Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

Check out our most recent write-up in the Houston Forward Times! Read the full story here.
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Houstonforwardtimes

Who really believes in giving second chances to someone who is already considered a failure?

Many people wonder about today’s society. Most do not think someone in an unfortunate circumstance could make the most of a chance they are given. Is opportunity only for the more fortunate citizens of the United States of America or can anyone rebound after getting knocked down?

Not many people can honestly say they believe in that today. However, this is not the case for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP).

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) is a Houston-based 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that was established in 2004. At PEP, they are servant leaders on a mission to transform inmates to executives by unlocking human potential through entrepreneurial passion, education and mentoring. Their groundbreaking results include a return-to-prison rate of less than 7%, an employment rate of 100% within 90 days of release and over 185 businesses launched by graduates of the program. They have pioneered innovative programs that connect the nation’s top executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students with convicted felons.

PEP’s team knows from experience that prison is a storehouse of untapped potential. Many inmates come to prison as seasoned entrepreneurs who happened to run illegitimate businesses. Once equipped with education and life skills training, the ROI potential for the truly reformed prisoner, his family and his community is limitless.

Charles Hearne is the Houston Executive Relations Manager for PEP, and believes the program continues to make a great impact in our communities.

“Our entrepreneurship boot camp and re-entry programs, which include spiritual and character development courses, are proven for maximizing self-sufficiency and transforming broken lives,” said Hearne.

Former Wall Street professional Catherine Rohr founded PEP in May of 2004 after she toured a prison and noticed that executives and inmates had more in common than most would think. They know how to manage others to get things done.

Rohr wondered what would happen if inmates who were committed to their own transformation were equipped to start and run legitimate companies. Following an unusual calling, Rohr left behind her New York career and financial stability, moved to Texas started a one-of-a-kind “behind bars” business plan competition. Her efforts were geared toward channeling the entrepreneurial passions and influential personalities of the inmates—intentionally recruiting former gang leaders, drug dealers and hustlers.

She quickly realized the entrepreneurial ability of the men inside of those prisons and wanted a way to show how successful those men could be on the other side if they were cultivated correctly.

Even the most unsophisticated drug dealers inherently understand business concepts such as competition, profitability, risk management and proprietary sales channels. For both executives and inmates, passion is instinctive.

The overwhelming response of 55 inmates and 15 world-class executives to judge the business plans and presentations was the catalyst to launch the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

While Rohr resigned in 2009, the organization has continued to grow and prosper. PEP now graduates more men than ever before, and the results are better than ever and remain the best in the prison rehabilitation field.

PEP has been picking up steam and has come a long way since 2004. Although based in Cleveland, TX, PEP is associated with prisons in other states that have embraced this revolutionary idea.

“The goal is to affect the tipping point in Texas prisons,” said Hearne. “About 43,000 men are released throughout the year in Texas prisons. We want to be in a situation where we are affecting about 10 percent of those men. So essentially we want to affect about 4,300 men a year.”

PEP has only two units and roughly graduates 300 men per year. Although they have not fully met their target goal, they are getting closer.

Many of the men who go through PEP have amazing ideas. Some have wanted to open meat markets, while others have wanted to open pool companies.

“Some of the men have actually owned businesses before and already have legitimate business knowledge,” said Hearne. “Those men would take their own business plan, revamp it and use that information and knowledge to build a business they already had information on.”

PEP has established more than 200 different businesses, and of those 200, at least 6 of them will be performing at the million dollar revenue range by the end of the year.

A true testimony on how PEP has helped different individuals get up after being knocked down in life is Hearne, who not only serves as the Executive Relations Manager, but is also a former participant in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.” said Hearne. “I’ve been out of the program for a little more than two years and I’d already made up my mind after I got incarcerated that the things I was doing wasn’t working for me. So it was time to have a change of heart, a change of surroundings and do things differently. Being a part of PEP set me on a trajectory faster than what I could have accomplished on my own. In the 2 ½ years I have been out, I have completed about 5 semesters of college and will be graduating next spring. I have given back to the community in different ways, such as community engagement and volunteer services. I have become a true contributor to society by way of Prison Entrepreneurship Program.”

PEP is an outstanding program that has directly and indirectly helped thousands of lives every year since it was established.

If you are looking for more information, or if you know someone who could use helpful information about this program, please visit http://www.PEP.org to learn more about the program.

