The Successes

 I had grown up in a small town with parents who were married, in a supportive household.  I had always worked hard in life and never had an issue going the extra mile insofar as it served my own selfish purposes.  I had done well in school for several reasons, but mostly because I figured out that was the best way to get ahead in life.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the way I had started to make the decision that I wasn’t receiving enough in return for all of my efforts.  I had re-framed my thinking to actually believe that world owed me more than I was getting.  So I began to steal, but instead of just stealing outright I crafted clever schemes and scams in order to get as much as I possibly could as easily as possible.  I began chasing the growing number in my bank account all the while leading a seemingly normal life.  I went to work, came home, interacted with my family all the while I was leading a double life.  I used illegitimate wealth to shower those I loved in order to buy their silence.  Who can ask questions when they are constantly being given everything they wanted?  I became accustomed to a lifestyle and approach to life that I was smarter than the rest of those poor saps working 9-5, and that I was entitled to everything I took.  I was counterfeiting, skimming gift cards, stealing identities and myriad other intricate schemes I devised to never get caught.  On top of that I was devising more ways to launder all the money.

Somewhere along the way I knew my run was ending, but that didn’t stop me.  The constant web of lies I spun only intensified.  I had lost sight of who I was and what was important.  I knew then all the right things to say and could talk my way out of most situations.  In May of last year I was arrested on 24 warrants across three different states.  It had gotten entirely out of hand.  I ultimately plead guilty to engaging in corrupt activity and forgery.  Received 18 months in the state penitentiary.  I was sent to the opposite side of the state, no fewer than 5 hours from the people who still loved me in spite of all I did to them.  I entered into the darkest period of my life.

" .... I was in denial, even still after over a year in prison."

I’d sit in a cell every night, laying awake and asking god what the lesson is here?  What do I need to do differently?  Am I capable of doing it? It was in those nights that I slowly began to realize the impact of my decisions.  In spite of everything I thought I had done for my family, I was not able to be there for them in times of need.  When something broke, I wasn’t there to fix it. And I quickly found out how futile 15 minute collect calls home can truly be.  I was lost and I felt the hole in my heart growing larger with each passing day inside those walls.    
 
One day I saw a sign-up sheet for the TYRO Dads program and signed up for it.  Honestly I signed up for everything the prison offered in hopes that it would get my out of prison more quickly.  I showed up to that first day of class early and excited to learn, but still with that sense of entitlement that had brought me to prison in the first place.  I was better, I didn’t deserve to be here, what can this class lead by some guy from the outside actually teach me about life?  I knew how to play that game, to lie to myself.  I was in denial, even still after over a year in prison.  
 
Enter Japhet, on the first day of class, with his beaming smile and his overwhelming flow of positive energy.  He didn’t talk at us like other prison programs were wont to do, he spoke with us.  It was dialogue.  It was conversation.  And it slowly began to make some sense.  Over the course of the next 6 weeks I learned more about myself than I had in the previous 30 years combined.  I was forced to take an inventory and have an honest assessment of myself not only internally but also in front of the rest of the class.  I slowly began to see in high definition all the damage I had caused to my family and those who supported me.  Not only that, I began to see all the destruction I had caused in my own life, and to look at the reasons why I didn’t respect myself enough to live the life of a TYRO.  I was using my crimes as an excuse to not commit to anything besides my own personal gain.  I was not patient with anything in life and I lived life in the short term instead of seeing the bigger picture and all those that were in focus in that picture.  
 
I was fortunate to get an early release from prison due to good behavior and educational programs I took advantage of.  I was released 84 days before the expiration of my sentence.  I completed the program two days before my release and was able to receive my pin and graduation ceremony on the streets instead of inside those walls.  Living the life of a TYRO isn’t reaching a benchmark.  It is not getting a pin and framing a certificate so you can show people the changes you have made. It is getting up every single day with that positive energy and living life through your actions.  It is not being worried about what the lames think and constantly seeking validation from those around you.  These things all take time, and take a patience that is learned over the course of a lifetime. \

