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  •, Interview, Shero, Sheroes, work

    Shero Debra Des Vignes, Indiana Prison Writers Workshop

    Debra Vignes photo

    We are always on the lookout for Sheroes and stumbled across Debra Des Vignes and this very cool program and wanted to share!

    1) Can you explain in layman’s terms what exactly is the Indiana Prison Writers Workshop?
    Indiana Prison Writers Workshop is a not-for-profit whose mission is to improve the lives of those incarcerated through creative writing and expression. Through a 12-week curriculum volunteer instructors provide 15-minute writing prompts to prisoners on a range of topics and themes and share prose by literary greats like Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, and Maya Angelou. Each workshop includes discussion of the elements of writing and offenders read their work aloud and hear constructive criticism on their work. In between weekly classes, offenders spend time on bigger writing assignments. The goal is for them to use their critical-thinking skills and gain greater empathy by understanding differences through stories and experiences.

    2) How did you get into this line of work?
    I became interested in working with this underserved population after volunteering at a correctional facility. It was there that I could see the true power of words. I believed it could be transformative and healing for the men. And so, I began the creative writing workshop in October 2017, and was able to spend one-year working with the same group of offenders each week. It became a safe space. Since then, the program has spread into three Indiana correctional facilities – in partnership with Indiana Department of Correction – and my support team includes three talented and dedicated writing volunteers – who also bring in monthly guests such as poets, rappers, and community leaders. And while I no longer lead group workshops, I support the volunteers under the program who do and help share the written work produced in their classrooms.

    3) What has been the most positive outcome of this experience for the participants?
    To learn that people do believe in them and to see their achievements come out in the stories they write. We had one offender write a novel in prison and gave credit to the workshop for accomplishing this. I enjoy engaging with program followers who view the prisoners as talented and creative beings.

    4) What has been the most rewarding part of it for you?
    To see the glimmer of hope in a man’s eyes after he’s written or expressed something challenging or difficult to write about. To know these men can re-write their own life’s script. To watch a man leave the program better equipped to face the world.

    5) What is your advice to girls who may have parents that are incarcerated – in terms of forgiveness?

    Stay strong, but also find forgiveness and understanding in your heart. We all make mistakes; some are greater than others. Write about your pain or talk to someone.

    Debra Vignes Photo

    6) Do you feel like you are personally ever at risk working with inmates?
    No, they treat me with respect. It means a lot to them to be accepted.

    7) What is your advice to girls who want to pursue non-traditional fields?
    Follow the path you are most interested in and know that it’s OK to change the direction of your life at any time. Complacency is foreign to me. There’s risk in pursuing something new. Oftentimes, the things we’re most passionate about take us out of our comfort zone. It did for me. There was a lot of discomfort and growing pains until it evened out and I started to believe in my own work and see the value in it. Go all in! An offender once told me, “Go big or go home.” He was referring to a decision to get a tattoo – but you see my point. When I “went big” and started building the prison creative writing program – that’s when things really started to change for me. At first, I tried to run the program while holding down a full-time job. I’m also a wife, mother, and a boxer. I realized I couldn’t do it all. This must be a challenge all creatives face at some point as they enter a new space. It takes a good deal of inner-strength, grit, and perseverance. One may get disapproving eyes and/or feel the weight of making enough money. But know, we need more creatives in the world. We desperately need these game-changers.

    A woman with drive is a strong woman.
    A woman who remains playful and focused is a strong woman.

    Nigerian Poet Ben Okri in his book, “A Way of Being Free” wrote: “The artist should never lose the spirit of play. It is curious how sometimes the biggest tasks are best approached tangentially, with a smile in the soul.”

    8) Did you ever see yourself doing this when you were in high school?
    No. In high school I had no direction. I had no clear path, vision, or goal of what my future would look like. I was sort of a rebel. I was fortunate that in college (California State University Northridge) I was selected as an apprentice at ABC-7 News, a television news station in Los Angeles. It was there that my love for journalism began. I went on to work as a Television news reporter for a decade covering the crime and courts beat at different stations around the country. In a way, I was destined to do this work; to help offenders prepare for re-entry through writing – having covered crime for so long. You can’t break the cycle unless you head into the ring.

    — Find Indiana Prison Writers Workshop on Facebook to learn of activities, happenings, and events and also read stories written by offenders.

    — Read their stories in a book I just published, Sunday Sweet Sunday, available on Amazon.

    — Find us at

  • Sheroes

    Inspiring Women To Dress Up As This Halloween

    Inspiring Women To Dress Up As This Halloween

    Halloween is the perfect opportunity to dress up as your true self. Here are some ideas to honor the important women in history while staying warm this October 31st.

