LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Rick Pena had a childhood that no child should ever have to experience.
The pain he suffered and the secrets he kept, almost cost him his life.
It wasn’t until later on in life when he discovered the School of Man, that he was finally able to face his demons and deal with them head-on, not by himself, but with a team of brothers.
“I grew up in Wisconsin,” says Pena. “Milwaukee. Grew up there until I was 9 years old. It was some of the happiest times of my life.”
One thing was missing in Rick Pena’s childhood- his father.
“It was difficult,” Pena recalls. “You’re lost. As a 9 year old looking for that person. Who is going to teach you to throw a baseball? Who’s going to teach you how to throw a football?”
His mom eventually remarried, but things quickly took a turn for the worse.
“I really didn’t experience the physical abusemyselff, though I saw it,” says Pena. “It was absolutely terrifying. The times that I saw it, it wasn’t just a push or a smack. It was a full-blown get your fist and punch a woman.”
The physical abuse continued until one day, his mom packed their car, grabbed what little they had, and moved to California, living in a shelter for battered women.
“When we left, when we moved, it was a relief to be getting away from that,” Pena says.
His paternal father was also in California and eventually, the two met.
“I remember the day that he came,” Pena recalls. “9-year-old kid, you see your dad for the first time, and it was pure joy.”
That joy didn’t last long.
“He told me he was like, ‘I’ll be back in one week to come see you again’,” says Pena. “And the next Friday came, and he didn’t show. And the next Friday after that came, and he didn’t show. And Friday’s past and he never showed again.”
It wasn’t until Pena turned 11, when another male figure entered his life.
This time, it was his baseball coach, who eventually asked his mother if he could be the father figure Pena never had.
“It was awesome, you know,” says Pena. “It was awesome. Again, what 11, 12-year-old boy wouldn’t want a man to come into their life and fill that role?”
Months went by, a strong friendship was built, and all was good, until it all came crashing down.
“Then one day he violated that trust, in a way that scared me,” Pena says. “I didn’t know what to do and so it continued. It wasn’t a one-time thing. It went on for years.”
Frightened and confused, the 13-year-old didn’t know who to turn to for help. All he knew was he wanted the sexual abuse to stop.
“I remember grabbing my belt,” Pena recalls. “I went to the closet, and I tried to take my life.”
Pena says while gasping for air, he had a spiritual awakening.
“I like to think it was my faith,” says Pena. “It’s my God who came back and just kind of encouraged me to say ‘This is not the answer. This is not what your life is meant to be.”
Pena would tell no one of his attempted suicide, the sexual abuse or his pain. Instead, he buried it deep inside, and when he turned 18, he escaped by enlisting in the Air Force.
In October of 2017, everything changed when his mother-in-law reached out to him via social media.
“She tagged me on a Facebook post,” Pena says. “I was watching a bunch of men exercising and doing some crazy stuff and it was totally not for me.”
The post was about The School of Man, a 16-week intense training program in Little Rock, where men learn their true purpose in life, by uncovering their past, facing their inner demons and becoming velnerable.
“I saw the impact through Facebook, what it was having on some of the men,” says Pena. “I watched some of the stories, the videos that they had posted, and I knew that’s what I wanted. That’s what I needed in my life.”
There’s more to his story. What happened after he discovered The School of Man is powerful and life-changing.
Only on Fox16 Thursday at 6:30, Kevin Kelly hosts a 30-minute special, showcasing everything The School of Man has to offer.
Hear the rest of Rick Pena’s incredible journey.
Meet the lead follwer and CEO and find out what prompted him to start the program.
Watch as the men go through a graduation, modeled after “Navy Hell Week” and hear first-hand how it changed their lives for the better.
If you don’t want to wait, click here to watch the documentary.