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program has proven that everyone deserves a second chance, and more importantly, you should never judge a book by its cover.

My name is Jason and I was asked to write about my experience with PEP. When considering how a program has changed your life, it is easy to get caught up in the rites and rituals and begin to think of that program, any program, as a series of steps to be taken to reach a goal.

To me, PEP is so much more than that. To be sure, there are procedures and there are rites of passage, but I cannot look at these as mere steps; they are tools to be used, remembered, called upon in times of need, and passed on to those who come after us. PEP is a living, breathing entity embodied by the men trying to change their lives, the PEP staff, and the volunteers that offer so much encouragement.

Jason Bowles

I joined the Navy at 18, straight out of high school, and thought that I had the world pretty much figured out. The problem was that there was one thing I did not completely understand; I had no real idea of who I was. I allowed myself to be defined by the people around me and when I did not fit in with them, a few drinks made everything go a little more smoothly. I had no intention of becoming an alcoholic, but then who does?

Fast forward a couple of decades and my life was in shambles. I had spent the greater part of my adult life either on a barstool, recovering from my last hangover, or planning my next one. I knew my life was wasted and going nowhere, but I had no earthly idea how to change it, so I took the easy way and did nothing to make any improvements whatsoever. Like alcoholics the world over, I hid in a bottle and perpetuated my downward spiral.

I had never thought of myself as someone who would end up in prison and I certainly never saw incarceration as any kind of rescue. Like most of society, I viewed the penal system as a way to deal with people who did not want to play by the rules. Also like most of society, I was blind to my own hypocrisy and ignored the fact that I was no paragon of virtue.

Because of my continued alcohol abuse, I quickly learned how easily one can be sucked in and spit out by the judicial system. I also learned there is hope for everyone, no matter if they are locked in a cell by the state or locked into a pattern of self-destruction by their own choices. Hope abounds for anyone willing to work to make a better life.

For me, PEP is a life saver. I learned how much I was truly hurting myself and everyone around me by finding excuses to indulge in my weaknesses. I learned that I can be a part of a group without having to be just like everyone in it. I found out that fitting in does not mean conforming, it means contributing. Most importantly, I learned how to live with the fact that I am flawed. I have made mistakes in the past and I will make more in the future, but those mistakes do not define me; how I recover from them does.

My name is Jason and I am many things; a veteran, a son, a brother, an alcoholic, a convicted felon, a PEP graduate and a productive member of society.

Jason B.
Class 18 Graduate

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

charles and israel

What better day than today to celebrate transformation?

These two dapper young men are not only PEP graduates, they are now PEP staff members who are also going to college thanks to some generous donors … this photo was taken before they walked into an event to thank the people who paid for their scholarships.

Whatever you have done in your past, your future will be decided by what you do TODAY. Thank you to Charles H. and Israel E. for inspiring us to dream bigger, live bolder, work harder, and love deeper!

Below is the second TED talk given on PEP, from the 2013 TEDxUTA event “Moving Forward.” (You can see our first talk here)

In 2013, PEP’s Chief Development Officer Jeremy Gregg was invited to speak at the Arlington chapter of the international TED conference (TEDxUTA), through the University of Texas at Arlington. His 16-minute talk, “Moving Forward: Rethinking Prison,” is posted below.

Please share this idea worth spreading on FacebookLinkedInTwitter… everywhere and anywhere.Together, we can transform prisons into platforms of opportunity!

(If that code is not working, you can see it here.)

The following email was sent to one of our loyal Accenture volunteers by a fellow employee whom she recruited to join us in prison. It is a great explanation of the impact of volunteering through PEP.

Want to join Brenan and others for such an experience? Check out our upcoming event schedule here.


Hey Sherry,

I just wanted to tell you that you were absolutely right! PEP was such an unimaginably INCREDIBLE experience!! The event started with our group of executives entering the Gym to such a warm and embracing welcome by all of the class 21 participants. During the actual Kick off session we participated in numerous ice breaking introductory events. It is hard for me to formulate the words to express how meaningful and touching this experience was to me. When meeting with these participants, I had the opportunity to do more than just speak with inmates, I met men who were eager to make a change. The guys were so genuinely expressing their gratitude for PEP and the tools that PEP is offering them to not only be successful in business, but tools that will help them reinvent their lives. You hit the nail on the head, when you said that you forget you are in a prison while participating in PEP. I don’t want to write an overbearing email. I just want to say in all that I had an amazing experience and look forward to helping see class 21 through their development in PEP and life. I want to thank you and let you know I now understand why you are so passionate about this program, because it is truly changing people’s lives.

