By Reginald Hola

Reflecting on the last 6 months I realized my personal growth through The Last Mile has to be the greatest reward for me. Truthfully, starting out in this program I was a shy individual and sadly, lacking in self-confidence -yes, many would not believe this but I had a fear in public speaking.

I remember every time I was asked to speak I’d stutter, my voice would crack, and I could hear my heart pounding. My face stained red by the blood rushing to my head. At times, I felt like I was in front of a heater and my forehead and palms had sweat like a melting candle. I would stop from time to time, clearing my throat of the dry Mojave Desert. Looking at the audience, I remembered when an alumni member placed his hands in front of him, signaling the obvious, “slow down”. I would pause gasping for air like an exhausted marathon runner. I was terrible.

It was Tuesday October 21, 2014 and The Last Mile class was just starting when I had walked in, I was happy to see everyone cheerful. I was making my way across the room shaking hands with my peers when Chris Redlitz approached me from behind and asked, “Reggie could you facilitate the class tonight?”

“Yeah, no problem Chris,” I said as cool, calm, and collected as could be. When he turned to walk away I was sure I had turned pale. We all took our seats and Chris Redlitz began to update us on upcoming guests. As he spoke I felt my hands get moist, sweat dripping from my head, my heart pounded against my chest. “Whhooo sssssaahh” I said in my head, as he continued my thoughts raced I became uncomfortable, and for some odd reason I thought, “This is how a person getting the death penalty must feel before execution.” He continued, “We know Keith Wroten (Combat Chess) was supposed to facilitate today but he is getting his package so Reggie Hola will be leading our class.”

The class clapped, signaling me to come up. I struggled, trying to unlock the mental chains that kept me in my chair. Finally, I stood and walked to what felt like the Green Mile. The room grew quiet, my heart thumping loud as a hammer hitting wood.

“Good evEening lAdieEs and geNtlemMmen,” my voice started shaking like a wet cat. “Tonight we will be (ahem) talking about (ahem) the reading we did (ahem) over the weekend (ahem).” I paused trying to shake the nerves from my sleeves, when a voice whispered “You got this, keep going.” I turned to see Chris Redlitz standing there nodding his head. It was unexpected, but in that moment I felt the courage to continue.

At the end of the class I was surprised by the support I received from the facilitators and my classmates. This is one night I will always remember, no matter where the road leads me, I won’t forget the road that has counted the most in my mental, physical, and spiritual growth – “The Last Mile”. Through this program I’ve gained the confidence to look forward, the understanding to be resourceful, to be passionate, but more importantly to keep growing.

Malo Aupito (Thank YOU)