Journeys Magazine - By Steven LeMons

Page 1

Issue 1 - Fall 2018

Jour neys On the way to a bright future.

the The Remarkable Journey of Royletta Woodard

Ira Thomas

‘It’ The

Steven LeMons

Man On a Mission


What’s in it for those who do?

Falling Through the


Will you survive yours?

Give your students something they can really binge on. Schedule The Journey for your institution.


Who am I?

Out Of the



Falling Through the



inside this issue... Reflection


Falling Through the Cracks Dreaming Big


Man on a Mission



Out of the Dark: by Royletta Woodard Who Am I?


Climbing Mount Everest


The ‘It’ Factor: by Ira Thomas

20 40

Are You Wishing for Change In Your Students Lives?

Journeys Magazine is created and published by Steven LeMons. All materials copyright©. All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced nor transmitted in any form, in whole or in part, without the express, written permission of the publisher. Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the information in this magazine is correct and credit given, changes can occur. The opinions of the contributors do not necessarily bear a relation to those of Steven LeMons, and there is no liability for those impressions.




‘It’ Factor


hank you for reading this first issue of Journeys Magazine. I am excited you are considering The Journey™ workshop for your institution’s students to excel. The Journey is a high impact, non-traditional intervention tool that strengthens non-cognitive and critical-thinking skills, which means underprepared students can thrive when transitioning into the college environment. The Journey offers empowering information that takes participants beyond their comfort zones onto a solid foundation for academic success. It equips students with the necessary tools to break free from debilitating habits and mindsets that limit higher performance. Students can readily use information from Journeys Magazine©, as it informs, inspires, and equips readers with usable strategies for accomplishing goals while laying a framework for a solid and productive life. In today's world, information can be immediately accessed, so it takes a disciplined mind to focus on success. Through a smartphone or the click of a mouse, the entire world is available, but its negative sounds and images often wreak havoc on our productivity and peace of mind. To be blunt, for every positive narrative, dozens more demotivating forces attempt to disrupt and disconnect our positive mindset. But, with Journeys Magazine, you and your students can read exciting content from workshop attendees and other high-achievers who navigate the harsh waters of adversity to not only meet, but exceed their goals. Readers will share a writer’s exhilaration for passing a milestone, and they will relate with life’s pitfalls and unintended consequences associated with depression and fear of the unknown. Whether nursing the pain of a broken spirit or facing what appear to be endless disappointments, readers of Journeys Magazine will embrace the challenge of moving beyond mediocre standards to a personal best. I sincerely hope you enjoy this first edition, but it is my desire that you feel encouraged and inspired by each publication. I look forward to working with you and presenting this fantastic workshop to your institution. Thank you,

Steven LeMons Creator of The Journey Publisher of Journeys Magazine




ccording to the most recent data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, of all the people who took the college readiness exam, 48% of students entering community colleges and 10% entering universities were unprepared for college. What is worse, only 9.4% of underprepared students entering community colleges and 54% entering universities actually graduate, compared to 16.9% and 85%, respectively, for students entering college at a capable level. Source: http//


I have often asked what happens to those students who fall through the academic cracks? What befalls those underprepared students who tumble from academic grace— those who do not acquire a degree and lack the marketable skills that lead to satisfactory lifestyles for themselves and their families? What is the long-term impact on their futures and their loved ones? Is there an intervention that helps students in this dilemma? to

Unfortunately, I cannot imagine the answers to all these questions, but the answer to the last is yes there is.

The Journey™ is a non-traditional, earlyintervention workshop that exposes students to transformative information that ignites the desire for personal success. It redirects negative, destructive thoughts, addresses root causes, and meets students at their points of need. The Journey empowers students by stimulating their desire for self-improvement, which they can harness independently to increase their performance and achieve goals. When fertile minds break free from generational cycles of underachievement and poverty, incredible results can happen. No one should fall through the academic cracks, and you can make a difference in a student’s life by scheduling presentations of The Journey and its companion, The Journey Guidebook©. Schedule The Journey at your institution today and change someone’s life forever.


Dreaming What’s in it for those who do?



s each of us transitions through various phases of life, it is during our quiet times of reflection we often savor the work, time, and energy invested to achieve goals. Whether the achievement was a diploma, degree, or the excitement of beginning a new job, we sometimes reflect on our work to realize that accomplishing the journey itself mattered more than the pain endured achieving it. When assessing where our dreams originated and the hard-fought challenges we overcame to reach our goals, regardless of how long it took, our endeavors all began with a dream. A big dream!

incarcerations and unimaginable poverty. He said his dreams of success were too far from his current reality to ever manifest, because his life’s experiences virtually destroyed his ability to believe in himself and any dream he had left. Further, not only had James lost his ability to dream, but he also resented anyone who attempted any conversation about resurrecting it. However, one day, he experienced a lifechanging encounter that would forever transform his thinking: in short, fate placed him in a situation with someone who saw value in him he could not see in himself, and this person became his mentor.

Some say, “Money makes the world go round,” but others argue, “Dreams do,” and here’s why. During childhood, many of us entertained healthy dreams. Most of us remember being asked, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” Our typical responses were usually a doctor, lawyer, football player, nurse, astronaut, or something similar, but, if we were really imaginative, we would combine multiple careers so diverse that we could not accomplish all of them in three lifetimes. Yet, we still dreamed. As children, we truly believed we could become anything our hearts desired: anything was possible, and our dreams were unrestricted by the confines of reality. But, for many of us, age brought the harsh realization that simultaneously being a pilot, doctor, and professional athlete was a lot harder than we thought. As life‘s harsh reality seized our imagination, many of us slowly succumbed to the consequences of our choices and how they impact the realization of our dreams. In time, the side-trip of an unexpected pregnancy, domestic abuse, drug addiction, or demons of generational poverty became life villains that crushed our once-uninhibited ability to imagine. However, what interests me is how some of the same experiences some people consider negative actually motivated others to hold fast to their dreams and succeed. How? They refused to let their dreams die. I am reminded of a young man whom I will refer to as James. James told me that he had long since quit imagining himself ever becoming anything, let alone successful. He admitted to his challenges battling drugs along with multiple 9

Through guidance, James not only regained his ability to dream, but, with the help of other mentors, transformed his attitude. He is now a successful college student on the path to graduation. Though his dreams occasionally seemed nonexistent, they were alive and well, lying dormant beneath the rubble of broken promises, failed expectations, and multiple disappointments. As I think of James, at his core, he clung to a fragment of his desire to attend and graduate from college. Regardless of all his adverse experiences, this single, precious thread connected him to his dream of success. Even for you, at this moment things may not look promising, yet, whatever your dreams, you still hold fast to them. If it’s graduation, do not stop nor quit, but take massive action. Your commitment requires much more than just saying you want to graduate, whether from high school, college, or graduate school; it demands work, drive, time, purpose, and an insatiable desire to move beyond your current, unpleasant circumstances. Sir Isaac Newton‘s Third Law of Motion describes it best: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Simply put, you must invest in yourself meaningfully to reap meaningful results. In other words, if you hope for something better, you must associate with people who overcame many of the same obstacles you are experiencing. At the same time, you must also set realistic goals, manage your time efficiently, follow-through on your short-term commitments, and track your performance. Align yourself and your energy to the appropriate goal you seek. If

