PEP cited on Entrepreneur.com!

Posted: April 15, 2015 in About PEP

PEP was just profiled on Entrepreneur.com. The story can be found here.

Entrepreneur

While society innovates, our K-12 schools have remained stagnant. As a result, they are not graduating the doers, makers and cutting-edge thinkers the world needs. Certainly, some public and private schools are modernizing — having students work in groups to solve problems, learn online and integrate science with the arts. But most institutions do not teach what should be the centerpiece of a contemporary education: entrepreneurship, the capacity to not only start companies but also to think creatively and ambitiously.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman advocates for inspiring young people to create the companies that will provide long-lasting employment for the country’s citizens. Because the jobs on which 61-year-old Friedman’s own generation relied are no longer available, he advocates for having students graduate high school “innovation ready” — meaning that along with their mortarboards, they receive the critical-thinking, communication and collaboration skills that will help them invent their own careers.

Entrepreneurship education benefits students from all socioeconomic backgrounds because it teaches kids to think outside the box and nurtures unconventional talents and skills. Furthermore, it creates opportunity, ensures social justice, instills confidence and stimulates the economy.

Schools need not teach these skills on their own. They can reach out to the myriad organizations that help teachers in low-income areas teach entrepreneurship, or take advantage of initiatives that pair kids of all ages with science and engineering experts across the country so they can engage in hands-on projects.

Because entrepreneurship can, and should, promote economic opportunity, it can serve as an agent of social justice. Julian Young, 29, was a drug dealer facing a 15-year prison term when a mentor told him he was an entrepreneur. Years later, Young is the founder and executive director of The Start Center for Entrepreneurship, an Omaha-based organization that helps women and minorities launch businesses.

Just as Young’s entrepreneurial instinct helped him escape the school-to-prison pipeline to become a successful business owner, so too can it help other young people at risk tap into their own unrealized talents. The nonprofit Prison Entrepreneurship Program pairs prisoners with top-level mentors in a curriculum that makes them entrepreneurs. The program’s less-than-10 percent recidivism rate lends credence to the argument that gaining business savvy reduces the likelihood that prisoners will end up back in jail.

Furthermore, entrepreneurship has historically spurred minorities, women and immigrants to create better lives for themselves and their families. Currently, minorities own 15 percent of all U.S. businesses, accounting for $591 billion in revenues. Women are starting businesses at one-and-a-half times the national average and currently own 40 percent of all businesses, producing nearly $1.3 trillion in revenues.

Immigrants are another inspiring example. Considering that members of this group own 18 percent of businesses, generating more than $775 billion in revenues, Friedman advises young entrepreneurs to imagine that they themselves are immigrants, because “new immigrants are paranoid optimists.”

While immigrants who start businesses know they might fail, they have nothing to lose, Friedman points out. They are risk-takers and they are persistent — both vital traits for entrepreneurs.

Because entrepreneurship fosters these kinds of character traits, it promises to benefit all students—not just those from low-income backgrounds. According to Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, students who attend private schools are not world changers. The reason: These schools offer affluent parents “a high probability of nonfailure.”

In other words, affluent backgrounds often do not encourage kids to take risks and make mistakes, which are necessary for cultivating ingenuity. Perhaps if students were to study entrepreneurship, they would be forced to think outside the box, to fail and to persist — experiences that would inspire them to become creative, inventive and innovative.

Additionally, entrepreneurship embraces talents and skills that teachers in conventional classrooms might otherwise penalize. “Entrepreneurs are anomalies; they don’t fit in,” Young says. They may not be “book smart” but thrive if given an opportunity to utilize their people smarts and risk-taking skills, he says.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, is a good illustration. Branson often recalls how he was a bad student. And serial entrepreneur Bo Peabody similarly points out that entrepreneurs tend to be B students — good at a variety of things, but not stellar at one thing in particular. It’s this ability to think broadly that allows these young people to complete the variety of tasks necessary in starting companies, Peabody says.

This famed venture capitalist’s belief that entrepreneurs have limited attention spans is echoed by Anthony Pensiero, Pensiero, president of Pennwood Technology Group, says he has attention-deficit disorder and that because he was never medicated for it, he was able to channel his considerable energies into the endeavors that pointed him on the path to success.

