Programs & Curriculum
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Prison Debate Initiative
SPEAK is founded on the principle that everyone should have access to educational opportunities to strengthen their personal and professional growth. SPEAK seeks to promote this growth through offering debate and public speaking training to increase educational opportunities and enable individuals to confidently advocate for themselves and their passions.
Learn More About SPEAK's Curriculum!
The SPEAK Vermont Prison Debate Initiative provides public speaking and debate training programs to inmates incarcerated at Vermont correctional facilities. SPEAK's Prison Debate Initiative offers an eight-week training program that utilizes debate as a tool for teaching participants professional, public speaking, and presentation skills. The goal of the program is to increase participants' confidence in presenting their personal stories and, ultimately, easing inmates' transition into the community upon release.
“Because our youth have histories of prior school failure and poorly developed communication skills,
programs like SPEAK are crucial
to helping them build critical thinking skills and develop empathy by understanding more than one perspective.”
Educational Services Supervisor,
Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center
“SPEAK helps build confidence and it helps to lift people up."
-SPEAK Student, Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility
To date, SPEAK has provided multiple programs at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, Vermont's sole all-female facilty, and taught at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center. SPEAK's program participants generate and research their own debate topics and work closely with SPEAK volunteers to construct persuasive arguments defending their position. Each program culminated in a public debate where students present their arguments in front of an audience, receive certificates of acheivement, and celebrate their growth and accomplishments throughout the program.
In reflecting upon their time working with SPEAK, participants at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility explain that said the training has given them confidence and helped them in mock job interviews in preparation for when they are released. “SPEAK helps build confidence and it helps to lift people up,” said one woman at CRCF. “There is a huge stigma around criminals. We wear a scary face. SPEAK drastically helps to soften that mask." Another inmate said she was “impressed and proud of her fellow inmates. They proved how smart they are and how knowledgeable they were on their debate subject.”
Kris Hoffman, educational services supervisor at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, says programs like SPEAK that provide authentic learning opportunities are especially important to students at Woodside.
“It is brutal to live in a juvenile facility,” Hoffman says. “Because our youth have histories of prior school failure and poorly developed communication skills, programs like SPEAK are crucial to helping them build critical thinking skills and develop empathy by understanding more than one perspective.”
SPEAK is committed to promoting powerful voices accross a variety of academic and professional settings in our community. We look forward to partnering with your business, school, or non-profit to build a program tailored to fit your model.
Whether you are a high school student interested in launching a debate program at your school, an elementary school teacher looking for a new classroom, or a local organization or business hoping to improve your members' presentation abilites, SPEAK is here for you!
SPEAK is committed to promoting powerful voices
in a variety of settings in our community.
The SPEAK team is proud to have volunteers who are familiar working with a variety of age and ability levels accross multiple professional disciplines. From the boardroom to the classroom, we have talented instructors who will work with you to meet your program needs.
SPEAK has been fortunate to collaborate with several international partners and we look forward to expanding out international presence in the future!
In 2016 and 2017, SPEAK founder, Jessica Bullock, travelled to Milan, Italy to partner with WeDebate and instruct high school students in the Lombardy region on the principles of debate. Whether training trainers to start their own debate teams or coaching students on the principles of persuasion, the programs were well-received and SPEAK looks forward to continueing our partnership with WeDebate in the future!
In August 2016, Bullock returned to Beijing, China to assist international instructors in organizing the third annual British Parliamentary debate tournament at Beihang University. SPEAK instructors, Jessica Bullock and Mariel Golden, taught alongside the renowned University of Vermont Professor Alfred "Tuna" Snider at the Beihang World Debate Academy in the past and are excited to see the Beighang University program going and thriving!
Tel Aviv, Isreal
In June, 2016, SPEAK Instructor and Education Coordinator for the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC), Mariel Golden, piloted the SPEAK curriculum for refugees living in Tel Aviv. Hopefully, the partnership between SPEAK and the ARDC will help to launch a full-time debate initiative!
Prisoners Aid ACT, in partnership with SPEAK and ANU Debating, is developing a prison debate program for detainees in the Alexander Maconochie Centre in Canberra, Australia. The program is designed to be a six-week intensive teaching basic debating tactics to participants, culminating in a show debate at the end of the six weeks. This program coincides with SPEAK's domestic programs by encouraging rehabilitation and empowerment through thinking critically about different perspectives and developing public speaking skills on issues affecting their lives. The program will pilot on members of ANU Debating in the first half of 2018, with the intention to present a successful proposal to the Alexander Maconochie Correctional Centre at the end of the pilot.