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Teaching etiquette in prison: 'It scared me to death'

Teaching Etiquette in Prison: 'I Have to Admit.... It Scared Me to Death'


Like it or not, it's a human trait to sum up people by looks and demeanor. Most of those opinions are based on our first impressions. Colleen Rickenbacher knows this all too well. She teaches etiquette, protocols and communication skills to various groups of people. She saw a need for this in today's society, where technology has made us less personable.

Colleen has read various books and studied the fine art of civility, but nothing prepared her for what was to be asked of her. She was asked to teach etiquette at prison in Texas. Colleen smiled as she thought back to her first class there: "I have to admit when I was asked to go to the prison it scared me to death."

In no time, Colleen felt at ease as she saw that the prisoners were eager to learn and get a second chance. Colleen's etiquette class is a part of the PEP: The Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

With many prisoners having challenges getting jobs and assimilating back into society after their sentences, the PEP program helps a selected few of the population create a future roadmap for success; thousands apply to get into the program, but only a couple hundred get in -- and even less graduate.

One of those graduates is Clarence Campbell. He's been on Steve Harvey and has created his own shoe shining service, "The Shine King." When you first meet him he stands out as courteous, well dressed and confident. Campbell told us the importance of learning etiquette, "The importance of how to dress, how to carry yourself." And he's taken that knowledge into his business which he started just three days after leaving prison.

Colleen keeps all the thank-you notes and pictures she's received from her graduates. She is so proud, and she wishes she could hire them all.

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