It was a day of smiles and pride for 24 San Quentin inmates who graduated from an intensive self-help program aimed at helping them improve themselves and their lives.
The program is Exploring Leadership and Improving Transitional Effectiveness’ (ELITE) 16-week program. The ceremony was held in the Muslim/Jewish Chapel.
The ELITE training program was established at San Quentin in 2012 to assist individuals in their everyday personal endeavors. The program enhances an individual’s emotional intelligence, social competences, self awareness, motivation, commitment, empathy and social skills. All these personal developments improve communication skills, interpersonal and inter-relational proficiency.
During the June 17 graduation ceremonies, the audience and staff were given an opportunity to hear how ELITE’s rigorous curriculum and workshop transformed an individual’s thinking and behavior. These are practices incorporated into the leadership paradigm expected from all graduates who complete this self-help format.
“We believe by acquiring these skills, one is able to alter his behavior and thinking in such a way he can turn his situation around to yield benefit and deter harm,” said Chairman Tommy “Shakur” Ross.
This multi-ethic group received hands-on training in the concepts of emotional intelligence. These self-help skills give the individual the ability to gauge and assess his own personal strength and weakness, enhance communication, interpersonal communication and managerial skills, the program noted.
Richard Mayer, a recent graduate, read a short story about how Thomas Edison inspired him. Edison was the inventor of the incandescent lamp, better known today as the light bulb. Soon after his invention became recognized throughout the world, reporters came to his home in East Orange, N.J, to interview him about the invention.
|“These self-help skills give the individual the ability
to gauge and assess his own personal strength and weakness”|
One reporter asked Edison, “How does it feel to have failed 350 times to create the incandescent lamp?” Edison paused for a moment to reflect on the question and replied, “I didn’t fail. I found 350 ways not to make the lamp and one way to make it.”
Mayer said he is encouraged by this story because it speaks volumes about ELITE’s training program. “It inspires a shared vision.”
David “Da’ud” Coulson Sr., ELITE’s secretary, associates this training program to a curriculum that strengthens the understanding of the individual’s unique leadership qualities.
Aaron Martin, another recent ELITE graduate, spent 16 weeks filled with self-worth. “I’ve been encouraged to access areas in my life that could use some personal, family or community leadership, so in these regards I could use leadership in my personal life to discipline myself, to make life-changing decisions in regards to God, family and myself.”
A highlight of the graduation came when “Da’ud” introduced ELITE’s sponsor, Vivienne Florendo. Speaking on behalf of the 24 graduates, he told her, “We the combined groups had this oversize card made. We were dared to be different and unique, so we met this challenge. The size of this card metaphorically speaks to and represents the size of your contribution, dedication and the amount we appreciate you, which is immensely, thus the size of the card. Thank you, Vivienne, for all you do.”
When asked why she chose this group to sponsor, considering her distinct and unique background and work experience, Vivienne, said, “My life and work has revolved around helping others become the best they can be physically and mentally.”