Conversely, a prescription to the ADHD-drug Ritalin set Young on a destructive course until he met the mentor who told him he was an entrepreneur.

More reasons for entrepreneurship education include the likelihood that it will promote social and emotional well-being. Entrepreneurship might even correlate with happiness more than do other categories of business endeavors, according to a 2012 study of 11,000 MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

According to Wharton professor Ethan Mollick, who co-authored the study, the graduates studied who started their own businesses were for the most part “significantly happier” than others due to perceived greater control over their own destiny. It’s no wonder, then, that well-known business schools such as Wharton, Columbia and Harvard are ramping up their entrepreneurship offerings: Student demand for these courses is on the rise.

Additionally, many business students are choosing social entrepreneurship — doing well by doing good. According to the nonprofit Bridgespan Group, between 2003 and 2009 the number of social-benefit course offerings at top business schools more than doubled, on average. Matthew Paisner, who founded Altru-Help, a website that connects users with local volunteer opportunities, says he’s noticed growing “philanthropic virtue” among Millennials. Millendials, Paisner says, tend to favor working for socially responsible companies and don’t see profit and purpose as mutually exclusive.

There is more good news here: Entrepreneurship education is making its way into some schools, thanks to forward-thinking people and organizations. Certain programs already encourage students to start their own companies as early as high school; and certain schools are working with venture capitalists and angel investors to fund kids’ startups. Other schools have made entrepreneurship courses graduation requisites.

Boldface names in business are signing up: This past January, AOL co-founder Steve Case and former Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina headed a panel of businesspeople and academics, in which they called for the creation of a national competition in which teams of K-12 students would pitch their start-up ideas to judges.

Young entrepreneurs are making an impact as well. Emily Raleigh, a junior at Fordham University, is the founder and CEO of The Smart Girls Group, which “seeks to unite, inspire, and empower the next generation of influential women.” What started as a digital magazine, when Raleigh was a senior in high school, now consists of 12 distinct brands ranging from newsletters to online classes to a network of professional adult women.

Maya Penn, a 13-year-old TED talker, sells her own knit scarves and hats online, and donates a percentage of her proceeds to nonprofits. Sixteen-year-old prodigy Erik Finman, who recalls a teacher telling him to drop out and work at McDonald’s, founded the video-chat tutoring program Botangle and the startup Intern for a Day, which connects companies with potential interns who work for a day on a project that constitutes a vocational audition.

Given developments like these, traditional K-12 education — the old “chalk and talk,” memorization and regurgitation and bubbling in correct answers — seems like the very nemesis of innovation.

As Albert Einstein once said, “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”

PEP was just profiled in Tech.Co. The story, linked here, is below.


TechCoIn the classic novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, ex-convict Jean Valjean underwent a complete transformation after receiving unmerited forgiveness from the bishop he was trying to rob.  Valjean later became a dignified businessman and pillar of the community, advocating for the poor and powerless.  This picture of redemption is what thousands of inmates long to experience as they apply for admission to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP).

As a nonprofit, PEP seeks to “unlock human potential through entrepreneurial passion, education, and mentoring.”  Founded by business leaders who recognized the entrepreneurial spirit of Texas inmates, the organization has successfully produced over a thousand graduates since the program began in 2004.  PEP offers a rigorous curriculum with MBA-level coursework that challenges inmates and enables them to productively return to society after prison.

The PEP leadership conceived of the idea for the entrepreneurship program upon studying the profiles of criminals in the Texas prison system.  Prior to their arrest and conviction, many of the inmates were competently running their own burgeoning enterprises.  And although the businesses they owned may have been illegal, their ability to start and grow their companies demonstrated the presence of unrealized business acumen in the prison system.  PEP hopes the entrepreneurship program will repurpose the inmates’ entrepreneurial talents and channel them into legitimate business ventures.

Lending credibility to the program is Baylor University, which has been awarding PEP graduates with a Certificate of Entrepreneurship since 2013.  The certificate provides an incentive for inmates to excel and also helps to overcome the stigma of incarceration.  According to PEP, less than one percent of those enrolled in the program are white-collar criminals.  Most have drug-related offenses, with 50 percent doing time for violent crimes.

