Notes for Michael G

Notecards sent to this volunteer

The following was posted this morning by one of our volunteer executives, Michael J. Gilbert (founder of Street Level Apps):

I sit here this morning with tears in my eyes, humbled yet happy.

My normal routine is to gather my mail at the end of the day and read it first thing over breakfast. Normally I throw out the junk mail without even looking inside.

I opened a large envelope that seemed like junk mail, however this was hand addressed (note to marketers). Inside were thank you letters from students in the Prison Entrepreneur Program. These men are truly grateful that someone gives a damn, someone that took time out of their day not just to say ‘I care” but to guide them in the right direction; in life and business.

Some time ago I volunteered to help edit business plans and attend “Sales Pitch Day”, inside the prison at the Cleveland Correctional Center north of Houston., Texas.

It’s humbling to see the transformation of a man, especially one so drastic. You take a man and especially young men that have done nothing but spend their lives in and out of jails and prisons, that have never had any opportunities in his life, no guidance or a mentor and put him in the right situation, offer him an opportunity to better himself along with guidance and the real man emerges. It reminds me of Eddie Murphy in “Changing Places”.

“We offer a ‘mini MBA’ program within the Texas prison system that transforms inmates into entrepreneurs,” said Bert Smith, CEO of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP). Through the program, the inmates also develop complete business plans for a real venture that they can pursue after release.

I think all too often we become so immersed in our own lives we fail to realize there are people hurting but wanting help but we step right over them in our pursuit of own goals and aspirations.

The fact is, I thought I was the one that was going to ‘go down and teach these boys a thing or two.” What truly happen was my own transformation. I came home humbled and reminded that we are all in this together. I was also reminded of the vision that started over 10 years ago and one that is coming to fruition as I write this. (Stay tuned).

I can tell you I will not lie on my death bed wishing I had worked one more hour, or made one more dollar, or closed one more deal. Although I do love what I do I also will not lie on that bed with regrets. The second half of my life is dedicated to helping those that need our help the most. (Read Bob Buford’s “Half Time: From Success to Significance”)

Won’t you join me? Become a volunteer Or join another charity that benefits society as a whole. Get involved in the lives of others and your own problems will soon disappear. When we focus on others, that’s where true joy and happiness is found.

During PEP’s Business Plan Competition these inmates pitch their business plans to more than 50 “free world” executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students who attend PEP’s in-prison events.

Over 9 years, over 1,000 men have graduated from PEP. Over 95% continue to be contributing citizens of society. That’s the complete opposite of the national average of recidivism. PEP continues to carry on a great program as Baylor University has now Certified the PEP Program.

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