Section 3: Values


Some of us have made bad decisions in the past. Through out Straight-A Guide program, we strive to teach strategies that have helped many move beyond past bad decisions and grow into new opportunities.

We teach most of our lessons through the work that Michael Santos wrote while he served 26 years in federal prison. In his case, he wrote about making many bad decisions. He said that he sold cocaine. After he was caught, he said that he failed to accept responsibility for his actions. Instead, he lied and hoped that his lawyer would succeed in liberating him from problems that he created. That approach didn’t work out so well, as a jury convicted him on every criminal count that he faced through his indictment.

When Michael returned to his jail cell after that conviction, he said that he began to recognize and accept that he had been living by a bad philosophy. He was driven by greed and a pursuit of immediate gratification. He wanted to change.

Several months would pass before his judge imposed sentence. While awaiting sentencing, he spent hundreds of hours thinking about the influences of his life. Those thoughts led to his 100 percent commitment to building a better life. His grandparents weren’t speaking to him. He said that he understood the pain that his bad decisions had brought to everyone who loved him and to everyone he loved. For the rest of his life, he pledged to work toward becoming a better person.

In Michael’s case, he knew that he would be going to prison for a long time. He faced a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Since he couldn’t contemplate serving so much time in prison, he focused on the first decade. During that decade, he made a personal pledge to spend every day working to reconcile with society. He knew that living a criminal lifestyle wasn’t for him. Instead, he wanted to work toward preparing for success. That commitment led to what he called his three-part plan. The plan would guide every decision he made going forward. Michael called that plan his value categories. The plan required that he work:

  1. To educate himself,
  2. To contribute to society, and
  3. To build a support network.

By living in accordance with those value categories, he said that he hoped to persuade other people to judge him for the way that he responded to his troubles rather than for the bad decisions that led to his imprisonment.

Those of us at the Straight-A Guide are convinced that all individuals can advance prospects for a better life if they learn to identify the value categories by which they profess to live. Please take some time and let us know what is important in your life. We are convinced that if you identify the values by which you profess to live, you encourage others to judge you in accordance with your commitment to a better future rather than in accordance with troubles from your past.

Identify the values by which you profess to live: