Posts Tagged ‘graduate testimonial’

PEP was recently filmed by the Charles Koch Institute, and the video was shown at its Advancing Justice Conference this month in New Orleans! Check it out to hear PEP staff members, graduates and participants explain how our organization is making a dent in a system that wants to forever keep felons under its thumb.

The following was written by PEP Class 16 Graduate, Jason M.
______________________________________________________________

God is a master craftsman, and He has a large tool box! Inside this tool box are tools that He uses to shape, mold, and make a man into what He destined and determined him to be in eternity past.

Jason Moore

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) was one of the many tools that God used to shape me into the man I am today. I find it divinely strategic that God waited until just the right time before introducing me to PEP. I was 37 years old and had over 12 years done on a 15-year sentence for murder when my life intersected with PEP.

My life in prison up to this point had been pretty stable and structured. God was using me to teach and preach His Word. I was a pastor and mentor to many behind bars, and in their eyes and in my own, naively, I was ready for reentry. So we thought…

However, after my very first day of involvement with PEP, I quickly discovered that there were things God wanted to pull out of me and put into me, that before my release and reentry, God would work what He both needed and wanted to do in me and through me.

And he used PEP to do exactly that!

PEP was the tool God used to challenge me and make me uncomfortable in new ways. It was the tool that helped prepare me for the curveballs and the blows below the belt that this world often throws.

Since my release and reentry, PEP is still playing a similar role in my life. I am actually now working for the very program that God used to work on me. It’s still a tool in God’s hand, and He is still using it to make me into the man He created and called me to be. I’m now also a husband, father, and strong pillar in the city, community, and church. I’m almost tempted to say I’m a success, but I’m wise enough to know that when the trumpet blows, and the roll is called up yonder, God and only God will determine who is successful and unsuccessful!

Until then, I’m determined to live life “between the wings” for God’s glory and the furtherance of God’s story.

In His Service,
Jason M.
Class 16 Graduate & PEP Transition Coordinator

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!

The following was written by PEP Class 18 graduate, John C. 


john c

PEP Class 18 Graduate, John C.

I thank God for putting PEP in my life. I can honestly say that without PEP I would certainly be lost. The program really taught me how to seize the moment, instilling confidence within me. Because of PEP, I know now that I can succeed and that my goals and dreams are attainable.

A great man within PEP once told me that a man without a plan ultimately plans to fail. He let me know that every great business man knows the value of his family, and he is always aware of who is “riding on his bus”.

The invaluable training given to me by PEP on the inside, although mentally straining and severely intense, prepared me for the obstacles sure to come my way upon release. I learned that life is what you make of it. No one is dealt the same hand, and the only thing that matters in the end is how you play the hand you’ve been dealt.

Upon release I was faced with a GPS monitor, parole and probation. I also had two of the most important women in my life play the roles of surrogate parole and probation officers (I love you, Mom!). Along with two AA classes, PEP eSchool, a job, community service and two beautiful children that required much of my attention, there was no time to waste. Losing focus was never an option. But with all my PEP brothers and extended PEP family in my corner rooting me on, success was the only viable outcome. What a great feeling to know that I am not driving a rundown bus on spare tires. Instead, I am chauffeuring a world class charter bus and the passengers are all ready to help me drive if begin to fall asleep.

But I am glad to report that I am not asleep at the wheel. I recently graduated eSchool. I have also successfully completed my parole requirements and have been once and for all cut free from that GPS monitor! I attend AA meetings now, not because I have to, but because it is one of the many practices I believe I should carry on to ensure my continual success.

Honestly, if I can do it, anybody can. All it takes is a little faith in God and the support of amazing people, like those I have in my PEP family.

Thank you for the opportunity to share.

John C.
Class 18 Graduate

The following was written by PEP Class 8 graduate, Cristian H. 


cristian h

Cristiam H., PEP Class 8 Graduate

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…”

Hope came for me at a time in my life when death at a young age was normal for a kid from my neighborhood. A millionth second chance was presented to me, and it was time to make a decision, once and for all.

I was raised well by my parents, and they did the best they could to keep me on a path of righteousness. I rebelled due to a desire to fit in with my “friends”. I struggled with a deep sense of inadequacy and this only fueled my desire to belong. Sin caught my attention at an early age and kept me wanting more until the age of 21, when I found myself in the county jail with several felony assault charges. I called my family with apologies and good-byes.

I cried out loud with tears in Bexar County Jail, praying Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s, desperately hoping that God would hear me. He heard me and my tears went away. But I still had to pay for my crimes. I was sentenced to three concurrent two year sentences in TDC.

I entered PEP six months before the end of my sentence. After reviewing the PEP application, I knew it was ‘a God thing’. I joyfully signed up and was accepted. PEP has been in my life ever since. God has used PEP to build my character. I have been educated and equipped for success in all endeavors thru PEP. PEP is a refuge, a brotherhood and a lifelong relationship. My story is full of ups and downs pre- and post-PEP. But through it all, I am better, not bitter. Through it all, PEP is still there for me. And through it all, I will continue to move forward, focused on living a life filled with purpose. Without God and without PEP, who knows where I would be today.

Cristian H.
PEP Class 8

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Now is the time, today is the day of salvation.”

Read similar testimonials from other graduates here.

The following was written by PEP Class 18 graduate, Devon S. 


Devon S.

Devon S.

“After my fifth time receiving a one year set off and being denied parole, I started to really wonder how many years I would serve on my 20-year sentence. Then one day soon after, I received a letter from one of my brothers. He told me I should look into a program that he graduated from called PEP. He said PEP gave him the skills and the knowledge necessary to start his own business. But most importantly, PEP helped him to change his destructive thinking patterns.

So I put in a request, by using what we called an “I-60,” to classification asking what I needed to do to be a part of this program.

About two weeks later, I was on the chain headed to pre-release at the Cleveland Unit! My second day there, I was approached by my future classmate Aaron B., and he asked me if I was here for the program. “What program”, I asked. When he told me PEP, I immediately knew God was working His mighty hand! Marcus and Pat allowed me to join the program, even though I still had 14 years left on my sentence. I haven’t looked back since.

After being released, I married the woman of my dreams, my first true love. I relocated from Austin to Houston to take up residence at a PEP transitional house, and within 35 days of my release, and with PEP’s assistance, I was employed! I went to school and obtained my commercial driver license (CDL), and after searching for months on my own for a position and coming up short, I was able to obtain employment through PEP’s vast network!

The month of September 2014 marks my first full year since being released from prison. Without God, my wife and of course PEP, none of this would be possible. Thank you, PEP!

By the way, the I-60 request I sent out to classification asking about the program finally caught up to me at the Cleveland Unit over a month after I started class. The response was ‘you have to be interviewed to be considered for the program’.

I still have it today!

Devon S.
Class 18 Graduate

Read similar testimonials from other graduates here.