Thursday, December 4, 2008

Put a Little P.E.P. in your Step!

There a quotation from a Russian Poet, Boris Pasternak, that I read earlier this week and got me on a roll to finally writing this post.
“It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days,
but someone’s soul inspired and ablaze.”

I would never have imagined that I would in a million years that I'd go through a “tunnel of love” and do the chicken dance with a room full of prisoners. I would have never in a million years believed that these tough guys would be willing to be a little vulnerable…but have no doubt that it is TRUE!

First, let me begin with a little background info:
Catherine Rohr was about my age when she was rollin’ in the dough on a street called WALL aka Wall Street. Well, she always thought of prisoners as beasts of the human population that deserved to be there and shouldn’t get back into society. UNTIL, she came to this Texas prison and realized that there is an untapped potential with these guys. These men are already entrepreneurs and amazing leaders. She saw what no one else saw and ran with it – These men need for someone to believe in them…that they are intelligent, gentlemen, and capable of making a positive impact in their communities. So…one small step of obedience after another…She left Wall Street, cleared out her bank account and 401K with penalties, moved to Texas, and started what is now (and has been for about 4 years) the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. Talk about an inspired soul!! Want to read more about her? Go here.

So why did I go?
Well, for one, I’ve always wanted to get involved with Prisons (not as a prisoner)…but I was always too young. And then I was too busy. And then I heard about P.E.P. and I thought it’s now or never! (I use that phrase a lot…not in this post…but in my life. The light bulb just went off.)

And two – there’s a LADIES’ NIGHT at the prison! Ha! I think they’ve renamed it to Etiquette night.

Now the STORY:
After going through the normal security check at the entrance of the prison, I walked with 5 other women (eventually 37 of us there) to the P.E.P room (which is inviting and not what you would expect in prison). Little did we know that the P.E.P students were anxiously waiting for us with a human tunnel for us to walk through…YES…a human tunnel called the TUNNEL OF LOVE! We chit chatted a bit…they introduced themselves in a way that it’s only fair you go and see…and then we got to business. We did the chicken dance. Yes. The chicken dance.

The purpose of the visit was to help these guys with their etiquette. So we made our way to a cafeteria type room where we had dinner. They had to work on helping the ladies’ with their seats, shaking hands in a courteous manner, setting their place correctly, using the right hands for cutting into the meat, cutting enough for one bite, explain what they’d do if they had to leave their seat….you get the picture. They got points for whatever they got right. Some of these guys were visibly nervous. Not so much by the dinner, but by the company. The guy who got the most points got a prize….so cute. They really were trying to WIN this...Title of: Mr. Etiquette, a folder and a pencil with a grip for his P.E.P. homework. It was A LOT OF FUN! I learned a lot more than I already knew.

You know…they are the most dedicated individuals I’ve seen in a long time – okay, okay – I’m not saying you’re not…but imagine these guys. They are basically taking an MBA course in a 4 month period! Can you imagine!? If they show any kind of disrespect, too good for his own britches-ness (aka: pride), and kind of squirmyness or laziness they are out of there! Not everyone who gets in stays…

Class X - Tiny Tender Ten Graduate tomorrow. I've convinced a friend to come with me...I think I'll have to call more people when I'm on the high of just coming out of Prison! It's truly causes a ripple effect!

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