“The only reason I now consider myself a writer is because of SpeakOut! It’s the only constant thing in my life that has been positive. It’s opened doors in many avenues of my life, as well as encouraged so many other people to create and find a glimmer of hope in hard times.”

~Reflection by AZfact, SpeakOut! participant

CSU’s “SpeakOut!” program works through the Community Literacy Center of the College of Liberal Arts and the English Department to bring community literacy workshops to men and women incarcerated in the Larimer County jail, and to young people residing in local crisis centers. Each week, teams of CSU students and community volunteers sit for 90-minute sessions to guide confined writers whose only creative outlet might be their time with SpeakOut!

CSU students have been facilitating community literacy workshops through SpeakOut! for over a dozen years. Interns and volunteers have traditionally come from backgrounds in English and literature studies, sociology/criminology and psychology, though students from any discipline are welcomed. The dedicated community outreach volunteers provide each week embodies a philosophy that dynamic literacy work is a key to cultural awareness and a more socially just world.

Six community workshops meet each week to write with up to 15 writers each. The sessions center around three unique prompts the volunteer team brings to the workshop — creating 270 or more new pieces of writing weekly: hand-scrawled paragraphs that work through trauma, imagine freedom or remember love, hurt and triumph. Writers (and facilitators) are often surprised at how good this kind of instant creation feels. What a feeling of accomplishment as writers tame the thoughts in their heads to hold a poem or a rant or a lyric in their hands that didn’t exist before they seated themselves around the SpeakOut! writing circle.

Through the distribution of a professionally bound journal of writing and art (at no cost) to a local, national and international audience at the end of each semester, SpeakOut! student interns and volunteers hold out writers’ creative work to the larger community. In this way, their outreach continually confronts and disarms stereotypes and stigma often directed at incarcerated populations and youth in crisis.

If you are interested in becoming a Community Literacy Center intern or volunteer, please see the application page here. Join a team that combats social injustice through literacy work – a group that coordinates paper, pencils and great ideas each week to bring more voices to the community table.

SpeakOut! Community Partners include the Larimer County Jail, Larimer County Community Corrections, and Turning Point.