The second annual graduating Dream Big class of bestselling author Bob Goff received their certificates for participating in a class that embodies spirituality, hope and ambition on Dec. 14.
All the classmates were draped in their graduation gowns and wore caps with tassels as their faces beamed while listening to Goff on stage.
“I’m learning from you guys,” Goff said while pointing into the crowd. “And one thing I learned is to find a big ambition and go for it. Coming to see you guys is one of my greatest ambitions.”
Chapel B was half full of incarcerated residents and three guests brought in by Goff. Jody Luke is a returning attendee who has had the Dream Big experience. Two new guys came with Bob as well; one was named Kevin Williams and the other was called “Bo”. Both were new to the prison experience.
After Goff introduced them all and gave a brief testimony of how he reunited with his sister after 35 months, he asked Williams to speak about his life. Williams is the franchise owner of a Chick Filet in Atlanta, Georgia.
Williams shared how he enjoys building relationships with those who work in the restaurant. He also shared how much caring for others really means to him and how it’s most important to help someone in need.
“I’m humbled to be here with the incarcerated,” Williams said. “Bob changed my life. He changed the way I think. I see the human in everybody now. I look for the purpose. We all just need somebody to believe in us.”
Believing in yourself and someone else were some of the spiritual principles that Goff taught in the class. But it was Goff’s humorous way of addressing the crowd about how to be audacious when pursuing their goals that was the basis of the course.
“Bob gave us the permission to dream big again,” said class facilitator Carrington Russelle. “By being in prison, a lot of us have lost that passion to dream or to aspire to be great and even have a big dream. Bob showed us how to have absurd expectations and accomplishments. He encouraged guys to be something beyond these prison walls.”
The course that Goff teaches is immersed in spiritual principles and kindness, wrapped around a message of love — the same sentiments that are in his novel, Love Does, and in Williams’ novel, Irrational Kindness.
It’s that same kindness that Sergio Alvaraz, Kolby Southwood and Anthony Graham want to share with the world as humanitarians and preachers.
“My dream is become a preacher,” Graham said. “I want to build homeless shelters for the homeless and create some drug rehabs.”
Donald Thompson aspires to be a chef when he’s released and open a bakery so that he can connect to people.
Glen Harder wants to own a trucking company. Other graduates aspire to become something bigger than what they see themselves as now, while in prison.
Reginald Thorpe said that he wants to write about his personal story. He wants to share a story about his upbringing and his experience of having parents who were drug abusers.
“I want to share my story because it might help somebody else. I also want to generate some generational wealth because I believe that that is the way we can save a lot of families from falling victim to the crisis happening in urban communities,” Thorpe said.
Kenny Rogers (not the singer) wants to be an inventor and help his grandfather’s solar power invention reach its potential. All 23 graduates shared their aspirations and ambitions and what the class meant to them.
After receiving their certificates from veterans Brandon Riddle Terrell and Sergio Alvaraz, and after Goff sang the graduation theme song, creating a melodious atmosphere, all the graduates turned their tassels to the side and threw their caps in the air to celebrate the victory.
Some of the graduates yelled out, “Opa!” Goff said that Opa is a nickname and term of endearment that his grandkids gave him. He said that it’s a name from a Greek wedding.
“I am so glad that I got the opportunity to meet guys of your caliber,” Goff said in parting words.