Just how effective is the Prison Entrepreneurship Program?  Baylor University announced that the employment rate of PEP graduates is over 93% and the recidivism rate is under 5%.  PEP estimates the program has saved the state of Texas $6 million in reduced recidivism.  Graduates have launched over 165 businesses, with at least two exceeding $1 million in gross revenues.

To learn more about the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, visit PEP’s website atpep.org.

The following was written by PEP Class 20 graduate, Jose M. 


PEP Graduate Jose M.

PEP Graduate, Jose M.

Because of PEP and the Ten Driving Values, I am a new man.

As a teenager and a young man, I was a very lost individual. How I became the person I am today is largely due to the program and the tools given to me while incarcerated, to apply to my life on the inside and once released. I started off as a troubled person with no respect or values, but now I have a plan, and I have respect for society and others.

I initially thought PEP was a business program, but eventually I learned it was much more than that. I was skeptical at first, but like others, I began asking questions around the unit about the program. I heard that it was family-oriented and heavily involved in repairing broken homes. I latched onto it for that reason because I love my family very much and was tired of hurting them.

While in class, I learned business skills, which was great. But most importantly, I learned how to identify my character flaws in the Effective Leadership training and through a number of character assessments from my peers. I also learned that I had talents and that I actually had something to contribute to the world. We were given etiquette lessons that taught me how to conduct myself in a number of circumstances. Once released, I was also given the opportunity to continue learning in our eSchool classes. Upon completion, I was given the status of alumni, and in September of this year, I will receive my second diploma from PEP.

We have been given so much by PEP to guarantee our success in the real world. I have been gainfully employed since within a few days after my release, and I am now enrolling into courses to finally complete my college degree. I am closer to my family than I have ever been, and my whole thinking process has improved greatly. I owe so much to PEP. Thank you for opening my eyes and restoring confidence in myself. I know that as long as I work hard and remain positive, I will be successful.

I continue to participate and involve myself when I can to give back. I and others see that I’m a changed individual, and for that, I want to thank everyone involved in the program. It has been a life-changing experience.

Jose M.
Class 20

The following was written by MBA student and executive volunteer, Michael Collins, about his first experience inside prison and how it pushed him outside his comfort zone.


About two years ago I was introduced to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program by my father, who swore to me that my experience with PEP would change my life. He couldn’t have said a truer statement.

The purpose of this organization is to help those who are incarcerated create jobs for themselves once they are released from prison. This is especially important, as most men find it extremely difficult to find employment after transitioning back into society. As a result of this hardship, over half return to prison. To combat this problem, the PEP program equips men with entrepreneurial tools to start their own businesses once released. Similar to the television show, “Shark Tank,” executive volunteers, ranging from CEO’s of globally recognizable companies to graduate students, critique the mens’ business plans and pitches in a competitive setting at the culmination of the program.

Growing up in a white, privileged family, I didn’t have much exposure to individuals who had committed crimes or gone to prison. It was a side of the world which I had really been sheltered from, so as I walked into the facility for the first time, my heart began to beat faster and faster in anticipation. Despite my expectation of being treated like a law-abiding civilian, I was abruptly awakened by the serious tone and treatment by the guards as we were pat-searched and ordered to go through a metal detector.

The other executive volunteers and I then walked down a hallway and into a room, where we were welcomed by the men participating in the program, all cheering and celebrating our presence. After we all got settled, the CEO of PEP began to talk about the program and the agenda for the day. We began with some getting-to-know-you exercises, along with some “surprises” to really get us out of our comfort zones, which were instrumental in breaking down the apprehension I knew existed amongst some of the volunteers in attendance. By the end of this segment, I began to not only see the appreciation the guys had for us being there, but I could also feel the gratitude. It was at this moment I knew this experience was already changing my life.