your goal is to become an astronaut, but you hate math, then your chances of fulfilling that dream are almost nonexistent. My question is this: “Are your desire and talent strong enough to make your dream become reality?” Regardless of how tough the circumstances, for dreams to become reality, you must hunger success so passionately that no difficulty hinders you. If quitting is not an option, then you must propel your attitude beyond the temporary discomfort of a failed math class, botched speech exam, or missed writing assignment. Fix the problem and move forward. Your driving force must become embracing the bigger picture of your life. Your character must be stronger than excuses—late and incomplete assignments, tardiness, and missed opportunities are unacceptable—you must possess a dream that burns so brightly it consumes you. Spend every part of your day visualizing its success and creating new, innovative ideas for reaching it. Dreams drive our lives, so yours has to be the catalyst for transforming your behavior and life. Beyond just hoping and wishing for success, you must create it. Recognize and seize opportunities that enhance your personal and professional development. As a rocket blasts free of Earth‘s gravitational pull, so you must strive for your dream. Remember, any dream worth dreaming is worth achieving. Any negativity attempting to diminish or steal your dream must be eradicated. Like so many others who begin with enough dreams to build a fulfilling life, my challenge to you is to keep your dreams alive. Regardless of whether anyone else believes in it or not, the most important thing is that you do. Whatever challenge you may face, know it will not break you, but make you stronger. Hold fast to your dreams as if they were a winning lottery ticket, because, who knows? Your dreams may be your ticket to an incredible life, and you must live it every day.

Dream on.





“At this moment, I may not be able to see who or what I can become, but, by developing a strong vision, my impossibility becomes possibility; therefore, I am.� Steven LeMons


Man On a Mission

Anyone who knows Steven LeMons understands he is a passionate, committed champion for inspiring students. His personal mission fuels his dedication to uncovering more effective ways of reaching underprepared students and helping them achieve their dreams. 14



teven LeMons is dedicated to uncovering innovative and inspiring ways to assist underprepared students. He has continuously sought to create nontraditional pathways for reaching those who struggle with the rigors of academics as well as life’s personal challenges. Utilizing over 20 years experience as a director of corporate development, national process improvement facilitator, instructional designer, leadership coach, and television host, Steven’s diverse background has uniquely positioned him as the creator of an exciting new learning resource. The Journey™ is a non-traditional intervention tool that reaches students at their points of need. It equips them with success strategies that transform their thinking, actions, and lives. During these exciting two-hour workshops, Steven ‘s in-your-face personality, combination of hip music, videos, adult-learning activities, and informative content engages students from perspectives that redirect negative mindsets and self-defeating habits that diminish productivity. He tackles both symptoms and root causes often associated with lack, poverty, abuse, and generational cycles of underachievement. He helps students build pathways that strengthen their non-cognitive and critical-thinking skills so they can find and execute their previously unrealized passions for success.

“You are greatly appreciated, and I'll never forget you! It's so many others out there that need you! Again thanks.” Aveantai Smith


What students are saying about The Journey. “I came from a family of dysfunction, fighting, and turmoil. I had different family members tell me that I couldn’t make it and that I didn’t belong. I am raising six children on my own. It’s hard, but, no matter who you are or what you’ve been through, you can get out of it. I have a 3.8 GPA. Thank you so much for everything. You have no idea how your words and visuals from The Journey workshops, that I've thought about a million and one times, have stuck with me in my darkest hours. You are greatly appreciated, and I'll never forget you! There are so many others out there that need you! Again thanks.” A. Smith “I just finished The Journey by Steven LeMons. One thing I really learned from this workshop is vision, success, and taking advantage of opportunities. Often times, I fail at opportunities because I feel that I won’t be successful, but Steven says to take advantage of those opportunities, even if you make mistakes, keep on moving, because that’s what the journey is about. So, for those who haven’t attended The Journey, you have to come. It’s life changing.” J. Royal

“I am a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, and I am a non-traditional student. I didn’t quite have a vision for myself, but many other people did. One thing I have learned is that, many times, others can see things inside you that you can’t. If you will only take half the time as I did to listen to Mr. LeMons’ The Journey you will understand and learn things about yourself too that you didn’t know. I believe I have found my vision, through this particular journey.” R. Day “I am very glad that I attended tonight, because I was thinking about giving up. But as I sat there and listened to Mr. LeMons, I was encouraged and realized why I am here. So, while I sat there, I wrote something that says, “If I survive through all my failure, then I am a success at surviving, and nothing can stop me from succeeding successfully.” So, one day, I too, will walk across that TCC stage.” R. Woodard

“ I really did not want to attend, but he had me engaged throughout the entire thing. From the music to everything he shared that he went through. He even has a step-by-step plan….a whole journal that you can just follow. I definitely recommend it to anyone.” E. Palacio

What will your students say? Schedule your session today. 17

Some say… Poor, stink, stupid, dumb, ugly, slow, babymaker, welfare, poverty, jail, rapist... .

“The reason underserved populations and students of color do not succeed in college is that they lack talent.” strikes fear, maid, gardener, nanny, butler, doorman, kitchen, sports, lack, entertainer, last, yes ma’am, yes sir, thief, deadbeat, lazy, loud, nappy, taco, chicken, watermelon eating, sex crazed, dummy, small brain, unmotivated, dope dealer, illegal, job stealing, criminal…

“Statistics show that of those who start college most will not finish.” promiscuous, cholo, sambo, sagging jigaboo, wetback, fence-jumper, colored, spade, spook, chink, white trash, redneck, trailer park, trailer trash, peckerwood, guido, wop, greaser, welfare queen, sorry negro...

“Why waste time and money on people who are going nowhere? They are headed for a life of poverty and crime anyway.”

hood-rat, kool-aid drinker, landscaper, bus rider, social blight, thug, vandal, ape, buffy, coon, porch monkey, beaner, towelhead, brownie, camel jockey, jigaboo, quota, fence jumper….Overcomer. 18

These thoughts can be as powerful as weapons of mass destruction, especially when implanted in the minds of students. In fact, we can change many self-destructive narratives students undeservedly have of themselves if we show them how academic success requires the value of positive selftalk, critical-thinking, goals, and building successful long-term relationships. We can change lives through The Journey™.

Overcomer! The Journey equips students with success strategies that transform their lives. It starts by examining underlying issues or circles, that keep people from achieving goals, and then it guides students to their personal points of self-discovery while building upon their strengths and senses of self-value. As a result, instead of acting out undesirable expectations society unfairly places upon them, students can rewrite their own inspirational narratives to excel in their own ways. See The Journey and decide for yourself; schedule a presentation today.



