Monday, October 31, 2011— Wednesday, November 2, 2011— Well it was a long weekend for the graduates and “Sweet 16.” Today began the face-to-face portion of our second Character Assessment. There really should have been no surprises, since we live together and are a close-knit fraternity and we hold each other accountable every day. But sometimes it is still hard to tell our brothers what they do not want to hear. So, pod by pod, Pat summoned us into the PEP room and we all sat in one big circle. One by one, he would read out all of the negative traits that our peers wrote about us and then give the person a chance to speak on them. Then he would go around the circle and we spoke on why we wrote what we wrote. It doesn’t do our brothers any good if we never describe to them what we see and why we feel that way. It was a long three days and very emotionally and mentally exhausting. Even when we are receptive to criticism it is hard to hear it from so many of the people that we care about and who care about us.
At the end of the third day Pat gathered us in the PEP room all at once to discuss the outcome. Overall he told us that he felt like things went great. There were a lot of good comments and feedback given, and most people were receptive and promised to continue working on themselves. Anytime we do something like this, though, it is not always going to be a good result for everyone, so unfortunately, some people were removed from our brotherhood. Even though it was done at the end of Character Assessment it doesn’t mean that it was all a result of the assessment. Some brothers just don’t get it and have not fully committed to change their lives. We are a close brotherhood and all here to help each other, but only if each of us is helping himself. So with a broken heart and a tear in his eye, Pat had to dismiss six participants and one graduate from our fraternity. And he explained to us that they are not bad people or even wrong for the program - they are just not ready right now. It always pains us when we lose a brother, especially in this manner, but we all understand what we must do to keep going and striving toward our own goals and dreams.
Thursday, November 3, 2011— Today began another new journey for “Sweet 16” in our pursuit of a new and prosperous life. We had a very special guest stop by today who will be with us for the next month preparing us for reentry into the workforce. Sidney is a long-time friend of PEP and has dedicated countless hours to the transformation of past class members. She has been in the human resources business for many years and has pledged to help us understand what it takes to get a job interview and land the job once we have one. She is going to be with us the next few weeks to teach about resumes, job searches and interviews. At the end of our training we will be given mock job interviews to see just how well her training paid off.
Today Sidney began with a presentation on writing resumes. She discussed with us the proper anatomy of a resume and plenty of tips for perfecting ours. She gave us a template to base our own resumes on and even volunteered to go over every brother’s resume to make sure it is in tip-top shape. Sidney has seen thousands of resumes throughout her career, and she knows exactly what will impress potential employers and what will keep us from receiving an interview. We are so lucky to have
Sidney on our team and will benefit greatly from her expertise.
Friday, November 4, 2011—Since this was Character Assessment week, Pat decided that it would be a good idea to have a positive assessment of each other. It is not all about the weaknesses that we possess; all of us have great qualities that need to be recognized. He rallied the troops and we all gathered in the PEP room in one big happy circle. Our brotherhood is really starting to bond and everyone was happy to be in one room together; participants and graduates alike. Once we were all circled up, Pat explained to us the need for the positive assessment and then he passed out a sheet of paper to each of us that said My Name Is… and we passed the sheets around the circle naming all of the good qualities that we saw in that person. It was truly a bonding moment as the music was cranked up and we all let our hair down around each other. After a long week of negative assessments, it was nice to cut up with each other and talk about the good things. As “Sweet 16” nears the end of class, the separation between us and the graduates is almost non-existent. They treat us as graduates already. They are not far off either. With two character assessments down and all our lessons finished, the only thing standing between us and graduation now is time itself.
After everyone was properly encouraged, Pat had a special movie for all of us to watch together about the coming together of a team despite enormous odds: Remember the Titans.
Man I am glad that character assessment is over. I fully understand the importance of having it, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Hopefully as time goes on, they will get a little easier. The hardest thing had to be watching brothers leave the room and class. Although I know that only the committed are moving forward from this point on, it was tough seeing those few men dismissed. The main objective now is focusing on our pitches and graduation. It is creeping closer and closer upon us, and I can’t wait. Hopefully all of the hard times are behind us, but I can honestly say that our class is really starting to bond and form friendships that most of us never thought possible. This is definitely a brotherhood that will follow us for a very long time. They told us about this bond and fraternity when we first started, and now we are finding out it is for real. We really needed the positive character assessment that Pat gave us at the end of the week. It showed that although we were looking at the negative traits in each other, that we can look at the positive too. It certainly brightened my day, and I wish I could share what my brothers said about me with all of you. I would also like to say thank you to James D. (a.k.a. Sweet Gomer Pyle)’s wife, mother and father for all of your praise and encouragement you’ve given to our class. Believe me, I love writing these journals as much as you love reading them. James loves you and is hanging tough!