Graduation is the culmination of nearly six months of hard work by our participants, who were hand-selected from a pool of nearly 10,000 other men across the State of Texas to enter PEP.

PEP Class 21 Graduation
Friday, June 6th
2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Cleveland Correctional Facility
(45 minutes North of Houston)

PEP is an entrepreneurial “boot camp” that requires graduates to complete over 1,000 hours of work while developing a complete business plan. In recognition of their accomplishments, graduates will earn a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University (learn more about these certificates here).You can learn more about the overall PEP program here.

Come ready to celebrate their accomplishments as these men open the next chapter of their lives!

To register to attend graduation, click here. PLEASE NOTE that we must have prior authorization for all guests; you can not gain entrance to the prison without completing an RSVP form and securing approval.

To see pictures from the last graduation event, click here.

Whether or not you can attend: Please share your best piece of advice, line of encouragement or favorite quote with our graduates! Click here.

The Praline King LogoThere is nothing sweeter than the taste of redemption… especially when it comes in the form of homemade candy!

Ronald T. graduated last June from the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. He was released from prison in August 2013, moved immediately into a PEP transition house in the Dallas area and quickly found a great job working for another PEP brother’s business. Everything seemed headed in the right direction … but there was something missing.

PEP had unlocked Ronald’s passion for starting his own business. Although he knew that it would be a difficult path — particularly as he began earning more and more money in his day job as an electrician — he decided to pursue his own startup a few months after release from prison.

Thanks to the support of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, PEP has hired a full-time Small Business Specialist to help our graduates launch, grow and sustain their own ventures. This role is filled by Wilbert Peter, an experienced entrepreneur and marketing guru (who just happens to be a former PEP graduate).

Ronald T. and Wilbert Peter

Ronald T. and Wilbert Peter

Originally from Louisiana, Ronald worked with Wilbert to turn his passion for homemade, New Orleans-style candy into a real business. Wilbert helped Ronald to develop the business plan, refine his products, launch a Web site and recruit his first customers. Wilbert also coached Ronald through the process of incorporating his business, securing all of the necessary licenses and building a solid infrastructure through his business.

“We’re not just selling candy; we’re building a brand,” says Wilbert.

With this solid foundation in place, Ronald launched The Praline King right before Christmas. His initial sales came from the PEP network, which allowed Ronald the opportunity to test the viability of his different products and refine his concept.

Earlier this year, thanks to the encouragement of Wilbert and several PEP supporters, Ronald began focusing on selling to restaurants and other companies that could carry his product. He has now landed several corporate accounts and built his monthly revenues to as high as $7,000 in a single month.

Ronald is still working full-time as an electrician, but his goal is to build his business to the point where it provides permanent jobs to himself and other PEP brothers. His aspiration is to place his products in restaurants and grocery stores nationwide, where his remarkable recipes can take the taste of his hometown around the country.

Please check out The Praline King – “it’s like Mardi Gras in your mouth!”

Selling with Purpose

Selling with Purpose

Do you love to sell? Does your heart flutter at the thought of closing a deal or winning a new customer?

If so — the Prison Entrepreneurship Program needs you!

We are seeking a executive volunteers (particularly those with sales experience!) to join us for Class 21′s “Selling with Purpose” event will be on Friday, April 25, 2014 from 11:30am-5:00pm at the Cleveland Correctional Center in Cleveland, Texas (about 45 minutes North of Houston).

Our “Selling Night” event gives our participants the opportunity to present their Business Plan to you as a potential customer. This fast-paced event involves volunteers hearing one-on-one “sales pitches” in a speed-dating format. You then grade the presenters so that they can strengthen their approach over the final months of the program, all in preparation for the ultimate test before graduation.

See schedule to RSVP here.

Young teachers at Teach for America Summit in Houston

Young teachers at Teach for America Summit in Houston

Our graduates are generous not only with their money but with their time.

Earlier this week, several PEP Graduates spoke to teachers involved in Teach For America – Houston who were gathering in Houston for the annual Teach For America Summit. The event was hosted at KIPP Houston Public Schools, “a free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public school dedicated to preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life.”

Our graduates were invited to share their life stories and encourage these young teachers to see the potential within their students. Attached is a photo of one of the groups of young people who joined us.

Having grown up in many of the neighborhoods where these teachers now work, our graduates can provide unique insights on the challenges that these teachers face with their students … particularly since a significant number of our graduates were first arrested as children.

Why do we ask our graduates to do this?

First, we believe that engaging our graduates in service to the community is a critical part of their own life transformation. Providing them with powerful opportunities to “give back” helps them to build one of the two critical pillars of PEP: a new identity.

They are no longer ex-felons or “takers” … they are givers. They are servant leaders. They are transformed men.

