By Jason Jones
Someone recently asked me, how have I benefitted from the Last Mile? Well, the cliche response would be, “helped me with public speaking”, “finding my passion”, or “understanding the business world”, but the Last Mile has done so many things for me on a much deeper level than I expected.
When I first heard about the Last Mile I didn’t really understand what it actually was or what it offered. I knew it had something to do with business and technology, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Even after seeing the previous demo days and actually going to an interview, I still was vague on the concept and purpose of the Last Mile.
My interview went well, but I was denied and asked to apply again in the near future. Since I have never been one to accept defeat in Any Form, I sought out one of the Alumnus of the Last Mile named Damon L. Cooke for his assistance. He was eager to take me to talk to one of the sponsors of the Last Mile, where she took my name down to reconsidered my acceptance in the program.
A couple of days later I was called to one of the class meetings to meet with Beverly Parenti, co-founder of the Last Mile and also the one that did my interview. I was informed by her that I was chosen to be part of the first coding class (Code.7370) to ever take place inside of a state prison. I was excited and confused but I had no experience with computers or coding and math was one of the subjects I struggled with.
This challenge was truly a blessing. Shortly after code.7370 started Chris Redlitz, co-founder of the Last Mile invited me to sit in on the entrepreneur classes of the Last Mile, so I could get a feel of what was going on within the program. I jumped at the opportunity and made it a point to attend every class and take notes on what was being exposed to us. I remember the first day I attended, author and teacher at Stanford Tina Seelig was there and talked a little about her book and how she found her passion. She challenged everyone to think outside the box with an exciting exercise that left a tremendous impact on me.
The next few classes I watched and continued to take notes as the students in the Last Mile entrepreneur program prepared a (1) One minute pitch. I started to develop a (1) One-minute pitch as well hoping to share it with the group if given an opportunity. Low and behold the opportunity came, and I was prepared for it. The men in the Last Mile voted me in on the spot.
On March 27, 2015 1 pitched my company GPA (Getting Parents Attention) an Ed-Tech company in front of hundreds of people. On April 20, 2015 1 graduated the first cycle of code.7370 at the top of my class.
Although I have accomplished a lot, it is not the answer to the question asked of me. All the cliches and achievements with the Last Mile are great but the Last Mile gave me people to call family. Growing up in an urban community that was poverty stricken I had a tendency to find family in the streets because I could relate to other peoples’ struggles. My mother raised me and my 3 siblings all by herself, so times were rough. Often, the family I found in the streets passed down a destructive belief system that they inherited from those before them. So this horrible way of thinking and decision making became a hazardous cycle that was hard to break.
Well, the Last Mile gave me mentors that not only helped me with putting my company together but also my life together. I recall Chris Redlitz and I even having a conversation on things I needed to change in my life and my reactions to certain things. He told me that sometimes you have to understand your situation so you can prevent it from becoming worse. I went back to my cell that night and thought to myself Chris Redlitz didn’t have to tell me anything, he could of let me crash and burn, but he didn’t. He definitely did not owe me anything. It truly impressed me that this wealthy man that has so much already on his plate took time out of his life in order to tell me something I needed to hear.
Nonetheless, the men in the Last Mile became my support system in so many ways as I made my transition from my old losing belief system and started to nurture the seed planted by the Last Mile program. I had to think outside the box I placed myself in, for so many years of my life. Since all the men in the Last Mile have been nurturing their growth and made successful transitions, it made it a lot easier for me to do. Now I have an extended family that I know I can rely on and ask for help. That means a lot due to the fact I have problems asking for help. So to answer the question, how have I benefited from the Last Mile? I benefited from the Last Mile by being able to adopt multiple positive role models and family members in my life, to guide me in the right direction of growth and success.