Of the

The Remarkable Journey of Royletta Woodard

by Royletta Woodard with Steven LeMons 20


he United States houses the highest prison population in the free world, and many statistics can confirm this fact. Unfortunately, we often forget the relationship statistics have to real people. Every figure represents a person’s life. Each number in our highest-prison population represents someone who, at some point on the journey of life, took a wrong turn that ended up demanding more than seemed possible. Royletta Woodard is a strong, gifted, determined woman, whose street-smart demeanor and broken heart thrust her life down a path from which few recover. From a beautiful baby girl who acted out to gain a mother’s love to learning to survive in the hellish depths of prison, Royletta finally enjoyed the exhilaration of walking across a stage to receive her college degree. This is her remarkable journey. 21


hile working with Ms. Royletta Woodard as a fantastic writer for a prior publication, I have come to know a great deal about her, particularly how mysterious and tumultuous her life has been. I see her as a strong, confident, and fiercely independent woman who can go toe to toe with the best—you shall see, Royletta is definitely a heavyweight who can take care of herself. When facing a challenge, many would reach for the eject button and call game-over, but not Royletta. She finds a different solution or drops back and approaches the problem from another angle. If a cat is gifted with nine lives, then Royletta has ten, and has used at least seven. However, beneath that tough, seemingly impenetrable exterior lives a sweet, young girl, someone who wanted nothing more than for her mother to curl her up on a couch to read a story. This strong, street savvy, two-time Journey-workshop attendee has an exciting story, and, as she described her remarkable journey to the depths of hell and back, I got to observe every emotional state displayed on her face and through her body language. Not only was she completely vulnerable and brutally honest, but she also left me with advice for others who struggle with similar issues. Royletta was a student at Tarrant County College for two years and recently graduated in the Class of 2018, and this interview was conducted two weeks before her graduation. Steven: You have had such an incredible life, so, before you move on to the next phase of your journey (attending a four-year university), I would like to chat with you in hopes of passing along advice to students who have had similar experiences as you, but do not know how to navigate them. So, good morning Royletta. Royletta: Good morning. Steven: Thank you for joining me. I appreciate you being here. Royletta: Thank you for having me. It’s totally a pleasure. I’m a little choked up, because, as I sit here and think about being interviewed, it is such a big difference compared to being interrogated. I’m sorry. (Royletta spent 10 years in a women’s prison and begins to weep.) Steven: That is okay. Just relax and take your time. We are lucky to have you. Let’s begin by asking you where you are originally from. Royletta: I am from Fort Worth, Texas from a little area called Stop 6. The reason I mention that is because it is not only an area of Fort Worth, but what they call “the ghetto” or “the projects.” I still think about many who are still there, so I have to say I am proudly from Fort Worth, Texas, Stop 6.

Steven: What was growing up in your household like for you? Royletta: Wow! (Her eyes popped open to the size of pancakes.) Well, first off, my mom was young when she became pregnant with me, and whatever issues or battles she was going through at the time affected the pregnancy, because she dropped me off at my great grandmother’s house when I was four days old and told my great granny she was coming back, but never did. I have to admit my great granny did everything possible to take care of me. I can’t say that I walked around with holes in my shoes, in other people’s clothes, or went hungry, because I did not. Even though the area where I lived was filled with lower-income families, I can say I was a little princess. I received brand new bicycles when other kids did not have any or were used. Growing up with my great granny was really nice. Steven: Growing up, were there other siblings or anyone else living in your house with you? Royletta: Well, I was the only one in the household with my great granny, and, at that time, she was 66, or maybe closer to 70 when I


went to live with her. My grandmother, which was her daughter, my mom’s mom, had other kids, but my mama didn’t have other children until years later. Steven: How long did you live with your great granny? Royletta: I lived with my great grandmother up until she passed away. Steven: And how old was she then? Royletta: She was 88. Steven: Did your mother ever come back? Royletta: Yes, and that’s where a lot of things are kind of...I don’t want to say sketchy, but I think I have suppressed a lot of it. Over the past few months, I have been able to think about it more clearly and write about it. I remember my mom would come pick me up, but it was only like every now and then. She treated me like I was a special doll to take out and show off, but then she had to put me back up. How can I put this nicely? My mom was very bitter, and she allowed it to be taken out on me. Steven: If you had this really good environment you grew up in with your great granny and things were looking positive, when did it sort of go off track? Royletta: It would go off track all the time. I mean all the time. I had this place where I was safe and secure and loved, but I wanted my mama. Steven: Were you acting out because you didn’t have your mom? Royletta: Well, I guess the reason I allowed her to come and get me whenever she felt like it is because I felt like that was what was expected. Or, maybe that would get her attention. I don’t know. I was a kid. All I knew was Leave it to Beaver had his mom and dad, but I did not. Even the other kids in the projects had their moms. Even though they may have been poor or whatever, they had their moms. I think, for years, it did not matter how well I was being treated on this end, ‘cause that little attention from my mama, no matter how cruel or abusive, was accepted. To me, it was sufficient. Then, when

she had my sister, all I could think about was “something’s not right. It shouldn’t be like this.” All I could think about was protecting my sister. Steven: How old were you when your sister was born? Royletta: I was two, but I want to say the most time my younger sister and I spent with my mom was when I was 8 and my sister was 6. I remember we were at a house and hearing this guy telling my mother, “You know, I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to leave you.” I remember, even as a little girl, the pain I felt behind those words. I have heard and felt these same words all my life. Steven: As you grew up, what was one of the first incidents that got you into trouble? Royletta: I remember going to this place called Butch’s. It was a hangout for not-so-nice guys. I remember standing there talking to three guys when this nice Camaro pulled up. This White guy got out of the car with this Black woman, and the guy was talking real big talk at me. “Hey, you know what? You come, come ride with me.” Let me just put it like this, it turns out that he was saying a lot of disrespectful things. Steven: What did you do? Royletta: I pulled out my gun and took his car. Steven: You took his car? Royletta: Yes, I took his car, and I didn’t even know how to drive it! It was a stick (manual transmission). I was able to get it close to where I lived and, since it was so difficult to drive, right across the street from where I lived was a telephone pole, so I just ran the car into it. Steven: What? What made you do that? Royletta: Because I couldn’t drive it. Steven: Well, what made you take the car to begin with? Royletta: At the time, I didn’t know. I just did it. I mean, it was so pretty, too. Oh my goodness! It just wouldn’t go! And I knew it was supposed to go fast, but it just went “click-click,” you know. I guess it just wouldn’t go because I didn’t know how to drive it. 23

Photo by Wadi-Lissa 24

“Regardless of the conditions associated with my arrival, I am not an accident. I have a purpose and I am here for a reason. I am a beautifully and wonderfully crafted being who has been created to achieve success.�

Steven LeMons


Steven: Where was your mindset at that time?

around and not improving yourself, nothing good

Royletta: I wasn’t thinking at the time, so I just

is ever going to happen.

rammed it.

Steven: What do you mean?

Steven: How old were you at this time?

Royletta: Well, it used to embarrass me when I

Royletta: I had just turned 17.

was around successful people, you know, those

Steven: 17?! What did you do after that?

who were well educated, had good jobs, and

Royletta: I went to my grandmother’s apartment

were doing things and going places. Whenever I

and went to sleep.

was in their company, I was like, “man, I feel so

Steven: What happened next?

stupid.” There are even times when I still have

Royletta: I was later awakened by a Fort Worth

similar feelings. However, it does make me smile

police officer saying I was under arrest. The

to know that, now, some of these same

charge was aggravated robbery. So, I’m still

educated people want to be around me. Of

thinking this is no big deal. I remember the

course, I am my own worst critic, but I have

female officer saying, “Well, what do you know?

learned that you have to be around people who

You are going to Belknap” (an adult jail). It was

lift you up. And that’s a good thing. They see and

June 8th, 3 days after my birthday. That was my

hear a difference. However, it is so easy to be

first time in jail. I received 3 years of probation for

around negativity, because it doesn’t take any

that, but, with where my head was at that time,

work. I mean, it takes no work to be depressed or

that just wasn’t going to work, because I had to

unhappy. That is the easiest thing to do, because

report every so often. They also wanted me to

it doesn’t take any effort. I can just wake up in

get a job, so…

the morning when the sun is shining, but, if I am

Steven: They wanted structure, right?

not thinking in a positive manner, I will then allow

Royletta: Yeah, but I did not surround myself with

myself to be negative and think negative. What’s

a solid group of people who could steer me in

important is that you surround yourself with

the right direction.

positive people.

