I have ever written.

The eulogies that the PEP guys write are preliminary of course, and adjustable; it’s just an exercise. My father’s eulogy is probably worse that what any of the PEP guys would write about themselves, and it’s final.  It won’t change, ever.  Nor will his legacy, or the way we all feel about him, his life, his decisions.  It is finished.  But these PEP guys, they still have a chance to redesign their legacy and rewrite their eulogy.  I hope, from the bottom of my heart, they understand the magnitude of the opportunity they have before them.  

The question I hear over and over at PEP events is, “Ms. Jessica, what keeps you coming back?”  I just kind of shrug and say, “Oh, it’s a LOOOONG story, but for now, just please know that I believe in P-E-P and I believe in Y-O-U!”  Maybe one day, I will have the opportunity to share more with Class XXII, since after all, it is vulnerability that binds us; it is the glue that makes that middle aisle a dance floor and not a great class divide.  I am willing, and I know that if it is meant to happen, it will…all in timing divine.  #Steptotheline

The following was written by PEP’s photographer: Israel Thompson (a.k.a. “Shutterbug”). You can see his work here.


While shooting at the Estes Unit event at PEP the other day I got ambushed with a microphone that was thrown into my hand. Jeremy, thank you for the heartwarming words about not being a staff member, but saying that I “should be”. I’ve never pre-rehearsed or planned a speech for the occasion, perhaps I should have, but the words I envisioned coming out if the opportunity ever presented itself didn’t quite bubble to the top. Instead, my response to the question “Why do you keep coming back to PEP?” came out rather short and lame. Obviously not a public speaker, I muttered something about being inspired and quickly handed the microphone back.

That being said, albeit a bit late and without an audience of peers and microphone, I’d like to somewhat retroactively rectify the situation.

For me, my experience with Prison Entrepreneurship Program started in May of 2012 through a friend and fellow co-worker when I received word they were in need of an event photographer. After a meeting with the COO of the organization, Phi Tran, and a bit of back and forth finalizing details, the relationship took root and I commenced with Class 17.

My initial impression upon entering the prison was nothing at all as anticipated. Where I expected to be face-to-face with disgruntled prisoners playing the stereotypical Hollywood portrayed “acting hard” role, mad dogging me and giving me the ole intimidating stink eye, I was surprised to be met with quite the opposite. I was rushed into a room they call the “PEP Room” and went straight to work with my camera. The room was bubbling with festivity! The atmosphere in this place was overwhelmingly excited! Everyone had smiles! Everyone greeted you and wanted to shake your hand! Everyone offered to help, if needed. The vibes being received all seemed to convey a resounding message, “YESS!!”. Music pumped loudly and the guys were all crowded around in a circle, apparently having an improvised dance party while waiting for what they call “Executives” to arrive. As I briefly surveyed the scenery from outside the circle, I noticed they all had decorative stuffed animal-oriented hats on. I guessed perhaps to lighten the mood and draw smiles. Which worked! Hurriedly though, I surveyed no longer and made my way to the middle of the circle to catch the action. These guys were having an excellent time! Some, with extraordinary dance skills whisked around on the carpet pulling off break dance moves I wouldn’t have thought possible, while others with lesser skill got out and a danced too without a care in the world. I was dumfounded. And I grinned from ear-to-ear while being privileged to be a part of it.

Don’t get me wrong — this was indeed a prison, and for all I knew I was rubbing shoulder-to-shoulder and bumping elbows with murderers, hardened criminals, people that society had given up on, and most probably at one time or another (or even now??), even had nothing to lose between the walls they found themselves trapped within. But… The comfortable feeling that came over me… It was instantaneous. It was as if a spirit of joy flowed all about. And I know I’m a guy. And it’s different for a guy as opposed to a lady, but I never once felt strange, awkward, or threatened. To me, just that alone was amazing! Profound! And to me it showed right there, in sneak peek fashion, just what this program is able to do.

Fast forward to today.

I’ve been with PEP for over 2 years. I’ve photographed numerous events, both in and out of prison. From Class Kickoffs to Graduations and a few events in-between here and there, I’ve had had my fair share of variation. And I’d like to share with you what I see from a photographer’s perspective. NOTE: much of this is directed towards the participants when addressing “you” in the words following.