Their Words

 “ I do not ever want to go to prison again, so I am staying focused. Since I have been out I have been in contact with several other TYRO brothers.  The TYRO program was a beautiful experience and I was so blessed to get to be a part of it.  Out of all the programs I had taken while in prison- the TYRO program has been the only one that has given me the tools for when you are out and on the street. It really gave me the tools to become a better father and understand what a father is and to see the mistakes we make as fathers. Many of us guys never had a father involved in our lives, so we didn’t have much of an idea of what a father should look like. What a wonderful experience I have had in the TYRO program! I cant stress that enough.  I would love to see it up here in Michigan.  I  was involved  with TYRO so much in prison – I went through 4 graduations and the brotherhood inside was awesome. We didn’t get good days for taking the program, I didn’t get early parole for taking the program- so I am saying this cause I mean it…- it was a blessing and gave me the most useful tools  for out here on the streets. TYRO created a brotherhood of accountability inside – it was more than the  pushups – to remind you to be disciplined – it was that we had a brother who had our backs. I am determined to see it here in Michigan.  Why not create that brotherhood here, that we could help the younger guys get off the street and do something positive with their lives. They get into gangs when there is nothing else to do – we could change that.  I am not interested in going back to prison- I think Lets reach them BEFORE they go to prison!  Please tell The RIDGE Project, my brothers Dan and Ron –thank you thank you for the TYRO program! If there is anything that I can do to bring it here—let me know…. We need TYRO in Michigan too!

 

My name is Nate Watkins.  I was leading a life of incarceration for years then I got sentence to the Worth Center in Lima Ohio.  That’s where I heard of the program called Tyro Dads.  Mr. Roberts was my instructor and he showed he cared about everyone in the class.  As I kept going back week after week I could see and understand that the way I was living needed to change or my kids where going to be the same.  While I was there The Ridge started another program called Tyro Entrepreneur Program, it gave guys like me a chance to start our on business and be better for our families and communities.  I stuck with that program as well and with hard work I was able to win the event.  The investors actually helped me start my business from  laptop to supplies needed.  I started a waterproofing company and have been successful for over a year now.  I have been able to give back to my community by having a drawing and providing tickets to the zoo and others.    I have since married and have another baby on the way.

Thank you Ridge Project

When I arrived at the Worth Center, I was broken.  I was really tired of ending up in the same places, but I was caught up and couldn’t find a way out.  Over the past three years, there have been quite a few things that have guided me down another path.  For me, I believe the seed for change was planted by Mr. Roberts during TYRO Dads.  The respect and encouragement he showed us was something that helped me believe I could find a better way to live. 

 

Ever since becoming a TYRO, someone from The Ridge Project has always been in contact with me and they have always been willing to help.  I will always be grateful to Mr. Roberts, The Ridge Project, and God for placing them in my path.  Since my release I was able to compete in Tyro Entrepreneur program hosted by the Ridge project.  Although I did not win it helped me to continue my dream of starting my own company.   I started Hamitek Solutions.  And then I was able to sale it to another investor and we became partners.  We have then secured a contract with a Hospital.  This has change me in so many was that I was able to speak to my older brother that hasn’t spoken to any of us for 2 years, and my mom was hurting.  Now we are speaking and moving forward in our lives – Zach Hamilton

MORE TESTIMONIALS
" I love The Ridge Project and all they stand for. Each staff member I have met was not only kind but motivated and believe in their mission. I am beyond grateful that organizations like theirs exist to make the future a better place..."
SHERRI ROCHESTER
"The Ridge Project helped me out in more ways than I can express. I am very proud to say I am a man worth following to several people: a special thank you to: Brad, Japhet, Ron and Catherine, I am proud to be a Tyro/Warrior..."
JAMES SOLES
" I am a Tyro! During one of the toughest times in my life, a time of great setback, disappointment, disaster, and discouragement the Tyro family came along side me, brought me in, and made me a part of something bigger..."
JOSEPH CROCKETT
"I came a long way from making bad choices for worst out comes to having the life that i always dreamed of. When I wanted to give up the program helped me make better choices for myself and better a relationship with my Children..."
RAY CARTAGINO
Such an amazing thing you guys do, really gives family hope. And its nice to know there are such good people who stand behind our inmates and faith in them, also keeping them with high hopes. Keep up the amazing work you do!!!
EMILY WALLACE