Steven: So, what can you tell me about the

Steven: So, you committed another crime and

“circle” people surround themselves with and

ultimately ended up serving ten years in jail?

what kind of influence it can have on them?

Royletta: Yes.

Royletta: That definitely matters. I mean,

Steven: And what was being in jail like? How did

sometimes you can be the bullseye and be the

incarceration impact your life?

one who attracts others to you. You can attract

Royletta: It was scary. That was one of the most

or be attracted to the wrong crowd. I like to think frightening experiences of my life. Every single that I can personally go back to Stop 6 and hang day, I was afraid. In a way, the fear kind of felt out, you know. But now, I don’t fit in. You know. I

like when I decided to go back to school and

just don’t fit in anymore.

open up those books. When I saw those words

Steven: Is it because you moved away from that

and all those pages…that was frightening to me.

circle of people?

Also, in prison, it was the noise. The noise was so

Royletta: Absolutely. It’s because I’ve moved

loud. Even at night, when everyone is supposed

away and bettered myself. You have to surround to be asleep, you could always hear or see yourself with positive people, people who are

something. And I think about the fact that, when

doing more than you. Those people challenge

you live among murderers and people who have

you to become better. I mean, if you are sitting

raped and hurt children, one day, they may 26

decide they are bored, take a weapon, and do

wow! I got a job and started going to school.

something to you. You know, it’s just filled with

Steven: What type of job was it?

negative energy. Yes, I was afraid every night

Royletta: It was working in landscaping. They

and day.

originally hired me for housekeeping, but I was

Steven: How did you handle it?

too slow. One day, I saw some flowers sitting out. I

Royletta: Each night I said the same prayer. I

said to my boss, “I do not want to clean these

cried, “Dear God, please take care of my

rooms, but can I plant these flowers?” She asked

grandmother and my sisters, and please do not

if I knew what I was doing, and I said yes. Next

let me get hurt in this place.” Every night I prayed thing you know, I got after it, and that turned out this. When I woke up in the morning, I

to be what I did. Then, I started going to school

straightened up my face, and, when those doors at Tarrant County College, South Campus. opened, felt ready. I remember this one officer

Steven: What made you decide to go to school?

telling me, “No matter how tough you act, you

Royletta: Well, I really didn’t know at the time. I

will never be able to give them the heart you

guess I just wanted to do positive things, so I

have.” I think that kind of knocked me off my

enrolled. But, as fate would have it, something

feet, because I had this tough reputation to

happened. I was staying at a transitional home,

maintain, but she was right. I was afraid and did

and one of the ladies who lived there, she and I

not want to be hurt. At one time, my mamma

got close, but she ended up committing some

was incarcerated at the same time I was. We

infractions and blamed me for them. Me being

were in the same place, but became separated. on probation, I was sent back to jail. The problem Once they separated us, I think it was probably

was, I was at work when the infraction

one of the worst times, because we were

happened. This was truly a setback. I had a job

arrested at the same time.

and money in the bank. I had been telling my

Steven: Was it during that time your great

parole officer about the house and the lady who

grandmother died?

ran it. She was trying to get me to do things that I

Royletta: Yes, she passed away while I was

was very uncomfortable with, things that could

incarcerated. (Royletta begins to sob softly.)

compromise my freedom, but I would not

Although I lived with my great grandmother, it

participate. Because, when people know you

was my grandmother who always had legal

have been incarcerated, they will try and make

custody of me.

you do things that work to their advantage, even

Steven: So, you served your time. What was it like

though it may not be in your favor.

coming to the end of that period of

Steven: What types of things?


Royletta: She also had a son who was

Royletta: Do, I want to get out and go home

incarcerated, so, when she went to see him, she

now? Yes. But what was home? I knew what jail

wanted me to put things that may be considered

was, so it really didn’t matter one way or the

contraband together so she could slip it inside

other. In other words, it did matter, but it didn’t.

the jail to him. After I told my parole officer, she

Steven: But after being incarcerated for so long,

stated that she would get me away from there,

when you finally walked outdoors, what did that

so I was really making plans to move away. But,

feel like?

before I could get away, I was lied on by the

Royletta: (After a long pause) Still in prison. After I

woman and sent back to jail.

got out, I kept myself in prison for a long time. Oh, Steven: How long were you in this time? 27

Photo by Guilherme Zanon 28

“I A M not defined by my zip code, my address, the house I live in, the car I ride in, my parents income, the clothes I wear, my color or race, my hair, my height, my weight, or my age. I AM defined by my character, integrity, tenacity, capacity for taking risk, my persistence, and my desire and consistency to produce outstanding results regardless of the situation or circumstance I am placed.� Steven LeMons 29

Steven: How long were in in this time?

and your exclamation points help tell the story.” I

Royletta: I was in jail for three and a half weeks.

was like, “Yeah, that makes sense,” so I reenrolled

During that time, I became even angrier and

in school again.

bitter. I had no intention of doing anything right. I

Steven: What did it feel like going back to school

was going to go back to selling drugs…I was

again right after being released from

going to make a lot of money and whatever. I


had already done 10 years behind bars, and I was Royletta: Wow! Very vulnerable! I felt like I was guilty, but, this time, I was in jail and hadn’t done

walking down the hall with people who were


doing life sentences or something. I don’t know

Steven: So, what happened?

how else to put it, but I felt like all these people

Royletta: My parole officer, godmother, and a

could “get me.” I just wanted to run and hide and

few close friends got together and investigated. It just get away. I didn’t want to be here, but at the wasn’t long that I received a letter stating that I

same time, I wanted to. But I didn’t want them to

was to be released.

know that I was afraid….that I felt ignorant. I was

Steven: So, you were released again.

just like I didn’t want the people in prison to know

Royletta: Yes, but I was still very angry and bitter,

that I was deathly afraid. I was scared….scared. I

so, while I was in jail, I began writing. I had written

was scared they were going to take my shoes, my

a real powerful piece, so, when I was released, I

money, I was scared of everything. That’s how I

showed it to my parole officer. After reading it,

felt here. I was scared. I was terrified!

she said, “Wow! This is really good. Did you write

Steven: What changed that?

this?” I said, “Yes ma'am.” She said, “You should

Royletta: (After a long pause) The fact that I felt

go back to school.” So, it was then I decided to

that, if I could live through prison, I could definitely

go back to school, but, this time, I didn’t do so

live through this.

well, so I quit again. I had no intentions of going

Steven: So, during your youth, you were in a circle

back to school. It was just too hard. And that

of people who perpetuated your incarceration.

math…oh no. I was not having it. I would just get

Then, during your incarceration, you were

a job, whatever, but not school.

surrounded by people who would do anything to

Steven: What happened next?

ensure that you didn’t leave prison, and, once

Royletta: I had written some notes that I was

you were out, you found yourself surrounded by a

reading aloud to myself, and a female

different circle of people who you again found

acquaintance from my church, said, “Wow! Who

yourself terrified of. Right?

wrote that?” She begin naming poets, and I said,

Royletta: This circle was a two-part circle. You

“No one wrote these. These are my notes.” She

had those you were familiar with, those people

said, “Notes! Man, that is so pretty. You should put who were always willing to take you back into that in the church newsletter.” So, I began doing

despair. “Come on back, it’s comfortable here.

things for the church newsletter, and that’s when

You know this is where you belong.” In this

someone said, “You need to go back to school

environment, you know what to expect. I don’t

because you are an awesome writer. You just

know, but this may sound kind of funny, but in my

need to learn how to write.” I thought that was

mind, I totally understood that, as long as I had

one of the nicest, yet critical things anyone had

that in my mind and in my past, I owned that. I

ever said to me. She said, “You just need to know

know that I have this depression to look forward

how to write…that your periods mean something,



Here are a few good reasons your students should attend The Journey™: 

The Journey can be aligned with the 60x30TX Strategic Plan and used as a non-traditional intervention tool to assist struggling and underperforming students transition out of high school. It is also the perfect choice for freshman and sophomore college students.