First, I wasn’t lying at all when I muttered I was inspired. I truly am. When I leave each event, I’m filled with inspiration as I drive home. It’s as if I have a rejuvenated renewed vigor and you guys — and all the people participating — have inspired me to do better for myself. Likened to an electric charge, my batteries have been filled!

When I’m photographing, I am there to work, so I cannot participate in the festivities like everyone else. I cannot sit and listen to each participant pitching their business plan. I cannot listen to each and every speaker with undivided attention. And for that matter, I barely even have time to clap. Because alas, clapping and happy candid faces are something that need photographed! So… What I take in — not by choice, but by trade — I take in sparingly, almost from an outsider’s point of view. Trust me when I say, however, what I’m able to retain or soak up, is not at all diluted.

When I see each and every one of you guys get up in front of a packed crowd in the lunch room (or PEP room) and tell your story bearing your soul, I have the greatest respect for what it is you are doing right there in that moment. And that respect carries over permanently because you have given me a window into your soul. When you’ve taken the time, with a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes, to share with everyone where you’ve come from and what matters to you, you’ve shown me your true character, the real you that’s deep down inside without worry of what others may think, I admire that thoroughly. It makes me examine myself, remember some of the things I’ve been through, the hardships, the ups, the downs, and that it’s not only that it’s not where I’ve been but where I’m headed that matters, but some of those past experiences have given me immeasurable understanding and wisdom — things I need not forget. Needless to say, you trigger deep thoughts within.

With many of these business plan pitches I hear I may look like I’m in the zone with a face of concentration as I’m moving about, squatting, photographing, crouching and moving from side to side, but my interest is incredibly peaked. I want to listen to every detail, from beginning to end. I sometimes pause what I’m doing just to hear a little bit more before moving onto my next task. I’m amazed at how you all memorize 10-15 minutes worth of words and recite it without pause. When a business plan ends. I want to clap like everyone else. And sometimes, I’m even thinking to myself “Ohh ohh! I have a great idea that would probably help him with his presentation!” And some of those times when the possibility arises, with an enthralled demeanor, I gladly share those thoughts.The stark reality of these plans for me is, though, I am not a public speaker. So, it’s hard for me to fathom the hundreds upon hundreds of times you guys have to get up in front of everyone and recite. Major kudos to you there. What’s nearly equally remarkable is how all of your class brethren sit watching your pitch attentively, with a face of utmost interest. The support that is shown is intriguing. And again, I am inspired.

What I observe with each class from beginning to end is miraculous. I see a fresh new group of people uncertain of what’s to come. “Investigators”, as you were referred to recently. Many of which haven’t quite given yourselves to the program. Testing the waters, if you will. Some of you won’t make it to graduation, but most of you will. The spirit of remaining steadfast, diligent, without giving up is instilled over and over and made a topic of utmost importance. With all the encouraging words floating around, I find myself speaking words of encouragement in passing and truly hoping each and everyone one you make it, as well. It’s as if something in the air is rubbing off on me and I’m part of your family sitting in the stands at your high school football game. I’m jumping up and down, screaming at the top of my lungs, cheering you on. Rain or shine, sleet or hail, doesn’t matter whether you you’re the star of the game, make a big play or just get out onto the field and play, I’m there… cheering.

Coming back to photograph you guys at graduation is like night and day. This is when the faces are no longer new, but all are familiar. Those lone stragglers from Kickoff that wouldn’t smile for headshots, the ones that acted like they couldn’t let their guard down, that still had something to prove… that’s almost all gone now. Everyone is smiling uncontrollably. Your hard work has paid off. It’s great to see each and every one of you again. It truly is. And I am astounded at how you’ve grown in leaps and bounds in the process. It’s not everyday you see someone completely change their lives around for the better. It’s mind-blowing to be a part of — and moving in so many ways. I mean, because, if “this guy” can do all of this, then I can too! These things I’ve been putting off. Things I’ve been pro-crastinating getting done? Why should I sit by idle and slacking in these areas of my life, giving myself all these excuses when guys like this aren’t? They are giving it their all, why shouldn’t I?

