News and notes from Imagine! and the Imagine! Foundation.

Love Who You Are

Jun-06-2022

Employees

Jessi Hersey is an Imagine! employee who teaches self-acceptance through writing at Imagine!’s After School Program. We recently sat down with her to learn more about her background and her work.

Jessi Hersey makes heart sign with hands

When did you start writing/publishing professionally?

I started publishing when I was 13, but writing came about when I was 5 or 6. Poetry is where I started and the rest is history. I published my first book when I was 18 and that was through my first self-publishing company, “Changing the Bloodline.” Before that, a poem of mine was published in a book that features many poems from various authors, and I still haven’t seen where that is yet (laughs).

What is your main motivation for writing and telling stories?

Despite being diagnosed with Expressive Language Disorder as a child (by definition of this disorder I should not be able to write or talk), I’ve always wanted to share stories and my voice. I had some great teachers who believed in me, but those who don’t and say I can’t write or be an author… those people pushed me harder to be a writer and tell my story. It’s been a journey working on spelling, punctuation, and avoiding run on sentences, which is why I started with poetry. Everyone has a story to tell, which is why I started my own publishing company, allowing space for others to share their voice as well.

What does every story absolutely have to have?

All of my stories have a narrative of “don’t give up on yourself,” “love who you are,” and “just be you.”

 How do you deal with the critics and people who aren’t as accepting?

I’ve learned to ignore the “non-lovers” and to spend time with myself to reevaluate my thoughts. When I take a long walk to think and those voices come in, I ignore them. Or there’s the option of block on Facebook (laughs), but realizing that that “ignore” button in real life is in our heads, and we have to learn how to press it.

How did you get involved with Imagine!?

I had just moved back from Florida to Colorado. I had no car and was working at a sandwich place, and I was miserable. I was so tired of retail… and yes, I still consider that retail, just with food. My mom told me about Imagine! and how some of her friends had worked there for a long time, so I decided to test it out. Prior to this, I volunteered at the Therapeutic Riding Center and also did an internship there, which gave me some background in providing therapeutic interventions for clients. I began at Imagine! in January of 2020, just a couple of months before the pandemic.

Have you been able to use your writing/storytelling background in your role at Imagine!?

I led a class on writing and storytelling in the After School Program and we’re planning to do another one next year. The main focus was allowing kids to tell their story. One kid did SpongeBob and another did Cinderella combined with someone she made up, while another did a story based on history she learned earlier that day. We taught the class throughout three days. First day we talked about brainstorming and how that’s the first step of telling a story. Then, we did an activity on “Title, Author, and Illustrator,” so the kids could decide on what role they wanted to play when creating their story.

Day two was writing the story, and day three we bound the stories into their own little books! These books were displayed at the Imagine! Community Art Show back in April, and I just couldn’t get enough of that particular display and took lots and lots of pictures (see picture below)!

books created by Imagine! clients

What have been some highlights from working with the kiddos at Imagine!?

Just seeing the way they progress. Seeing the changes personality-wise or when they make friends. Seeing their truth and that they can do anything that anyone else can do. I understand the stigma that they deal with every day.

Any big plans or aspirations with your writing?

I want to get my poetry class filmed so people with special needs can learn the basics of poetry and how to write it. This is how I started writing and so I want to start there and help them build a foundation. Poetry doesn’t follow any rules so we can wing it and turn it into so many things. There are a lot of artists who start with poetry and launch it into lyrics and singing, or stories and children’s books, the possibilities are endless. Another big piece to this will be making the course affordable for everyone.

A big thank you to Jessi for bringing her talents and inspiration to the Imagine! After School Program and helping teach our participants that they can do anything they set their minds to. Discover Jessi’s publications and more on her website.




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