The Journey offers empowering information that takes participants beyond their comfort zones and onto a solid foundation for academic success. It shows students how to break free from debilitating habits and mindsets that limit their performance.

The Journey addresses root causes, meets students at their points of need, and builds pathways that strengthen non-cognitive and critical thinking skills. As a result, students can experience the selfempowerment needed to focus on excellence.

The Journey engages underprepared students with stimulating information that redirects negative thinking and self-defeating habits. These problems cripple marketable workplace skills critical for building key relationships and long-term success.

The Journey and The Journey Guidebook© both deliver stimulating content that informs, inspires, and equips students with usable strategies for setting and accomplishing goals.

The Journey builds stronger frameworks for professional interaction and developing sustainable relationships both inside and outside the classroom...and much more.

So, how many reasons can you think of not to?


Steven: What do you mean?

there and will not ask for help. You must ask for

Royletta: Depression I was familiar with. But, the

help, because I know there were many times

more I tried this “happiness,” the more I wanted

when I walked out of this school, passing offices,

it. It made me feel safe, even though depression

the library, the computer room, the writing

was always calling me in the background. I

department, and felt, “I don’t want to ask them

realize I could have done a lot of bad things.

something I should already know.” I think that

However, I don’t want those things anymore. You sometimes that can be a person’s biggest have to strive for something different, and I do. I

problem. They don’t want to ask someone for

am now striving for happiness, something I am

information because they may say, “You should

not familiar with.

already know that.” “You’re still typing like that

Steven: How did you find out about The Journey

and you’re getting ready to graduate?”...Yes I


am, but I don’t give up.

Royletta: Through flyers and talking with you.

Steven: What are your plans for the future?

Steven: What happened when you attended?

Royletta: I am graduating and thinking about

Royletta: I sat there and thought, “Look at this

taking classes at North Texas, but I want to stay

man with all this energy—and he’s passing it

around here and take some child-development

along. Not only is he passing it along, but he’s

classes, because I would like to write children’s

also willing to help you walk it. He is also willing to books to let them know that, if they can get the give you step-by-step instructions. You just don’t

love they deserve, they can be the love

find that in people.” The more you spoke, the

someone else deserves. Through my writing, I just

more I could relate to many of the things you

want to let them know it is OK.

were talking about. After all, I’m on a journey, so I Steven: You have a unique gift of writing, and we may as well be aware of the stop signs and the

have included one of your writings in this

different signs along the way. Whenever there is

publication, but my final question to you is what

a roadblock or something, I gotta not let that

advice would you give students who have been

stop me, but just keep going. Because, as long as incarcerated and are trying to re-enter school to I can keep going, that journey will always be

make their way, but don’t exactly know how?

there. It was just reviving.

Royletta: First of all, how can you cry over not

Steven: In what way?

being encouraged if you haven’t planted

Royletta: When I came there the first time, I was

anything to fertilize? Don’t stand around and

totally mentally exhausted. I was trying to

expect something in return. If you are in school,

remember things for a test, and it was like I was

stay in school. It’s going to be hard, but so is life.

remembering information for the wrong test. It

There will always be those things that will try to

was frustrating. I remember when you started

pull you back into your past, make you do self-

talking about the journey, regardless of where

destructive things, and ruin your life. But, once

you are on the socio-economic or emotional

you find something that you can hold on to,

chain, you have to take it.

something worth living for, you can change your

Steven: What was your greatest take-away?

life. Regardless of how bad or tough it may seem,

Royletta: (Royletta pauses for some time and

there is always someone out there who cares. I

begins to weep.) That I can do it. (She pauses

could not have made if it wasn't for people who

again.) That I can do it. Another thing that you

cared, but you have to hold on and not give up.

pointed out is there are people who will just stand There is always something better. 32

Steven: Great advice we all can benefit

from. Royletta, thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts. I wish you all the best. Royletta: Thank you for having me. Steven: Great advice we all can benefit from. Royletta, thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts. I wish you all the best. Royletta: Thank you for having me. 1. Royletta at six months. 2. Royetta with her younger sister, Ty. 3. Around 15 years old. 4. Royletta in 2018 preparing for graduation


from Tarrant County College.




4. 33

Who am I? At first I didn’t know! I never considered myself smart. Intelligence was certainly used to describe anyone, but me. Who was I? It became so easy to not exist that I lived at the back of life and left ideas unexplored for fear of being exposed as dumb, stupid, crazy, or different. My voice quivered mentally and was kept unheard, but the silence reverberated so it shook the very walls I had imprisoned myself in. I knew there was more. There had to be. I could feel it! Even in my quietness, I fear not, for it means that I am thinking of the next obstacle I must successfully overcome, the next doubt I will dismiss, the next……….whatever! Who could I become …I wonder. I began to think! My isolation became too crowded. I had to get out… The tear’s fell like a torrential rain into puddles of dryness. They still fall, but I am now able to use them. As I write in pen without having to erase, what was once pools of untapped resources, now rivers of knowledge form, falling and spilling over like waterfalls of understanding into oceans of brilliance, creativeness, and talent. I can do this! The hallways that once seemed like a maze of miles are not long enough nor wide enough for me to carry my confidence down. The rooms that once felt so huge that I felt like a tiny speck of stupidity cannot hold the enthusiasm and freedom I eagerly exhibit. Who am I! I am a poet. I take consonants and vowels and build pyramids of hope. I am an artist. Each word and paragraph painting beautiful portraits. I am the composer of words that have the ability to restore, singing out melodies you can’t ignore. I am a writer! I can write a five-page thesis in a single night, and be seen carrying a backpack full of books the next morning up six flights of stairs. I can add to a problem or have multiple solutions. I know if I continually keep trying, subtracting any negative thought of giving up to the highest power, the sky’s not a limit, but the height in which I wish to reach. The valley of books and the intensity of learning is deeper than the Red Sea, but I fear not, for now I can be me, a student!


By Royletta Woodard 35


recently read the book Everest: Mountain Without Mercy by Broughton Coburn. As I found my mind barraged by endless thoughts of what it must be like to take on such a challenge, I became engrossed by the sheer life and death situations climbers must face in their attempt at conquering the highest mountain in the world. I also came to the realization that not only would I not attempt it, I would not want to. It is not because I do not believe in myself enough to undertake such a challenge; the truth is, I absolutely do not have the desire. In other words, I lack the passion.