Regards,

Brenan P. Gordon

PEP Graduation in Prison

This December 13, 2013 will mark a a major milestone for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. On that day, we will watch our 1,000th graduate cross the stage and receive a PEP diploma.

Your support made this possible.

We would love for your to join us that day in prison for the Class 20 Graduation! You will not only see over 80 members of “Tenacious Twenty” earn their Certificate of Entrepreneurship from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, but you will be able to meet their families and loved ones.

Friday, December 13, 2013
2:00 – 5:00 pm
Cleveland, Texas
(45 minutes north of Houston)

To register, go to www.PEPrsvp.orgThis site provides directions and logistics about the event

See you in prison!

roderick

PEP Case Manager Wilbert Peter and Roderrick

One of our awesome graduates Roderrick B. landed a job within 48 hours of release from prison. But he didn’t stop there — and along the journey to finding an even better job, he was challenged in a way he never could have imagined.

Check out this this story that he shared on Facebook, which we’ve adapted here for our blog:

Doing the right thing is catching on. Now, let me show you how this all works.

I went to the ATM at the bank last night to check my account right after getting a job lead. And guess what happens? Out of nowhere, the person before me left their debit card in the machine with the account still active. The machine has a nice account balance showing on the screen and is waiting for a withdrawal.

I am a former Credit Card thief. I could have drained the account. That was a dream come true.

But I didn’t. This morning, I turned the card into the bank and got ready for my job interview instead.

It all went well, and even though I have no experience … I got a four dollar raise over my current job. Plus, I get 401k, paid vacation and a full benefits package with medical and dental.

I have been out of prison three weeks today. I have to ride a bike everywhere. Before PEP, my response to that ATM would have been a different story.

But I am now a new hired member of a team with a good job. All is well — so don’t tell me what GOD can and can’t do; I only know what He will do as long as you are faithful.

I Flip for PEPLots going on this week at the Cleveland Correctional Facility … including the launch of Class 20 of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program!

Today, we host our Internal Kickoff event. Most of the nearly 110 men who are entering PEP have been connected to us for months, including our three-month “Prep Class” called Principles of Effective Leadership. 

Today’s event is a celebration of their entrance to PEP with our staff and graduates from past classes. The event that is decidedly NOT like the typical prison experience, as the room is decorated for a party and the atmosphere is one of fun, fellowship and hope!

This is all in preparation for our official Kickoff on July 19, 2013. You can learn more about this event, and register to attend, here:
http://www.pep.org/rsvp/rsvp/

You can also see photos from the last class’ kickoff event here:
http://prisonentrepreneurshipprogram.zenfolio.com/c19kickoff

This week also marks the two-week countdown towards our fundraising campaign. As we announced a month ago, we received a challenge grant of $100,000 that will match EVERY DOLLAR that you donate between now and our July 19, 2013 kickoff.

Your gift of $100 will instantly become $200 through this campaign.

To learn how you can double your impact, please visit our campaign site:
http://pep2013.causevox.com/

Together, we can transform prison!

We just received this great story from an executive volunteer (note that names have been changed):

Last Saturday evening I was in The Woodlands and a young man kept looking at me… After a little while, he approached and asked me my name.

When I replied ‘Jane’, he said ‘Jane Smith?’

I said, ‘Yes, do we know each other?’

He said, ‘I was in PEP. I’ve been out now for 2 and a half years.’

I was astonished that he remembered me as I only attended two events and spoke with each person for a only a short period of time those days.

He asked if we could stay in touch, and we have communicated via LinkedIn and email.  He has shared pictures of his family, introduced me to his fiancée and talked about his job and the repair of his relationship with his children after he got out. (He has three. 🙂

As I have thought about it over the last few days, I realized what a significant impact I made just by being there, only one day in his class. For him to remember not only my face, but also my full name this many years after I visited, was nothing short of remarkable to me.

What you are offering to the inmates is amazing, but what you have also offered to the volunteers is just as meaningful…. A chance to make a difference in the lives of others.

Thank you for all you do, and thank God for PEP.