ZANESVILLE, OH – A unique program has been underway between a group of unexpected partners in Southeastern Ohio.
Ohio’s 3rd Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour was recognized for her desire to provide outreach to those in recovery and those incarcerated in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Through collaboration Gunter-Seymour has worked with groups such as Cedar Ridge Behavioral Health Solutions and the Belmont Correctional Institution. Gunter-Seymour shares what this experience has meant to her.
“I’m so honored that these women and men trusted me enough to come in and meet with them and meet them and get to know them. And to openly share our stories with each other has helped me grow as a human being. I mean it’s humbling, it’s humbling and I’m just so grateful for the chance to do this. I hope I get to continue to do so,” Gunter-Seymour said.
One of the biggest things that Cedar Ridge focuses on is expanding the different ways they can help their clients grow to maintain their sobriety or work on their mental health. Executive Assistant Layla Johnson was amazed at how these workshops helped clients process what they have experienced in life.
“That’s one of the tougher things to do is to be able to take a very painful memory or a trauma or you know something that’s happened in their lives and repeat that without feeling the sting of it. And I definitely feel like you know this journaling class has given them the option to do that. To be able to say okay this part of my life was awful and it hurt but this is how it sculpted me into who I am today,” Johnson said.
David Gray, Warden at Belmont Correctional Institution, spoke on how not only were the workshops educational, they were helping inmates with their mental health. It was an a positive outcome he was not expecting to see.
“I did meet with the inmates face to face and just discussed the meetings that Kari’s having with them. And again they used terms like getting in touch with their personal feelings, channeling their thoughts. Going home from prison can be a really a challenging time for these guys and being able to journal and write down and discuss what they’re feeling and be able to put that into words I think the bulk of these guys have been able to say to me that it’s helped them kind of calm them down a little bit and prepare them for life after prison,” Gray said.
Gunter-Seymour said that she only wanted to be the Poet Laureate to have the chance to meet with those in recovery and those incarcerated. Everyone involved in this program expressed their gratitude to Gunter-Seymour for wanting to give back to the community and for Tim Buchanan, ODRC Internal Reentry Director for taking the reigns and making this all possible.