"...Dealing with the things had I put off while I grew as a person, who was now clean and sober, learning who I was." - Geremy Woods

Growing up for me, from a small town in Southern Ohio by Chillicothe, was a challenging place that left me at a high disadvantage with learning the true values of life, and knowing the difference of what is right or wrong. Sure the law says no, but when at the age of ten your selling and doing oxys, the rational depth of the wrong is never developed. Especially, when all the kids around you are doing them too. My whole life, I never really got it, even when I felt I was in the right, I truly wasn’t. I ended up in prison for the manufacturing of drugs and getting a felony 1. Great stuff, right? I lost my kid, my cars, my home… everything.

While locked up, I went through a series of changes with many groups of people, till I realized what made me happy. .. and not chasing some made up thought of what I, and so many others who had mislead thoughts of what was right or fun… or furthermore the way to live. I got into art and lucked into getting into the one class, that actually offered graphic design. There I found happiness and had learned to live without family, and friends that I once had apart of my life. I had my new family.

This of course buried the pain on the inside that left a hole, from knowing that my son would grow up without his father from seven till 12. To me, I knew that was when, he would learn all the rooted parts of values that was going to make a major establishment of his character and… form him into his adult life. The pain I learned to deal with, for I had buried it. It was as though it never existed on the outside.

My emotions harden over the years. I was still growing of course and doing everything I could do, to be a better person but its as though the loss of what I had, was never there. Only those visits made it worse. Toward the last year, I didn’t even want visits anymore. My mother only had bad news, and my son had turned into a child always getting into trouble. We never really clicked anymore. Though I wanted to be the father or at least feel that connection in some way, it just wasn’t there. Maybe, it was me not dealing with the fact, that I knew it was my fault that my mother was struggling, or that my son was turning out the way he was. Regardless, it didn’t change the fact that I’d rather not deal with it at all, for I only wanted to be a part of what made me happy and feel successful. For real… It’s easy to be successful in the joint, especially after you get a couple years in …everything is repetition.

My last six months I joined TYRO. They had free pizza! A lot of it too! We all love pizza inside here. Anything beats a turkey patty or meatwad. The program did what it was supposed to do. I had to deal with the things I had put away in my mind, that I didn’t think I needed, …cause for real, I was happy in there locked up. You find peace at some point, and we as people adapt.

Dealing with the things had I put off while I grew as a person, who was now clean and sober, learning who I was, and my strengths, was all but in the nick of time. My world was about to flip, and I wasn’t hitting the streets running… I was going home to take care of the mess I left. The truth is I don’t think I would have been ready for it, if I hadn’t gone through the last six months of becoming a TYRO. I am thankful for that too.

After I had gotten home and settled, I got my son back, fortunately quick. It took a lot of work to get a kid from straight fs to passing grades. To be honest I’m just now seeing it this last nine weeks of school. Personally, I remember when I was in school that the grades started off good and dropped more toward the end of the year. My son went from mostly Fs to As and Bs this last part of the year. I’m still learning to be a little more passionate with him and open loving.  It’s a big change when someone makes your temper flare and you must respond in such a way that you promote growth. Its an even bigger change that I can recognize that when it happens. To me that is the biggest hurdle –was to mentally excel from my own understanding, and making the best of the situation for myself. When I have the best of the situation for myself, then I have it to give to my son, so he can grow too. Recognizing that it goes, in that order is priceless. Why do I know this…?  Because I’m a TYRO

Today is just past a year from my release. I have started my own company, I help children online providing influence that sparks creativity from art. This allows growth in them, the same that I found in me, while locked up. I am a cover designer for a publishing company. Also I am award winning portraitist from a gallery out of Lakewood. I just started my own clothing line, of which  we made our first five sales. I even dove into the stock market and made money there… and still am. Lol Did I mention I was a high school drop out? I started college for web design. Though I might not be rich yet… i’m off to a great start! Thanks to being a TYRO.

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