    Rosie the Riveter

    This costume is a classic last-minute Halloween look because it’s super easy and super cute. All you need is a denim long sleeve shirt, a red bandana, and a bold lip. But the best part? If you don’t already own one or more of these items, you can wear them again on any non-spooky day.

    Shirt: Men’s Long Sleeve Denim Shirt:

    $16, Walmart

    Bandana: Paisley Bandana in red:

    $2.50, Michael’s

    Lipstick: NYX Liquid Suede lipstick in shade “Kitten Heels”:

    $5.39, Target



    (Or, for the pun-inclined, Bee-yoncé)

     Beyoncé is a feminist (and fashion) icon, and the best part about this costume is that there are so many Beyonce’s to dress up as.

    There’s Mother Earth Beyoncè:

    Veil: Blue radiance Glitter Tulle Fabric, $3.00,

    Flower Crown: Claire’s, $7.00—pink-219967.html?cgid=3023#cgid=3023&start=12

    Long Flowery Dress: Amazon, $35.00

    Baby Dolls: Walmart, $13

    Lemonade Beyoncé:

    Fluffiest Yellow Dress You Can Find: Asos, $35

    Baseball Bat*: Dicks Sporting Goods, $15.00

    (*Please do not smash any cars or fire hydrants)


    Or, for a cheaper and less literal interpretation, write “Yoncé” on a yellow and black striped t-shirt and throw on a pair of bumble bee wings.

    Wings and Antennae: Amazon, $6 Set/dp/B0041TB4YM?keywords=bumble+bee+wings&qid=1538155434&sr=8-23&ref=sr_1_23

    Striped Shirt: Forever 21, $16


    Frida Kahlo

    Channel your Dia De Los Muertos energy into this flower-filled Frida costume. With some chunky gold jewelry, an orange lip, and some floral hair pins, you’ll be a dead ringer for one of the most iconic painters of the early-mid 1900’s.

    Flower clips: Claire’s, $6.50

    Lipstick: Colourpop lippy stix in “I Ain’t Bad Atcha” Colourpop, $5.50

    Jewelry: Braided Chain Necklace, $9.50, Amazon


  • Shero, Sheroes, TRENDING, Video

    Check Out Our SherOCTOBER Sheros!

    GirlSpring is seeking extraordinary girls (13-18) to be featured in our Sheroctober video series! 31 videos of sheroes will be selected and displayed on our website and social media throughout the month of October. This is your chance to shine! Build up your digital portfolio and let others know what you are doing that is special! All participants will be part of a compilation video celebrating girls in Birmingham!

    A shero is someone extraordinary and is in general making the world a better place! This could be someone who has started a community initiative, shown academic achievement, overcome adversity, is enhancing the wellbeing of others or using their artistic talents to be a positive change agent in this world. The possibilities are endless!

    Shero Criteria:

    • Girls ages 13-18 years old
    • Nomination from a non-relative
    • Access to an electronic device with video and audio features
    • A standout reason for her sheroism

    How to Submit:

    • Create a video clip (2 minutes max) acknowledging that you (can be more than one person) has been recognized as a shero, addressing what you do that makes you a shero, explain why we need sheroes in the world, and if you have any heroes in your life.
    • Videos should be interview-style, but feel free to be creative with background music and any other artistic and fun elements! MAKE IT FUN!
    • If using a cell phone, please turn horizontally when filming.
    • Upload videos to youtube, vimeo, or dropbox and include public link on the application form.
    • In addition to the Shero video, all submissions must include a second, separate video clip with the following phrase “My name is __________. I am a shero. We are Birmingham.”
    • Submit a nomination form and link to videos by September 28th to be considered.

    Nominees will be notified by October 1st if their video is going to be featured.

    Questions? Email [email protected]

  • Articles, Celebrities, Sheroes

    Celebrities and Politics: How the Rich and Famous Wield Their Influence

    When we choose our role models, it is ideal that they possess qualities we ourselves possess or wish to possess in the future. These role models could be family members, teachers, mentors, or even peers who inspire us to improve ourselves. Most times, these role models are celebrities who are in the public eye through social media and the news. Often times we are aware of their successes and the steps they took to reach their goals because of news articles, magazine interviews, and social media blogs. But how often is it that we actually take time to research their contributions to the community and to political causes? We may overlook these actions by our role models because of what the media pushes to the forefront, but some celebrity role models are influencing politicians in a positive way.

    What Are Some Roles Celebrities Have Played in the Political World?

    Celebrities are role models especially for young people, therefore they are spokespeople for many political figures when they want to persuade youth to align with their values. What better way to send this message than through a teenager’s idol such as an actor, performer, or famous athlete?