Why would I want to leave my perfectly comfortable 72-degree room here in Fort Worth, board a plane, travel over 8,200 miles from DFW Airport to Kathmandu, Nepal, and pay upwards of $50,000 in fees and equipment to climb a 29,000 foot high mountain? That is the same altitude some commercial jets fly. In fact, it is just a tad over 8,800 meters, or approximately 58,000 steps from the bottom to the top. To reach the summit, I would not only have to be physically and mentally equipped, but also climb with the understanding that I may not return. In addition, I would endure insurmountable odds: such hurricane force winds. freezing temperatures ranging from 0 to -33 degrees Fahrenheit, the possibility of hypothermia and frostbite, and dangerous ice fields so slick that, if I were to slip and fall, my body may never be recovered. Not exactly my cup of tea. Now, I realize that one could lose their life while

driving to

by Steven LeMons


driving to Wally World (Walmart). That may be true, but because Mount Everest exceeds the limits humans are capable of breathing on their own without supplemental oxygen, depleting one’s oxygen supply becomes more than just a passing thought, but a reasonable reality; and that is just on the climb up! On a trip to the grocery store, you do not have to worry about any of those things happening, but climbers reach the summit, they become faced with the arduous task of working their way back down. Research confirms that most deaths occur on the way down and for me, I have found more satisfying interests than trying to keep my butt from falling off the side of a mountain or into a crevasse.

and totally uprooted your entire life, turning everything upside down, threatening your stability, security, and confidence. Nothing resembles what it used to, and, for those who lived through Hurricane Katrina, there are no truer words spoken. That, my friend, becomes your Everest. When your personal Everest arrives (and at some point it will), most of us make statements like, “Why did this happen to me? Why now? It’s not fair.” Or, “Why couldn’t this happen to someone else?” Remember, life does not always provide what we would consider fair warning; sometimes, life just happens. It orchestrates its own brand of mountain climbing, where everything seems to be overwhelming, out of control, and making you feel powerless against it. You may feel as though you are a climber who finds himself rapidly sliding down the side of a mountain with nothing to hold onto. You may have no idea of how to manage the situation, so you could feel out of control and totally at the mercy of the mountain. Many of us have similar feelings regarding our own situations. Climbers, if faced with life or death challenges, almost always revert back to their training. Just like climbers, our own wisdom, character, and experience are really being put to the test. Regardless of the form adversity may take, the solution always requires us to reshape our thinking, redirect our energy, and, in some cases, even embrace a brand of humility we may be unwilling to accept.

But, for the elite group of climbers who succeed, their reward is a remarkable feat that affords them entry into one of the world’s most select clubs, a place where only a very small, select few have membership. These are individuals have earned the right to say they have climbed Mount Everest. After completing Coburn’s book, I began to reflect on some of my own personal experiences and realized that, although many of us may never climb Mount Everest, or desire to, life deals blows that often force us into unavoidable adversity and encounters that make us feel as though we are climbing our own personal Mount Everest. Although climbing Mount Everest, the mountain, is a choice, the adversity faced as a result of a life-induced Mount Everest is not. Regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, or level of education, at some point, each of us will find ourselves drawn into our own unmistakable life-induced Everest. Once the whirling winds of adversity begin how does one face these lifeAdversity, or Everest, both challenge us to transition induced monsters, maintain focus, and achieve and progress into newer phases of personal growth victory? and development that are essential to our ultimate Your foundational key to accomplishing success must success. The loss of a job may not be the end of the first begin in your head, with your attitude. How can world, but the catalyst to pursuing a dream you never you survive the 58,000 step climb to success if you are would have had if you remained in that position. approaching the challenge with anger, resentment, and Divorce can be a traumatic experience; however, so bitterness? It is only when you embrace your journey can remaining in a physically and emotionally abusive by putting your best foot forward. Adopting the right relationship that could do more damage to you and attitude is essential for you to attain any measurable your small children than it takes to find the courage degree of success. Before actually taking on such a and leave. Whether you refer to it as adversity or monstrous challenge as Everest, most climbers train Everest, it is always important to realize that for years, understand the science of climbing, and are challenges will always be a part of life; no one is supplied with the best equipment possible for success. immune. In fact, adversity is just as much part of However, when life throws us a curve, it usually success as is failure. Adversity equips us with a sense provides us with little or no warning - it just happens. of perspective that continual success cannot. It One day, everything is fine. At that moment, you may provides a form of purging and refining only this side of feel as though you are on top of the world, when, from life can orchestrate. We are all inspired by individuals nowhere and without warning, things change. It can who overcome great odds, who stay the course and feel as if your personal Hurricane Katrina has landed 38

persevere. We appreciate the resiliency displayed in the human spirit of these individuals who achieved victory; victory, that challenges our own beliefs, inspiring us to grow from our own personal experiences. This is the birth of wisdom. Reflecting on some of the individuals in Coburn’s book, I gained a newfound respect and admiration for the many climbers attempting to climb Everest; those who ultimately succeeded and even for some who did not. However, I am also amazed and inspired by those individuals, who, without fanfare and sometimes without much recognition, take their personal Everest by the horns and also stay the course. Step by step, they walk the 58,000 steps to victory. Just like the climbers who set their sites on conquering the tallest mountain on the planet overcame the odds to succeed at the greatest challenge one will ever face, so can you. These people are just like you and I who were forced to conquer their personal Everest. Turning back was not an option. They had to abandon all aspects of their comfort zone and operate at altitudes much higher than they ever thought possible to succeed. Each of them has a unique story only they can tell. They have proven that climbing a Mount Everest may not be something that they would have volunteered to do, but at 29,029 feet, not only has the climb been worth it to them, but from where they are standing right now, the view from the top is pretty good.


As creator of The Journey™ workshop, The Journey Guidebook©, and founder of Journeys Magazine©, Steven has an overwhelming passion for and commitment to empowering students. He is dedicated to sharing real-world techniques and perspectives that create positive pathways for those who struggle at life. He is a national speaker accomplished writer and was former director of corporate development, and television host. He is currently the coordinator of the Tarrant County College, Trinity River Campus, Writing & Learning Center.


Thomas The

Factor by Ira Thomas 40



ew can turn on a television set any given evening without seeing an abundance of talent-based reality shows. Regardless of the name, the formula for winning remains consistent: Contestants entertain celebrities and audiences by singing and dancing their way up the success chain by any means necessary while making every attempt at avoiding sudden elimination. All this in pursuit of attaining the top prize and the lure of fame. Many start strong, but, through an extremely brutal process, less than a handful ever make it to the top of the entertainer food-chain. Those who ultimately do are handsomely rewarded and generally referred to as having the “it factor.”

