In May, it will be eight years since Charles Hearne made a mistake that sent him to prison for four years in Texas.
Two years later, an older gentleman told him he'd be making another big mistake if he didn't go through with an application to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.
Hearne and 49 other prisoners, all dressed in white, showed up to a classroom where they learned more about a MBA-style program intended to teach them how to start a business once they were released from prison.
The major selling point for Hearne? The image of a black man, not unlike himself, walking across the stage upon graduating. Hearne, whose plans to attend college were cut short by imprisonment, was convinced.
"I knew I had to have this," he says.
Six years after having made that decision, he is Executive Relations Manager for PEP in Houston. Hearne is also on track to graduate in 2018 from the University of Houston with a bachelor's degree in business administration in finance.
The nine-month program changed his life.
A SECOND CHANCE
PEP, an independent nonprofit, is run from two main facilities in Texas under the leadership of Bert Smith, a former investor who started volunteering for the program in 2005.
The people he met in the program were part of the reason he decided to stay involved. "I met men who were intelligent and very committed to changing their lives, very interesting and in many cases creative," he says. "I found myself taking insights and ideas that were helpful to me in my day job."