For the next five hours I spent time meeting with about twenty different inmates one-on-one to hear their business plans and provide feedback. This part of my experience in prison was extremely powerful, as my very distinct perception of inmates changed so drastically. The hours flew by, and I felt like I wasn’t in a prison anymore at all. The men I spoke with were some of the most articulate and personable people I’d ever met, and by the end of the day, it felt like I had just spent my time catching up with old friends. Then, the volunteers were asked to step aside, and the inmates were ordered to file into lines for a count: an eye-opening reality check that I’ll never forget. The atmosphere did a complete 180, and the room went from being a warm social setting with friends, to a cold and harsh prison almost instantly. The men I had just became friends with, and laughed with, were now being treated like rabid animals.

As I drove home from the prison, I struggled mentally to comprehend everything that had occurred while I was there. About a day or two later, I finally understood what all the volunteers had talked about; I could feel how I had changed. All my perspectives and preconceived notions about prisoners had been erased, as the passion and effort I saw from those men rivaled those of famous entrepreneurs.

My experience in prison not only changed my life, but it taught me a lot. I learned that uncomfortable situations are only as stressful as you make them out to be, and that no matter where two people come from, there’s always something you can find you have in common. Since that day I first stepped into that prison, I have been back three times, each less stressful and more enjoyable than the last. But no trip back will ever match my first experience inside those walls, a memory I will always hold dear to my heart.

Mike Collins

Read on for the most recent coverage of how our programs change lives!

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Texas-Prison-Program-Aims-to-Produce-Business-Savvy-Inmates-288584471.html

The following was written by PEP Class 22 graduate, Barry M. 


PEP Graduate, Barry M.

PEP Graduate, Barry M.

I have spent most of my adult life incarcerated.

For most of this time, I thought I was just a bad person. I thought “I was born this way and there is nothing that I can do about it. I will spend the rest of my life in and out of prison.”

But when PEP supporters like you met me in prison earlier this year, they brought me a very different message. They told me: “You have value.”

By spending a day in prison with total strangers, people like you convinced me that I was not a bad person … I had just been making bad choices. They taught me that, if I made a sincere commitment to myself, I could change.

PEP supporters like you taught me that my past did not have to dictate my future.

This all started when I was sitting in my cell on the Coffield Unit in East Texas. That morning, I received a postcard inviting me to apply to PEP. I asked the others on my cellblock about PEP. They told me not to bother applying because I would never get in.

To be honest, I believed them. But I also knew that it was going to be hard to gain employment with a felony on my record. So, I loved the idea of starting my own business.

But then I met PEP’s recruiter, Marcus Hill. He had served our country in the Army and was now a successful entrepreneur. But I was shocked when I learned that, in between those things, he had spent time in prison. Just like me.

Marcus told me that PEP was much more than a business program. He told me that if I was just applying because I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I would not be accepted. But if I was applying because I needed to change – because I was desperate for a change and willing to go to any length to get it – that I had a chance.

Thankfully, I gave myself that chance.

From the moment that I walked into PEP, my life has not been the same. It feels like I’m in a dream, except I know it’s for real. Although PEP is very challenging, the rewards are greater than anything I could have possibly imagined back in that cell in Coffield.

You truly changed the lives of men like me
by supporting PEP.

The business lessons that you offered us were exceptional. And I have to admit, I am pretty proud of the business plan that I put together! But honestly, what impacted me the most was PEP’s focus on character development.

By guiding me through these programs, people like you helped me to change my thought process. From the thoughts that I think to the words that I speak, you have cleaned me from the inside out.

When I look in the mirror now, I like the man who is looking back. That is something that I could not say for a very, very long time. Thank you for giving me that gift.

To repay you, I am committed to changing the lives of others through my story. But I cannot do it without PEP, and PEP cannot exist without your support. I hope that you will consider donating $22 in honor of Class 22, which graduates this Christmas.

Your gifts matter. They make a difference to men like me, to our families, and to our community. Please go online to www.PEP.org to donate today.

​With gratitude,

Barry M.
Class “Transcendent” 22

p.s. ​The PEP Board of Directors has committed $190,000 in matching funds for every new donation before 12/31/2014! That means that a gift of $22 becomes $44 – enough to sponsor a month of bus passes for men looking for work after release from prison!