The “it factor” refers to charm that can inspire, influence, and motivate others. However, Ira’s story is not about an entertainer, nor is it straight from a Hollywood tabloid. It’s about an individual who possesses what it takes to overcome tremendous odds and succeed. Although not an entertainer, Ira Thomas possesses some of the same skills it takes to avoid elimination during a talent show, and it was the excruciating pressure from his own tumultuous journey that reshaped his attitude. He truly realizes what it means to possess the “it factor.” As a graduate of Texas Christian University (TCU) focusing on international business, Ira has positioned himself to impact his community and the world. In his own words, he shares his story. I am Ira Thomas. I grew up in the inner-city communities of Fort Worth, Texas. It is difficult to take the entirety of one’s life and condense it into written soundbites. There is so much to tell. Some pleasant, some…not so much. However, in an effort to provide something meaningful to others who may find themselves facing similar challenges, if my story can bring hope to one person, I am grateful to share. I am the eldest son of two children from a single-parent household. I have one younger brother. We have the same mother, but different fathers. I also have two step-brothers who didn’t live with us: both have different mothers, but the same father. Growing up, it was my responsibility to be the caretaker of the household. This job included managing the wellbeing of my younger brother until my mother returned home the next day. You see, my mother was a truck driver, so she was frequently on the road for long periods of time. Having this much responsibility placed on me at such a young age added to my own stress level, but someone had to do it. Similar to other singleparent households, my family had limited resources. In fact, we lived in lack. We lacked even the basics, including food. We sometimes experienced on-and-off utilities, little to no education programs, not to mention few school supplies. My mother did her best. She was extremely hard working, and many times, her faith in God helped her navigate major family decisions. Conversely, my father was not around much, so it was my mother who made the decisions regarding day-to-day issues. Many childhood memories I would rather forget, but I do remember a falling-out my parents had on a holiday. It was Father’s Day, and the last image I have of my father involved a black pistol aimed at my mother’s temple. Even as a child, I may not have understood, but, inside myself, I knew something was not 42

right. Growing up in a neighborhood without resources always made life tougher, because you always wanted what you didn’t have. And, although I have never been to prison, I have experienced the school-to-prison pipeline. This is to say that, in Longview, Texas, I have been a part of the juvenile delinquency program. As hard as I tried to avoid coming in contact with anything close to a correction facility, I found myself having brushes with the law for various misdemeanor offenses. During my early teens, I experienced juvenile detention. That experience was not at all a positive one. In fact, it was never clear to me why I was arrested and punished to begin with. The ordeal started when my mother decided that she would discipline me in the car. On that particular day, I wasn’t having it, so, to deter her, I jumped out of the car and ran away as fast as I could. After what seemed like an eternity of running, I saw a patrol car. As the officer passed me, he conspicuously nodded in my direction. Not long after, the patrol car whirled around with clouds of smoke and sped toward my direction. I was terrified. My heart raced; it was a try-to-explain-or-run moment. Not knowing what to do and with high anxiety, I did the only thing I knew. I ran. In fact, I ran as fast as I could. I was running so fast I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I jumped onto the railroad tracks in a desperate but vain attempt at getting away. To no avail, I was being approached by another officer coming from the opposite direction. I tried to divert by running down the other side of the tracks after I crossed the bridge, but, by the end of the ordeal, there were at least 15 police officers pursuing me. At the age of 15, there is nothing more humiliating nor terrifying than looking down the barrel of a police officer’s gun.

“At the age of 15, there is nothing more humiliating Fast-forward two years later, after nor terrifying than blessed with my first child. Due to grandmother and me, deep- looking down the families can sometimes be tough, barrel of a police be worked out, so I was banned me, that was not happening officer’s gun.” ignore the restraining order and visit

moving out on my own, I was the discord between her rooted issues arose. Dealing with especially when those issues cannot from visiting my child. However, for either, so I took it upon myself to anyway. This time it was the Arlington

Police department that was called. I was contacted and instructed to visit with a detective, who said charges pending against me at that time. I was being charged with burglary of a habitat, even though nothing was taken from the home and there was no forced entry. I just wanted to see my daughter. By then, I truly needed a break and a change of environment, so, four months later, I moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, to work in the oil fields. After about three months, I was pulled over and told that I had a warrant back in Arlington, Texas. It was as if life was beginning to swallow me up.

At that time, it was the agony of the journey. It was one thing after another. I seemed to be drowning in an endless pool of adversity without a lifejacket or any escape. With only prison facilities in the area, I had to wait two weeks to be extradited back to Texas. Upon my return, I had to report to court once a month for four months. Each time, I denied myself probation. It was my belief that, at the time, innocence mattered to the courts, and I was totally innocent. However, I had an incoming wisdom tooth that was 43

“I knew there had to be more to life than this, but what was it, and how

extremely painful. I was being denied medical service from the courts unless I took probation. When you are poor and have little to no resources, you often find yourself at the mercy of the courts. I am sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of incarcerated people who, because they do not have the financial resources to satisfy the courts, remain incarcerated. I was one of them. So, I decided to take probation just to get proper care.

do I get it? There were times when I felt my life was truly over…”

It was during this time I realized, if my life was going to change, I had to do something different. I knew that there had to be more to life than this, but what was it and how did I get it? There were times when I felt that my life was truly over, while other times I felt it was just beginning. All I knew was that I couldn’t continue to live as I was. I needed an “event,” a life-changing event that would take my life in a different direction. But, for that to happen, I needed to make some major decisions. Many of us want our lives to change, yet we continue doing the same things and making the same choices. I knew that, if I desired something different than jail, poverty, and failure topped off with a big dose of pain, I would have to do something different and more positive than I had been doing. That is when I made the decision to go back to school. Returning to school was the result of finally being able to disconnecting and breaking free from the criminal justice system. I waited until I cleared my probationary period before even attempting to attend college. Over that two-year period, I was determined to be unseen and unheard to ensure that I would remain a free man. Tarrant Country College (TCC) became my avenue and the first step to restoring my intellectual curiosity and career opportunities. TCC was a place of diverse populations. It satisfied my thirst for different perspectives and new experiences. While there, I could sit down with mentors throughout the entire campus body, from the president and staff members on down. TCC opened me up to many new ideas and people who were just as driven as I. It stimulated and encouraged my motivation to dream bigger and accomplish more. I was in a whole new world. My “it factor” was now emerging. If graduating from TCC wasn’t enough, the most life-changing event to happen to me was my acceptance into TCU. It provided me with even greater opportunities to see myself from an entirely different perspective. It enabled me to access countless resources that created possibilities not only for myself, but also for those who would come after me. Although TCU is less diverse than TCC and 44

“To move from darkness to light takes the ability to make a decision, it takes courage, and it takes action.”

has a limited pool of peer perspectives due to its population and racial makeup, I have gained an immense level of support and opportunities I would have never experienced had I not made the critical decision to change. TCU encourages me to be not just a community leader, but a world leader.