In regards to graduation day, a quick fact: something I’ve witnessed that rings true every time, the ones that look like they are trying hardest not to smile, like they have something to prove or cannot let their guard down, those are the ones that cry the hardest when it comes time to walk down the isle. Why is this, I ask? Something to ponder.

Graduation isn’t the end. For many of you, the true test is being servant leaders. Others, it’s actually getting out and being exposed to the outside world. This is when familiar faces become a great sight to see. On the inside, Servant Leaders, I shake your hands the longest and converse with you the most. It seems as if we’ve seen each other enough times there’s somewhat of a bond between us. I’m enamored by what you do for each upcoming Class. It’s a true display of stewardship. For those inside and those that have made it out, seeing your act of sacrifice and continuation in the program motivates me more than you know. How your lives have been changed and continue to grow… it increases the yearning in me to give something back in life… exponentially.

Thank you for that. And, if that wasn’t enough of an answer to “Why I keep coming back to PEP?”

Well, besides being paid. And besides being inspired exponentially. Hearing people like Al Massey, Bert Smith, Jeremy Gregg and all the other PEP staff get up and speak definitely adds icing to the cake. When I hear Al Massey speak, I think to myself, “This guy knows all the right words to say for every given situation!” I mean, sometimes I wonder where he comes up with the stuff he says?! Seriously! Is it that he’s lead by The Spirit and speaks fully improvised? Or are all his words carefully calculated, thought out and rehearsed in advance? It’s one of those mystical questions like “What is the meaning of life?” or “Do unicorns really exist?” Al Massey, your speeches alone would make one want to come back. No lies.

As for Bert, every time I see or hear Bert speak, an endearing spirit of love radiates from him. It’s captivating. I get a genuine sense he sincerely and unabashedly cares for each and every one of those in the program, let alone the staff and executives. This is the type of quality that’s remarkable to see in the CEO of the company. And it’s the type of trait that draws you in, makes you want to come back and see more. It’s an attraction.

All that being said, being the photographer for PEP has become quite a bit of an honor. I enjoy capturing your smiles, your laughs, your tears, hugs, handshakes, memorable moments, family portraits and everything else I can aim my lens at while there. When I sit for hours upon hours wading through thousands of photos from your events, I sit with a smile on my face. And I take pleasure in every minute of it.

But… the real reason I keep coming back to PEP is… THE COOKIES! Keep giving me cookies and I am yours forever.

 

Sincerely,

 

Israel Thompson
Your photographer

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)
4865394061_6d083efd79_z
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.

Expressions

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.

Expressions

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.

 

Check out this 2-minute video interview of James Cornish, PEP graduate and founder of Cornish Trucking!

James Cornish from Francisco Castro on Vimeo. This video was originally featured in The Houston Press’s article on PEP.

(If that video will not play, click here)

We are pleased to announce that Annie Lord has joined the Dallas Advisory Board of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program!

“Annie brings a wealth of community development experience to PEP,” says Bert Smith, CEO of PEP. “She has a great passion for our mission and I am confident that her insights will particularly strengthen our efforts to launch, grow, and sustain businesses owned by our graduates.”

Annie serves as a Vice President – Community Development Officer at Citi. In this capacity, she stewards the community development efforts.

After attending her first meeting of Dallas Advisory Board, Annie remarked that: “PEP is an ideal partner to help cities. The organization has a proven track record of dramatically reducing recidivism and its associated costs to the public. PEP graduates become successful business owners, employees, and contributors to our society, and I am proud to support this transformation.”

Annie also organizes volunteer opportunities for company employees … and we are very proud to say that, even when 4-5 months pregnant, she was not afraid to volunteer in prison with PEP at Class 20’s Pitch Day!

Annie Lord - Citi

Citi’s Annie Lord volunteering at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

Prior to joining Citi, Annie served as the Executive Director for the South Florida Community Development Coalition, a 57-member organization dedicated to improving the performance of the community development sector in Miami, Florida. Annie also previously served in a leadership role at the Latino Economic Development Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that equips Latinos and other DC-area residents with the skills and financial tools to create a better future for their families and communities.

Annie earned her MPP (Master in Public Policy, Economic Development) from Harvard – Kennedy School. She previously earned a BA in Latin American History and Literature from Harvard University.

Please join us in welcoming Annie to PEP!

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!

Expressions

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.