Better still … if you can make a monthly commitment, the board will match your commitment $2-to-1 based on the annual value of your gift. That means that committing $10 per month will secure $240 in matching funds for PEP before the end 2014. If you are interested, please email Charles Hearne at CHearne@PEP.org. Thank you for any commitment you can make!

Santa’s are on the job in Austin and San Antonio today! (Graduates delivering presents to the children of other PEP men who are still in prison).  Merry Christmas to all!

PEP graduates Jose Mata, Al Massey and Pat McGee

PEP graduates Jose Mata, Al Massey and Pat McGee

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoying his new bike!

Enjoying his new bike!

Happy kids!

Happy kids!


scurlock-image-e1418744673229
PEP is 100% privately funded.  We rely on the generosity of hundreds of individual donors, grant-making foundations, and corporate sponsors to deliver our life-changing mission. And thanks to a recent study from Baylor University, we know that every dollar that these donors give to PEP generates at least a $3.40 return on investment to our community.

PEP is now embarking on an ambitious new plan to dramatically expand our impact. As we announced here, PEP recently launched our in-prison operations within a second prison in Texas. Our goal is to continue to scale our work in our home state until we can reach at least 10% of all of the inmates released from Texas prisons each year.

Today, we are proud to announce that the Scurlock Foundation has awarded PEP a remarkable FIVE-YEAR grant to support this expansion!

As Billy Wareing, a board member for the Scurlock Foundation, states:

“The Scurlock Foundation is honored to partner with PEP in their transformative work to end the cycle of recidivism in Texas prisons and bring hope to inmates who have lost heart.  The work that PEP does is redemptive in nature and we believe that God is working through PEP to restore families, bring hope through employment opportunities and ultimately restore all things through His son, Jesus.”

Please join us in thanking the Scurlock Foundation for their tremendous investment in our future!

Image  —  Posted: December 16, 2014 in About PEP
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PEP has a rather urgent and important Christmastime need. As many of you know, Highland Park United Methodist Church (in Dallas) is the very generous and sole sponsor of our annual Children’s Christmas Project. For several years now we have collected data on the children of the men in our program from their caregivers, we then put that data on a card that is hung on one of several Christmas trees at the church. We return a few weeks later to sort, wrap, mail and deliver hundreds of Christmas wishes to the precious children of the men in our programs. This year we had almost 200 cards on the trees and unfortunately 48 children did not get picked up or chosen so, we are asking you, our most generous friends, to help us fulfill the wishes of these boys and girls ranging in age from 5 to 18. We have 26 boys and 22 girls.

Our brilliant IT Team and one of our executive volunteers worked together to come up with a solution for these needs … they’ve designed a program and online store to help make giving easy. If you’d like to provide gifts for one or more of the children who were not selected, we can give you that opportunity! The way this works is that each of the 48 children’s wishes have been uploaded into this online store, you may simply click on one or more items and know that you are fulfilling the wishes of a child or children. Your gifts for these children are considered directed donations which means that the funds are restricted for the specific gifts you choose, and the money you spend is a legitimate tax deductible donation for which you will receive a letter from PEP (for use with your 2014 tax return).

The money you spend is exclusively for the benefit of a child of one of our participants like 17-year-old LaMarcus, who asked only for a coat and clothes. LaMarcus enjoys studying and playing sports. He was very close to his father and has missed him terribly in the three years he’s been away.  Or, there’s five-year-old Destin who loves going to the park and playing games.  Destin needs clothes and shoes (her favorite color is pink!), but she’d also love video games.  If you’d like to fulfill a wish or two (or three) please visit http://www.pep.mybigcommerce.com/ and start spreading some Christmas cheer!

If you have questions or need assistance, please call Kristie Wisniewski at 713-366-0293.

Thank you and may you and your family have a very blessed and Merry Christmas!

To support PEP when you shop at Amazon, click here. http://smile.amazon.com/ch/20-1384253

To support PEP when you shop at Amazon, click here.

Great news!

When you shop at Amazon Smile, Amazon will make a donation to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. Just click here to register, and when you login to Amazon your account will connect to PEP!

http://smile.amazon.com/ch/20-1384253

It is:

  1. Free!
  2. Easy!
  3. AWESOME!