CSU’s “SpeakOut!” program works through the Community Literacy Center of the College of Liberal Arts and the English Department to bring writing workshops to men and women at crisis centers in the community. Each week, teams of CSU students and community volunteers sit for 60-minute sessions to guide confined writers whose only creative outlet might be their time with SpeakOut!

AZfact, the SpeakOut! writer featured here at right, is a hip-hop artist with the kind of rhythm and rhyme you could expect to encounter at a local poetry slam. Except at the time he wrote these words, he was not free to go off the grounds of the residential Larimer County Community Corrections. He wrote with SpeakOut! for a few years, both in Community Corrections and Larimer County Jail, where he had even less mobility and only a pencil with which to write and draw. Learn about how the weekly SpeakOut! writing workshops are facilitated, below.

“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

Want to know more? See below!

From poetry to hip hop

Writers read Naomi Shahib Nye’s poem “Famous” and discuss what they hear in her words. They write about their desires for fame. Or infamy. Or normalcy. They listen to music from Puerto Rico’s “Calle 13” and consider lives outside their own where struggle and resistance are commonplace. They write and read to each other – strong voices, barely audible voices, sometimes through tears or difficult memories.

SpeakOut! Volunteers

CSU Interns and volunteers have traditionally come from backgrounds in English and literature studies, sociology/criminology and psychology, though students from any discipline are welcomed, and we welcome community participation from beyond the university as well. 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.

Each week...

Workshops meet every week during the semester to write with up to 15 writers each. Volunteers present three or four unique prompts and writers create 270 or more new pieces of writing weekly: hand-scrawled paragraphs that work through trauma, imagine freedom or remember love, hurt and triumph. Writers bring the thoughts in their heads to paper, to hold a poem, a rant, or a lyric in their hands that didn’t exist before they seated themselves around the SpeakOut! writing circle.

The SpeakOut! Journal

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.

Join Us!

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, Turning Point Center for Youth and Family and Alternatives Homes for Youth.