The Prison Entrepreneurship Program will host the Class “Triumphant” 21′s Business Plan Workshop on Saturday, April 26, 2014, 9:00am-3:00pm.

This is a perfect volunteer opportunity for those who cannot attend Friday events, such as our “Selling with Purpose” event the day before (on Friday, April 25 from 11:30 – 5:00pm).

About the Business Plan Workshop
Get your hands dirty while working one-on-one with participants to provide written and oral feedback on their business plans. Combined with the preceding day’s feedback on their personal presentations and business pitches, this is a great way to make good business plans even better!

See schedule to RSVP here.

Cedric H (Moved by Love) with U.S. Senator John Cornyn

Cedric H (Moved by Love) with U.S. Senator John Cornyn

Yesterday, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and his wife Sandy Cornyn visited the Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s Houston office to learn how PEP has delivered some of the nation’s best results in prison rehabilitation.

During the meeting, the Senator described PEP as a program “worth bringing back to Washington.” See photo gallery below.

The meeting included a tour of our offices as well as a roundtable discussion with PEP’s leadership team, representatives from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Rockwell Fund and RKI (one of the largest employers of PEP’s graduates).

One of the highlights of the meeting was introducing the Senator to several of our graduates who are now running their own businesses. This included Cedric H., founder of Moved by Loved, who is pictured below along with a fellow PEP graduate who is now working for Cedric.

Several reporters were present for the event, which was followed by a press conference during which Sen. Cornyn discussed “The Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act” (which he has sponsored along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)). The legislation would address multiple aspects of prison reform, including requiring the Bureau of Prisons to offer programs like PEP to eligible inmates nationwide.

You can read more about this visit via Houston Public Media’s article here:
http://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/news/cornyn-touts-houstonbased-prison-program-promotes-reform-bill/

You can also listen to this story here:

PEP graduates after speaking at YES Prep

PEP graduates after speaking at YES Prep

Last week, several PEP graduates were invited to speak to the students of YES Prep in Houston. To the right is a photo of the graduates after the presentation and below are photos of the graduates in action!

The following comes from the school’s Web site:

Since we opened our doors in 1998, YES Prep has continuously redefined possible for students, families and the public education system at large. Our students are currently graduating from college at four times the rate of their peers. Today, with 13 schools in operation, serving 8,000 students throughout Houston, YES Prep is living proof that different outcomes are possible when students from low-income communities are given access to high-quality educational opportunities.

Our graduates shared their life stories and offered these young people practical advice on how to release their potential.

As we shared in this blog last week, our graduates also recently spoke at the Teach for America Summit in Houston. Many of our graduates have a deep understanding of the issues that Houston’s public school students confront on a daily basis. Some even attended public school in the Houston area, so they truly know what it means to grow up in these communities.

More importantly, having been to prison, they have seen what happens when these students succumb to the negative influences around them. Our graduates can frequently share stories of how they were first arrested as children, so their testimonies can make a tremendous impact on these young people.

However, this is not a “scared straight” program.

We do not seek to change young people’s minds through tragic stories about the negative impact of drugs and crime. They have heard these before: in fact, many of our graduates grew up in families where at least one parent was in jail or in prison. Fear of going to prison did not prevent them from pursuing crime.

Rather, we believe that introducing positive male role models into these students’ lives is critical for their long-term success.

Why do we believe this?

Nearly half of PEP’s recent graduates grew up without a father in their home. While this does not excuse their crimes, it helps us to understand what contributed to their negative choices.

When they enter these schools, our graduates are modeling what it means to be a truly successful man. By sharing how they are able to earn a decent living, take care of their families and even launch their own businesses, our graduates show these students genuine alternatives to lives of crime (which are unfortunately seen in far too positive a light within many of the communities where these children live).

This effort also makes a tremendous impact on our graduates’ themselves. As we shared towards the end of last week’s blog, allowing our graduates to assert a new identity as role models helps them to deepen their own commitment to living a transformed life.

At PEP, one of our main goals is to inspire our graduates to do more than simply “repay their debt to society.” We encourage them to become lifelong givers, and these men pictured below are tremendous examples of PEP’s driving values of love, servant leadership and wise stewardship.

If you would like to bring PEP graduates to speak to your community, please contact us today.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

————————–

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!