    In 1960, President John F. Kennedy received support from public figures such as Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin of the group Rat Pack. In the 2008 presidential election, Senator John McCain was supported, aka endorsed, by Clint Eastwood. Eastwood also endorsed President Donald Trump in more recent elections. You may be wondering, what makes this person so special that they can endorse presidential candidates? Well, Eastwood is a well-renowned actor, producer, and director. A person of this stature is connected with many sources who can also contribute to the candidate’s cause.

    Furthermore, in the 2008 election, household names like Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney,, Brad Pitt, and Samuel L. Jackson supported President Barack Obama. Oprah Winfrey is a highly respected entrepreneur who is a role model to young African American women. Other actors and athletes supported Hillary Clinton during the 2008. Some of these role models include LeBron James, Amy Schumer, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga.

    What Are Celebrities Doing Today in the Political World?

    Recently, celebrity entrepreneur Kim Kardashian influenced President Donald Trump to pardon 63-year-old Alice Johnson. The great grandmother was serving a life sentence for drug trafficking. According to Vox, the pardon “goes against the broader policy that Trump has been pushing for drug dealers and traffickers.” Trump has said the government should impose consequences on drug dealers and traffickers. However, Kim Kardashian found the punishment excessive for the 63-year-old great grandmother who is serving a life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense. Kardashian first came across the case through social media- of course. She then reached out to her lawyer to help deal with the case.

    Johnson had been serving her sentence since 1996, when she was financially strained and needed to support her family. Although Johnson understands her actions were wrong, she questions if she deserved a life sentence.

    Despite these past 20 years, Alice Johnson is now a free woman and her fight for criminal justice reform has just begun thanks to Kim Kardashian West.

    This goes to show that there is more to learn about our role models, and this includes their politics.

  • Animals, Articles, Sheroes

    SHero: Rachel Mohd

    Rachel Mohd is an animal rights activist that definitely falls into the category of Shero. She is an 18-year-old local to Birmingham who started Animal Allies, a club that works on animal activism. I had the pleasure of interviewing her. Read on to see what she had to say!

    Question: How did you get interested in animal rights?
    Answer: I have always been passionate about animal rights. I think once I started volunteering at my local human society, my love for animals finally had an outlet. Seeing animals gain the confidence they needed in order to be adopted after training them for a few weeks really opened my eyes and made me want others to see what they were capable of.

    Q: When did you decide you wanted to start Animal Allies?
    A: I have always wanted to start Animal Allies, I just didn’t know how. One of my teachers told me that I should’ve started a club at my high school promoting animal allies, but it was too late because applications were due long ago. I thought that was a great idea and still wanted to do it, so I contacted the teen advisory board at the Homewood Public Library and told them my idea and then Animal Allies was born.

    Q:What all does Animal Allies do?
    A: Animal Allies do different things each meeting. We have had guest speakers come in and educate the community on what it takes to own a pet and the importance spaying and neutering. We have also had staff from my local humane society, The Greater Birmingham Humane Society, come in and teach us about how to become volunteers. We were asked to make posters for The Cats and Dogs Foundation to be displayed at Birmingham’s Do Dah Day. We have had vegetarian pot lucks, watched educational films on animal rights, made posters that promoted animal rights to hang around town, made totes with animal rights slogans, and we have even had therapy animals come in.

    Q: Are there plans to expand Animal Allies?
    A: There are plans to expand Animal Allies. We have started to make flyers to put up around town so more people can hear about our club and what we do. We want to continue putting our name out and gaining new members.

    Q: Do you think animal rights are an issue everyone should get involved with? If so, why?
    A: I believe that animal rights are an issue and everyone should be work towards being a voice for the animals. I have always believed that we should support animal rights because animals can’t do it themselves. If we don’t stick up for the animals, no one else will. It is important to understand that you don’t have to do anything big in order to support animal rights. Meatless Mondays, volunteering at your local humane society, adopting instead of shopping for a pet, and even just educating those close to you are all ways anyone can help support animals.

    Q: Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start their own sort of organization?
    A: Have passion for what you are do and there is no way you won’t succeed! Many people believe that you have to have certain traits in order to create something, but it’s important to realize that if you have already thought about creating your own organization, you have what it takes!

    Q: What’s your favorite animal?
    A: My favorite animal would have to be a dog!

    Thank you so much to Rachel Mohd for doing this interview!

    (Written by Megan Flint.)

  • Articles, Sheroes

    This Shero devotes her life to math, science, oh and curing brain tumors.

