RISE Graduates in Tecumseh, Nebraska

Accomplishment: Finding Strengths and Building Character

April 16, 2019

Walking into a business pitch and graduation day is, without a doubt, one of my favorite days. There are so many nuances in our Builders as they prepare for what’s about to transpire - it’s hard to not notice how serious they take it.

From whispering a practice pitch in front of a door reflection, to running last minute ideas past our staff members, or sitting calmly alone as they try to curb their nerves - each Builder has put their heart and soul into what they’ve prepared. For many, they’ve never written a resume, personal statement, let alone a business plan to pitch.

Being pushed outside one's comfort zone encourages growth and a change in thinking while submerged in unknown territory. The evolution we see in our Builders from program launch to business pitch day is unparalleled. Where men were once quiet and closed-off, they’ve risen to focused, engaged and open.

RISE gives them the tools they need to not only prepare them for the outside world, but to set them up for success regardless of what side of the gate they’re on.

On business pitch day our Builders get multiple opportunities to present a business pitch in front of a large crowd of people - not just volunteers, but family. Their wives...dads...kids...mothers.

While checking in with some Builders of our graduating cohort, I asked a man named Raymond how he was doing. He told me, “I’m anxious to make my mother proud. She’s coming today and I want her to see that I’m taking charge of my new path in life.”

Sure, on the surface RISE is about preparing those with criminal histories to enter back into society successfully. But it’s also about creating an opportunity for them to accomplish something great - something hard.

There’s a quote by Thomas Carlyle that says, “Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.”

The growth we see in our Builders on graduation day makes us all so proud of and we’re humbled they get to share that with their loved ones. I was once told, “This is the first time my name has been on a certificate for something good. My mom is going to be so proud.”

One of the points of RISE is for it to simply to be completed. To follow through. To struggle through an extremely difficult program and come out on the other side.

We don’t measure the success of our Builders by how many start their entrepreneurship journey after graduation. That’s not the most important piece to this puzzle.

We measure it in the man whose daughter came to watch him graduate after not seeing him in 10 years. In the parents that came to cheer on their son for completing a difficult program. We measure it in the Builder that used to sit alone in class, but is now engaged with the entire room. And we measure success by those that have graduated and how they now carry themselves with pride, confidence, and leadership.

Accomplishment can mean a lot of things to many people. But the obstacles these Builders have overcome to follow through and finish, that’s the good stuff.

RISE serves the 2nd most overcrowded prison system in the United States - right here in Nebraska. RISE is a 6-month program focusing on job readiness, entrepreneurship and character development.

If you’d like to volunteer in one of our in-prison events, we’d love to have you! For more information email Erica at epieper@seeusrise.org.