Surviving in prison is nothing short of a twelve round title bout; but without a referee to protect you, the roar of the crowd to support you, or a golden title belt to validate you. As the underdog, in an environment influenced by the pressure of negativity, loneliness, and hopelessness, the odds of success weigh-in against you. It is a test of your integrity, character, and determination. Often times, the only title that burdens a man upon ascension from the barbed wire ring is the label of felon and the stigma of imprisonment.
The Straight-A Guide, an initiative provided to Correctional Industries workers at Airway Heights Corrections Center through the CI Workforce Development Program. The purpose is to encourage men to willfully step outside the ring of stereotypical incarceration by searching their hearts to define a personal set of values and goals. A sixty-hour CI peer lead program that stretches the mind of the participant to lead a life of deliberate decisions down a path to success as they define it. Instilling men with the confidence to reach outside of the ring and seek prospective positive mentors. They are taught the tools that are used to hold ones' self-accountable and to develop and build a support network that can assist in their successful transition back into the community.
An awakening realization that one lacks direction arrives as most men are faced with the question of, "What do you value? What are one of your core three values?" They are left without an immediate response. Values, goals, deliberate decisions, and the very idea of leading a disciplined path to success were not part of the thought process throughout the uncontrollable spiral that led to criminal acts prior to imprisonment.
"Just in time", that's the mindset and belief of graduating patrons as the bell has rings concluding the fourth round of the Straight-A Guide. Each participant delivered a seven-minute presentation on a self defined Big Hairy Audacious Goal, a cornerstone in the Straight-A Guide Program. Goals included writing novels, founding outreach programs, and investing in their education. The Airway Heights CI Workforce Development Program has over fifty Straight-A Guide graduates that, in addition to the graduates of the program throughout the State of Washington have become role models within their respective institutional communities. Leading men away from the insecurities of the fighter into the courageous role of referee, stopping criminal acts before they occur.
The Straight-A Guide was founded by Michael G. Santos, who applied the Straight-A principles to strengthen him self throughout a twenty-six year sentence living as a federal prisoner. While serving time in federal prisons of every security level, he read about leaders like Nelson Mandela, Viktor Frankl, Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jack Welch. They taught him that people have faced struggles and challenges from the beginning of time. Those leaders empowered Michael, convincing him that he could overcome the challenges associated with living in confinement, even if he would be incarcerated for multiple decades. Michael earned a bachelor's degree from Mercer University and a master's degree from Hofstra University. He published more than a dozen books from inside of prison boundaries. Michael continues to inspire men by providing the Straight-A Guide tools to all that ask for them. ■