But the second reason that we do this is that it builds the second pillar of PEP … restored hope.

This second pillar does not simply strengthen our graduates; it fortifies their families and sustains their communities. Ultimately, by sharing their personal stories of redemption, our graduates are working to restore hope and offer a new identity to anyone who faces life’s most overwhelming challenges.

Your support of PEP makes this possible.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We love hearing about opportunities to engage our graduates as speakers. Are you a part of a faith community that would like to hear a powerful message about redemption and hope? Or are you involved in a civic group or business community whose members would resonate with a story about PEP graduates who overcame enormous struggles through hard work, dedication and entrepreneurship?

Thank you for joining our revolution!

The following was written by PEP Class 18 graduate, Russell F.


Where PEP graduate russell fam I now because of PEP? Hmm… I think it’s easier to tell you where I am not. I’m not dead. I’m not on drugs. I’m not back in prison. Most of all, I’m not hated by many and loved by few. And because of that, I am thankful for PEP!

See, the PEP experience not only benefited me but also those around me. For once, my mother is proud of me. My old friends see that I changed and want to embark on their own journey of change. The old crazy, fighting, drug abusing Russell is gone and the new Russell whose character is built upon the foundation of PEP’s Ten Driving Values is here to stay. The friends, mentors and colleagues I have gained through PEP’s vast network of executives mean the world to me. It is truly amazing to see such kindhearted and down-to-earth men and women devote their time and money to profit a man and his family whom they have never met. It is very humbling.

I am free. I am alive. I am sober. And I have no doubt anymore that I am also loved. I am a new man. That is where I am because of God and because of PEP.

Volunteers may visit prison up to four times before they are required to attend training through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

This important training is conveniently offered the morning before a PEP event (Class 21′s “Selling with Purpose” event) at the Cleveland Correctional Center in Cleveland, TX. You will learn the “do’s and don’ts” of being a trained volunteer. See schedule to RSVP here.

For those who have been trained in the past

REMINDER … volunteers are required to retrain every two (2) years. So, if it has been more than 2 years since you took this last, you should attend this training (and then stick around to use your volunteer skills at our Selling event).

Of course, if you cannot make it in person, on-line retraining is available for those who have already been trained in person. TDCJ developed this program to encourage and assist volunteers in meeting this retraining requirement. Please click here to learn more.

 

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!

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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:

Expressions

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!

Colleen Rickenbacher teaching etiquette in prison

Author Colleen Rickenbacher teaching etiquette in prison

WOOHOO! Some awesome photos are now available from Class “Triumphant” 21′s most recent event … Excellence in Etiquette, featuring the truly inimitable Colleen Rickenbacher (a.k.a. The Necktie Assassin).

We are grateful to our dear friend Genie Erneta for sponsoring this event (including the best meal served this year within the Cleveland Correctional Center)!

See all of the photos here:
http://prisonentrepreneurshipprogram.zenfolio.com/class21etiquette

Charles H. and Fabian M. of PEP Class 17

Brothers from other mothers — Charles H. and Fabian M. of PEP Class 17

“What is the secret to PEP’s success?”

People all over the country ask us that question. They have heard about the Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s unprecedented results and want to learn how they can replicate them in other states.

Many ask us to share our curriculum or to tell them how we successful recruit hundreds of executive volunteers to join us in prison. Others ask about the impact of the remarkable public-private partnership that we have formed with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or the academic partnership that we have formed with Baylor University.

These things are important, we tell them, but they are not the primary cause of our impact.

Without question — the source of our strength lies in the culture that we have created through the hearts and the hard work of our participants. The brotherhood that our participants form inside the prison is our strongest tool in rebuilding lives.

Today, we had a great reminder of the impact of this brotherhood.

Charles H. and Fabian M. were both graduates of PEP’s Class “Celestial” 17. Despite coming from very different backgrounds, they overcame the harsh racial divides that are typical inside of prison and became friends. Indeed, their friendship became such a source of strength that both men were named finalists in our Business Plan Competition.

Fabian was even profiled on national Fox News when he won that competition.

Since their release from prison, both men have re-established their lives. They have not only remained friends, but both are now loyal donors to PEP. And today, we are humbled to share that they have jointly committed to a $1,000 sponsorship of the Class 21 Business Plan Competition and Graduation on June 6, 2014.

Their gift will support the families of PEP participants whom they have not even met. Their only bond is the PEP Brotherhood that Charles and Fabian helped us to form, and which their continued commitment allows us to strengthen.

Thank you, Charles and Fabian, for your inspiring lives!

If you would like to attend the Class 21 graduation in prison to meet the families whom Charles and Fabian have sponsored, RSVP here.

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!

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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!!!!

Expressions

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.