When I look at my life now as opposed to where I came from, it would have been hard to imagine. To move from darkness to light takes the ability to make a decision, it takes courage, and it takes action. All of these make up my “it factor.” My existence has been full of challenges. There has never been a time or period of breaks or vacation from them. At least, that has been the case for me. It has been what seems like one challenge after the other—but, boy, have they made me stronger. I have now been shaped into a person who welcomes challenges with open arms. I have developed a mindset of someone who will accomplish goals by any means necessary. To move from being interrogated by the police to being interviewed for a magazine truly requires a change in mindset. I had to feed myself with new information. Therefore, I attended workshops and seminars that helped me develop many of my hidden gifts. One day while checking my email, I received an invitation from Steven LeMons of TCC to attend a workshop he created called The Journey. Now, this is not by any means an advertisement, just an honest statement: the workshop was incredible! The energy, the message, the experience itself touched me…I know it had a positive impact on everyone in the room. I remember an acronym he used—P.O.O.R (Passing Over Opportunities Repeatedly). This acronym resonated so much with me, because it reminded me to embrace all opportunities whenever possible and to create those that others will not. I took tools away that I will continue using throughout life. As for my future, it is definitely bright. I recently established an 18-month, short-term, mid-term, and long-term (Small, Medium & Long-range) timeline to track my progress. Within this timeframe, it is my goal to secure income for my political organization and tuition for my master’s program in technology and economics. After the first 18 months, I will establish a second agricultural project in West Africa, between Nigeria and Togo. Eventually, I would like to relocate either to the Republic of Kazakhstan or West Africa to establish additional economic research on block -chain technology in emerging economies. Finally, throughout my journey, I have achieved huge, unthinkable dreams that have come to 45

fruition. Each time I voiced or shared my dreams with others who dreamt small or had no dreams, I was often advised, “Be realistic! Get your head out of the clouds. You can’t do that!” The reality is, had I been more “realistic,” I never would have accomplished anything. Moreover, I would also have far less opportunities and resources for accomplishing my SML goals. The one piece of advice I have for people from similar backgrounds as mine is never to base your dreams off someone else’s limited field of vision. Always dream bigger than those before you. Never allow anything to stop the accomplishment of your goals, and, finally, find your own “it factor.”

Best. 

Ira and his daughter share a tender moment during his TCU graduation.



am walking my dog at my apartment complex, in a Dallas/Fort-Worth area municipality. I have a little girl at home. My dog trots over the grass in the octagonal space we pretend is our yard. She squats, while I stand idling. I begin to think about when I was my daughter’s age. When I was four, I lived in a town of 12,000 people. Throughout school, my family knew most of the other families in the town. In Winfield, Kansas, it was unknowingly a privilege to walk the streets at night and feel afraid. That town was ours, and I never could imagine anything negative happening.

Now when I left Winfield High School, I unknowingly moved to the hood. I may be from a small town, but I grew up in Dallas, Texas, Oak Cliff, to be exact. There were people I knew in my neighborhood who had been shot in the face. I saw a crackhead who burned down the apartment building across from mine. The severed bodies of four men were found in trash cans around the corner from where I drove to see my friends. I was not surprised when my friend told me about someone he saw shot. Men would follow me to my parking spot, harassing me for my number. I have been told to leave a building more than once in fear that someone would soon be shot. Helicopter lights shining in my home was a norm. I have ran from gunshots in a parking lot more times than I can count. I have choked on mace being sprayed into crowds. I have met some of the most prestigious rappers from the Deep South. In fact, I dated a rapper that people in hoods all over Dallas and Houston knew. I have been pulled over by police, just so they could holla at me. Police would blockade our streets 47 of us stop, and make each

regardless of what we were doing, and arrest many of us in one night. More than a pimp or two has tried to add me to his roster. I almost didn’t have a single friend who didn’t have someone in prison they missed dearly. I have family members who walk amongst the homeless in downtown Dallas. I have slept in my car without any other place to go. And now, I am 75% of the way to being free from having to worry about robbers breaking into my home when I am away. I can now feel comfortable leaving my daughter inside while I walk my dog. My advice, is to be happy you are from a small town and have seen less. I am burdened with the things I know. I cannot wait to go back to a small town to become a “small-town person” again. If anything, I will be happy for that.

Ira proudly displays his degree from Texas Christian University.


The Journey™ Campus Marketing Materials The Journey™ no-hassle marketing provides pre-designed flyers for both its target audience and administrators. Flyer dates, times, and locations can easily be modified to fit each campus. Documents can then be saved as PDFs and distributed to their target audience via email.

“It helps motivate you. If you feel lost in college, I recommend this, because it helps you find yourself. It helps you find your path not just in college, but in life.”

Should your campus utilize banners, the campaign provides two large banners, measuring 84x40 inches. For greater visibility, each banner should hang overhead in high traffic areas.

“It was awesome! It opens your eyes to things and what could be holding you back from succeeding.” Four 24x30” Journey posters will be displayed in designated areas throughout the campus. Additional posters may be printed as needed. The Journey WORKBOOK

The Journey Guidebook© is the follow-up companion to the workshop. Its self-paced, skills-based structure provides students with non-cognitive and continuous improvement exercises that reinforce key workshop strategies. It also guides students to establish realistic personal and academic goals.

“It is really helpful. I would strongly recommend this presentation for those who are considering giving up on themselves and school.”

The Journey Magazine© truly shines the spotlight on success. It showcases the inspirational, yet challenging journeys many students face. In addition to providing insights and reinforcement of key elements of the workshop, it is a powerful encouragement tool that captivates readers through a collection of compelling student narratives.

“I went for the extra credit and left with a new passion for life! Loved every minute. Looking forward to the next one.”

“Life’s journeys can sometimes be tough. Let us help your students rise to the challenge by experiencing The Journey™.” 49




wishing for

change in the lives of your If so, the key to helping students change their lives is for them to embrace a new attitude for helping themselves. Wishing is great, but expecting improvement from the same self-defeating actions will only generate short-term adjustments. For real change to occur, people must transform their attitudes. If students want breakthrough performance, they require transformative information that ignites their personal initiatives. The Journey™ engages underprepared students with stimulating information to redirect negative thinking and self-defeating habits. It addresses root causes, meets students at their points of need, and builds pathways that strengthen non-cognitive and critical-thinking skills so students can focus on excellence. When students break free from unproductive and, perhaps, generational cycles of underachievement, they find a relentless and passionate desire for success they previously could not have imagined nor realized. The Journey workshop and The Journey GuidebookŠ help them do just that. The Journey and its Guidebook are powerful, innovative intervention tools that stimulate positive growth, inspire goal achievement, and increase student performance. The Journey Guidebook entails real-world strategies that guide students step-by-step through goal setting. It also outlines inspiring strategies students can use to transition into and thrive in the college environment. Stop wishing your students would change and take steps to make it happen. Schedule a presentation of The Journey for your institution today.



It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

journey begins now So, start walking.

Schedule your presentation of The Journey today.



Journeys Magazine CONTRIBUTORS A sincere thanks to our writers, staff, faculty, administrators, contributors, and supporters of Journeys Magazine, who contributed to making this first issue possible. We sincerely appreciate your participation and encouragement. Creator & Publisher Writing Contributions

Steven LeMons Royletta Woodard with Steven LeMons - Out of the Dark Royletta Woodard - Who Am I? Ira Thomas - The ‘It’ Factor


Zanoni Guilherme Steven LeMons Tess Nebula Jonathon Rose Junichi Royal Lissa Wadi Whereslugo Warren Wong Ruthson Zimmerman

Cover Photo

Will Vanwingerden


Steven LeMons James Peebles

Additional Contributions

Stephanie Castillo Clifford Burns Nike Duraku Dirk Jackson Michelle Menchaca Christina Palacios Freddie Sandifer Michael Saunders Ira Thomas Royletta Woodard

The Journey Student Workshop Volunteers

Adriana Castro Daniel Calvera Flores Adrian Hernandez Gabriel Hernandez Adrian Jaures Marina Luna Marissa Mendoza Maria Perales William Westoff

Special thanks to Mr. William ‘Bill’ McMullen for his undying support of students and their relentless journey in pursuit of academic success. All additional content created and written by Steven LeMons For more information about The Journey workshop or Journey Magazine, please visit our website at or email us at or contact Steven LeMons direct at 682-558-6639. 56