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New Programs and New Partners – October 2017

Where We’ve Been Sustainability and Communications Planning: Earlier this summer, the administrative team embarked upon formalizing procedures and strategies that weplan to utilize in order to grow SPEAK’s financial base and increase awareness about our programming. Our Director of Programs and Partnerships, Johannes Wheeldon, conducted a survey of SPEAK volunteers in order to ascertain areas in which we can improve our programs and organizational cohesion based on feedback from those who know our programs best—our volunteers and Board members. The strategic plain laid out precise, attainable goals for the organization over the next several years, and was presented to and approved by the Board of Directors this summer. Additionally, we developed a Communications Plan that formalizes many of the practices currently in place that help us to conduct outreach and improve awareness about the importance of promoting debate and dialogue in a variety of settings.

SPEAK Orientation: Thank you to all of the devoted volunteers who gathered in Montpelier this September to help plan our fall programs. Charlotte Gliserman, Toni Girardi, and Laura Savall will be leading teams of UVM and VLS volunteers to host programs at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, the Hartford Restorative Justice Center, and the Vermont Institute of Natural Health, respectively, this fall. Thank you all for your hard work!

Retooling at Chittenden Regional: Our summer curriculum at CRCF included a mix of formal debating cycles and more informal seminars geared towards promoting specific knowledge and skills. We continued to integrate new strategies for challenging students who have been involved in the program for longer periods of time to keep them engaged and involved while incorporating a large number of newer students into our class. Our focus this summer was on quality assurance rather than program expansion. Sessions, led primarily by veteran instructors Luke Dodge and Jessica Bullock, focused more on tailoring our instruction to skills our students were interested in learning, and towards reinforcing the skills that we teach more rapidly through more frequent debates, research sessions, and argument building. One such session saw students analyze a speech given on the justification for the removal of Confederate statues from public spaces in New Orleans in the wake of the Charlottesville protests. Students analyzed Mayor Landrieu’s strategies for persuasion and offered their opinions on whether they were ultimately persuaded by his arguments. Moving forward, we will continue to focus our instruction more on the skills that our students are interested in learning while ensuring that we are able to simultaneously reach students at different levels.

SPEAK Founder Presents at 61st Session of the UN Committee Against Torture: As a student at VLS, Jess Bullock had the opportunity to volunteer with Penal Reform International (PRI), an international human rights organization advocating for prison policy reform world-wide, as a Student Fellow though the Vermont Law School Center for Applied Human Rights. During her time with PRI, Jessica researched and drafted a legal memorandum applying international human rights law to the issue prison overcrowding under the careful tutelage of VLS Professor Stephanie Farrior. Jessica had the incredible opportunity to present this research alongside PRI Executive Director Andrea Huber during a closed workshop at the 61st session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva, Switzerland. An example of our SPEAK debate skills in action!

Saying Goodbye to our Outgoing Volunteers: We are sad to say “See you later!” to one of our most senior volunteers, Luke Dodge. Luke is a founding member of SPEAK, and helped to start the initial program at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility several years ago. Luke’s passion and enthusiasm have helped to spark an interest in debate for numerous volunteers and participants. He has been an excellent friend, mentor, and educator for those at SPEAK, and his presence will be missed at the podium. Luke has moved back home to New Jersey to pursue a legal career, and recently began working as a paralegal for a New York law firm that represents foster care agencies. Though he is no longer living in Vermont, Luke will continue to support SPEAK’s work by remaining in his position as Assistant Director for Communications, managing our online presence and outreach. Good luck, Luke, in your new adventure!

Where We’re Going

Ongoing Efforts at Chittenden Regional: We’re happy to say that veteran instructor and UVM Senior Charlotte Gliserman will be tasked with leading our next full cycle at CRCF! Charlotte has previously helped to lead programs at the LUND Family Center and Woodside Juvenile Correctional Facility. She will be joined by a number of returning UVM and VLS instructors. We will continue to provide a curriculum that is inclusive of all education and experience levels while providing important opportunities for our younger volunteers, who will gain some leadership experience and sustain SPEAK’s programming for years to come.

Empowering Environmental Advocacy: We are excited to announce a new partnership in cooperation with the Vermont Institute for Natural Science (VINS)! (VINS) is a nonprofit, member-supported, environmental education, research and avian rehabilitation organization headquartered at the VINS Nature Center in Quechee, Vermont. VINS places a priority on making high-quality, compelling, and fun environmental education programs and learning opportunities accessible to more people and communities. We will be working with VINS to offer a curriculum that promotes advocacy skills for Vermonters interested in doing more to protect our environment and create change in their own communities. The program will be run by Laura Savall and Charlotte Grossman and will be offered from November 7 to December 5. Going Strong in Hartford: We are excited to say that our relationship with the Harford Community Restorative Justice Center will being continuing this Spring! We previously worked with HCRJC to offer a pilot program for individuals receiving services there in order to compliment our offerings inside Correctional Facilities. It is essential for individuals actively reintegrating into their communities to be able to express their own needs and interests in productive ways, and the staff at the facility understand and value the tremendous impact that this type of programming can offer their clients. Our hope moving forward is that this program will become a “home base” for VLS volunteers, much like CRCF has become for UVM volunteers. Toni Girardi and Sara McClurg are leading the effort to maintain our program at the HCRJC. Way to go team!

New SPEAK Recruits: This fall, UVM SPEAK Supervisor, Charlotte Gliserman, and VLS SPEAK Supervisor, Laura Savall, will recruit new SPEAK volunteers for the 2018-2019 academic year. We are looking forward to meeting the new recruits!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

As always, thank you for your continued support and dedication to SPEAK’s mission. We are proud to promote powerful voices and we look forward to partnering with you to continue this mission in the upcoming quarter! Please contact us with questions about our projects and programs, and feel free to share our new and improved website,! and handy “Donate” button with your friends and family!

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