    Accomplishments like the “Most Outstanding PhD Student” award in Mathematics and the Dean’s Award for UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences are just a few of Elizabeth Scribner’s accolades.

    Elizabeth was born in Charlottesville, Virginia but grew up in Talladega, Alabama.
    When she was 15, she went to boarding school at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. “There were so many academic opportunities, and the math and sciences were world class. I really enjoyed biology.”

    Elizabeth looks back at St. Paul’s as the birthplace of her math and science passions. “It was great to be in an environment where it was actually cool for a girl to be smart.”

    She then continued to Princeton where she got her undergraduate degree in history, focusing on the intersection of science and history.
    Elizabeth married her college sweetheart right after graduating, not knowing what to do professionally. She decided to apply to be a substitute teacher, and became an algebra and geometry teacher all year. This is where she first found her passion for teaching.

    She then went on and got her Masters in Math at UAB and is currently set to graduate this fall to become Dr. Scribner with her PhD. She also had 3 babies along the way!

    Elizabeth helped her dad found a solar power and LED lighting company, Eagle Solar & Light, and gives presentations about sustainable energy to community groups. She’s also involved in helping her church and several nonprofits, as if she weren’t busy enough.

    A normal day for this do-it-all-shero? Gets up at 6, gets her children ready for school, and then works on her studies as efficiently as possible. Her children are 5, 3 and 10 months old, so she spends every second she can with them.

    Since she does so much, I asked what she would boil her main passions down to. “The common thread in everything I do is helping and teaching people.”
    So, what exactly is she researching? “My research is centered on brain tumor growth. We could use this math model and predict a patient’s tumor growth.”
    She encourages more people, especially young women, to pursue math. “People look at math and think it’s mundane or intimidating. Algebra may seem boring, but it’s a stepping stone. Algebra is what I’m working with now, which is applying math to curing brain cancer.”

    Elizabeth encourages students to study math. “When you can get to those higher stages of math, it is so useful and rewarding.”
    She is happy with her decision to study math, and encourages girls to give it a shot. “There are so many job opportunities for a woman with a math degree.”

    And for how she got to where she is?

    “Fate, luck, and willingness to try something new.”

    It sure doesn’t seem like luck to me, after hearing how hard and endlessly she works. So for any young women that don’t want to do their math homework because it’s “nerdy” or “boring”, just think: you could be like Elizabeth, researching brain tumor cures!

  • Sheroes

    This Shero Went From Being a Harvard Basketball Graduate to a White House Reporter!

    I had the chance to speak with Jacqueline Alemany, 28, on her time at Harvard, and transitioning into the real world of CBS News.

    Upon asking Jacqueline how she ended up playing college basketball, she said, “I was playing basketball since I could walk.”

    Jaqueline attended Harvard for 4 years on the women’s basketball team. Although sports took up most of her free time, she still maintained focus on her major, government, and minor, Spanish.

    During one of her first classes in Government called “Road to the White House”, Jacqueline was taught by a professor named Carlos Diaz.

    Jacqueline reminisces, saying “It was one of my first tastes of politics and D.C. and campaigns, and I just remember loving it. It’s kind of one of the first things that peaked my interest.”

    Fast forward past graduation, she ran into old professor Carlos in the Briefing room in The White House, who is now an advisor to Trump.

    However, Jacqueline didn’t think she’d end up where she is now. She thought she’d go into finance, and started out at a credit card company.

    “I loved the company and who I worked with, but I knew it wasn’t right for me. I was always passionate abut writing.”

    Half way through her first year at her job, she picked up her belongings and decided to move on to bigger and better things- CBS news.

    She writes for as much as possible. “Writing is a muscle you need to constantly use.”

    She is constantly writing different types of articles. “There’s spot news, which can take 15 minutes, and then there’s articles that can take a lot more time..”

    Every day is different for Jacqueline- she tells me she had early morning shift today- 6 a.m. She’s constantly looking ahead, and looking at things like Trump’s tweets and actions.

    I asked Jacqueline if working so many hours and writing so much gets old. “There’s not a thing I can complain about”, she told me.

    “I feel like I’m in grad school, I get to learn so much every day. The hours are demanding, but it’s rewarding work.”

    It helps that she is surrounded by supportive women. She says, “I always feel elevated and that my ideas are being taken seriously.”

    Overall, Jacqueline says she is content with where she is at, and what she is doing. “I love being a journalist- I learn something new every single day. It’s a really inspiring job.”

    I asked Jacqueline on advice on how to succeed, and to get where she is at. She told me, “My main advice for this job is to be confident. Don’t doubt yourself when other people doubt you. That’s been my biggest takeaway from this job.”