Yesterday was a big day. We reached the midway point in the Defy program and they had a mentoring day. They brought in nearly 1 mentor for every student in the class, one even came all the way from Texas after reading about Defy online. They were all people who had some sort of business experience and we did 10 minute “speed dating” style chats with them to get feedback on our resume, personal statement (which introduces us and explains our background and how we have overcome it), and our business ideas. The first mentor I gave my business pitch too said she had goosebumps. I don’t think there’s a better compliment than that. *smile* We are supposed to practice our personal statement so we can give it any time like an elevator pitch so I had rehearsed it but one mentor said I was “too polished” which means I didn’t put enough feeling into it. *herumph* Another mentor made a great marketing suggestion: that I offer monogrammed soaps. His daughter was getting married and they were buying lots of monogrammed stuff. Plus people will pay more for things that are gifts than for personal use. All great feedback/suggestions.

The mentor day was very worthwhile and that’s not even taking the Subway sandwiches we got for lunch. Since I am gluten intolerant the event coordinator ordered a special meal for me. I figured it would be a salad and guess what. It was a spinach salad with no meat or even dressing because she didn’t know my dietary restrictions. *chuckle* So I got 2 pieces of a sandwich and put the meat on my spinach and used the oil and vinegar packets as dressing. Boy, that was the best tasting spinach salad I have ever had… because I haven’t had any good salad in over 2 years. *smile*

I am very much looking forward to the graduation event where we do a Shark Tank style pitch competition. The winner gets a $500 grant from Defy towards his business idea when he gets out. I realize my mother has raised me to be modest and not to compare myself to others but this is a competition so I’m going into it planning to win it. *grin* The top 5 pitches will do a final round at the graduation ceremony. As my parents will still be traveling then I am inviting Roz, McK and some friends. I hope they can make it since Roz has helped me perfect my idea. *smile*

Our Toastmasters club is officially chartered now and we’ve been installed as the officers by the bigwigs from Toastmasters International who attended as guests. Well, all of us but the president because he didn’t keep $1 on his books for club dues for April. He was pretty pissed that he couldn’t be there for the big ceremony but it’s his responsibility to pay his dues. He’ll be installed by us fellow officers this month but his ego is quite bruised.

The Metro Community College computer class I’m taking is nearly over. The instructor, Ms. Drake, has been happy to let me figure out how to apply the Office 2010 instructions to our Office 2003 software and then to act as the TA and walk the rest of the class through the exercises. *chuckle* Of course, I enjoy it. It’s almost like teaching back in San Fran. *deep sigh*

Today I started yet ANOTHER program called Success Prep. I’m currently in 3 classes, Defy, MCC,and Success Prep, plus I’m the F gallery mentor for the MRT program and one of the officers for Toastmasters. Boy, I’m pretty darn busy. I’m out of the cell so much, especially over counts, that my cellie sometimes wonders if I’m even here anymore. LOL! So Success Prep is a program designed by LaVon Williams, a lady from Omaha. I noticed that the first slide in her presentation showed she has a J.D. so I wondered if she got disillusioned in law school and decided to do inmate outreach or what. Well, it turns out she was a lawyer in Omaha and she helped a client avoid taxes for 2 years. When she decided to stop the client blackmailed her┬áso she turned herself in and ended up serving 3 years in club fed. So she is one of “us.” She has been working since she got out to do things to give back, a pretty good example of overcoming her past. *smile* It’s a short 5 week program that focuses on using your time inside in a productive manner for self-improvement. I look forward to seeing if I can get any more ideas on how to do more self-improvement while in here. I like LaVon but I hope she doesn’t view me as arrogant or condescending. I’ll play it low-key to start. Really, I can do it. LOL!

Here’s the transcript of my Personal Statement for Defy:

I was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, of good midwestern stock, and at the age of 7 my family moved to Brazil where I learned Portuguese. Since then I have traveled to 15 different countries. I graduated from UNL with majors in English, Speech Communications, and Medieval and Renaissance Studies and a minor in Philosophy just for fun. I have also made bad choices which lead to me serving 5.5 years in correctional institutions. Instead of viewing my incarceration as a negative experience I choose to reframe it as a mandatory monastic retreat to practice introspection and self-improvement to refocus my life. Now I do 1.5 hours of meditative yoga every day and have intensified my 11 years of taiji practice. I have worked to repair the relationships I damaged and to deepen all my relationships.. I have taken advantage of every educational and rehabilitative program offered and in order to try to improve the system and help others I volunteer as a mentor for one of those programs and as a founding officer for a newly chartered chapter of Toastmasters, the first club of any kind for PC inmates in NE. I also practice gratitude on a daily basis because I know how close we all are to loosing everything we value. I’d like to thank you for this chance to introduce myself. If given the opportunity to show what I would bring to your organization I would strive to exceed your expectations.