Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I was both flattered and humbled when Michael asked me to write the foreword to Triumph!, The Straight-A Guide to Preparing Offenders for Reentry. The printing of Triumph! officially completes the MGSF adult reentry module. Now, all of us at MGSF, will continue to push toward our goal of enrolling 1,000 prisoners and at-risk youth in our program in the next 12 months. To learn more about MGSF, including details on sponsoring this noble org please visit www.MichaelSantos.org.
Foreword to Triumph!
My name is Justin Paperny. I support the Straight-A Guide for three reasons. The first is that I used it to conquer imprisonment. The second is that I personally witnessed numerous other prisoners using the Straight-A Guide to triumph over imprisonment and transform their lives. The third reason I support the Straight-A Guide is that I am impressed with the total commitment Michael Santos makes to it as a life philosophy; he achieves enormous success despite the multiple decades he serves in prison.
Perhaps it is an understatement to write that I support the Straight-A Guide. In fact, as the executive director of the Michael G. Santos Foundation, an IRS-approved public charity, I am one of its chief advocates. I made the personal commitment to devote my career toward spreading he message because I’m convinced of its power to help others reach their highest potential.
I became familiar with the Straight-A Guide soon after I surrendered to the federal prison camp in Taft, California. I am a graduate of the University of Southern California and a former stock broker. After more than a decade in business, a bad decision led to my 18-month term for a violation of securities laws. The conviction meant the loss of my livelihood, I knew, and I began serving my sentence with dark clouds of anxiety hanging over me. I didn’t have any idea how I would support myself upon release.
During my first few days I interacted with the men around me. They came from diverse backgrounds, yet we all shared a sense of despair about what awaited us. Some were well educated with work histories as professionals, others had never worked before. We all had felony convictions and we all understood the struggles we would face in creating stability upon release. Soon thereafter, however, I enrolled in a class where I listened as Michael Santos described the strategy that had helped him conquer imprisonment. While serving a 45-year sentence in prisons of every security level, he educated himself, built a career, developed enormous public support, earned resources, and nurtured a loving marriage. He spoke passionately about triumphing over adversity, insisting that any man could empower himself by living a values-based, goal-oriented life.
I embraced the message. If it could help a man who had served such a lengthy time in prison, I reasoned that it could help me. Rather than sinking into sadness over what had happened to me, I assessed my situation and began to focus on the seven attributes of the Straight-A Guide: attitude, aspiration, action, accountability, awareness, achievement, and appreciation. That shift in perspective opened numerous opportunities.
Because of the Straight-A Guide, I made outstanding use of the 18-month sentence I served. Although I had not considered myself a writer, when I walked out of prison I had my book in hand, Lessons From Prison. I used it to launch a national speaking and consulting career. Despite emerging into the worst economic climate of a generation, and having a felony conviction, by making a 100 percent commitment to the Straight-A Guide, I left prison strong, with values and resources that led to my triumph over prison.
The principled living patterns of the Straight-A Guide not only transformed my life, I worked with scores of other prisoners who did the same. They impressed me so much with the preparations they made for a law-abiding life upon release that I took steps to launch the Michael G. Santos Foundation. I wanted to join in introducing the program to others in prisons across America.
I speak from personal experience in urging prisoners to rely upon the Straight-A Guide as a tool to help them achieve optimal performance while creating meaning in life. They may use it to transition from prison to success. It worked for me and I know that it can work for anyone who embraces the message with total commitment.