This is our second Instructor Testimonial, featuring VLS student Kassie Tibbott. Before joining Speak, Kassie managed organization-wide communication strategies for Re:Vision, a Denver-based nonprofit that focuses on creating place-based solutions and building local economies. She is pursuing a criminal law certificate at VLS, and has focused her extra-curricular activities around restorative justice practices.
We first approached Kassie in 2016 to solicit her help piloting a creative writing, resume building, and interview skills session at CRCF. From there, she became a regular volunteer and learned debate with the women at CRCF.
"The eight-week program cycle gave me the opportunity to sit with the women to brainstorm, research, and develop arguments, which provided a glimpse of each participant’s creativity, personality, and passion," she says. "I learned a lot about debate and my own public speaking strengths and weaknesses through my volunteer work and training with SPEAK."
Going back to her creative writing roots, Kassie started assisting a second group at CRCF, called WritingInsideVT on Thursday evenings. After that, Kassie decided to go out on her own and start something new.
"The experience at CRCF led me to start my own writing and discussion group called 'Definitions' at the Randolph Community Justice Center in summer 2017, and the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in fall 2017. Definitions provides a platform for creative self-expression to teach the skills necessary to articulate and express opinions and feelings in constructive ways. The mission is to teach these critical thinking skills in order to increase self-awareness, strengthen self-advocacy, and build community. Similar to SPEAK's Prison Debate Initiative, the Definitions workshop held in the correctional facility is aimed at reducing recidivism; the workshop focuses on skill building to help with conflict and personality differences to support reintegration back into the community."
We are so grateful to Kassie for her commitment to helping individuals grow and challenge themselves while they are incarcerated. Even as she focuses on growing Definitions, she hopes to remain in Vermont and active with SPEAK.