APBP is run entirely by volunteers. We are grateful for the hard work the people in our town, community, and region have put into our organization.
Are you considering volunteering with us? Take a look at what past and current volunteers have to say about their experience.
Camila (Volunteer, 2018–2020)
I have been involved at APBP for two and a half years, and I am the large group trainer and coordinator. At first, I got involved with the program due to a necessity of volunteer hours for a club I wanted to join at my school. Eventually, I fell in love with the program and wanted to keep volunteering, even though I had already met the requirement. I then became a trainer to train new volunteers and started inviting people from my high school to come volunteer.
I love the program so much I will also be volunteering during my college career at WVU. APBP has been an amazing experience for me: The atmosphere is amazing, everyone is extremely nice, and the service we do really impacts the community. I would highly recommend for anyone to try it out if interested!
Rayna (Volunteer, 2010–2020)
Being involved in APBP is always a pleasure, sometimes a tear, and often the best part of my day.
It’s been a decade! I’ve been a volunteer—opening letters, sitting with those words, selecting gently used books, wrapping them like gifts. I’ve been a student organization officer—holding book sales and book drives to clear the clutter and carve space for the underserved. I’ve been an intern—creating lists of films for future series and discussion, scanning images of artwork for the digital archive, researching changes in policies and their impact on the inside.
What I know is that I’ve never loved an organization more wholly or given my time more freely; it means that much to be a part of something so beautiful you just can’t quite capture it.
Katie (Intern, Spring 2019)
APBP was a project close to my heart from the start. After working in an inner-city school where I saw many of my students incarcerated at a young age, I was thrilled to be working on a project that directly reached out to them.
I learned a number of new skills. Because of APBP and the book clubs, I learned a ton about nonprofits and how the board works to facilitate the large reach of the project itself. I also learned about fundraising and how to spread public awareness of a group on a budget. With that, I learned all about grant writing, including how to find grants, write thorough and effective proposals, and how to manage the funds once secured.
Through the book clubs, I learned quite a bit about editing an anthology, piecing together a large work as a whole, and working in tandem with authors and other editors to complete a finished project. In this editing, I also gained quite a bit of experience with online and computerized editing programs, such as Photoshop and Paint. I also learned quite a bit about non-traditional learning environments and how to work within spaces that were not exactly ideal to maximize student enjoyment.
But the biggest take away, for me, came from interacting with all of the individuals who interact within APBP. The women who I met through book club, the men and women who I met through Hazelton’s career day, and the men and women who write us every day have left a forever lasting impact on me. I can say with certainty that I never truly understood the scope and effect of mass incarceration until working directly with this project. In Katy’s Spring 2017 class, I had studied the lasting and wide sweeping effects of mass incarceration on generations of a community. However, it wasn’t until directly meeting and interacting with these incarcerated individuals that I was able to better grasp the difficulties that come, not just from living and attempting to better themselves inside, but with the reentry process.
I also can’t discount what I gained from interacting with the public and explaining the purpose of APBP. While the reactions from most people were overwhelmingly positive, there were a number of individuals who were hesitant to become involved. Speaking with these individuals and listening to their thoughts allowed me to better examine the impact of cultural tradition on the public. I had understood that the system of mass incarceration had been persisting by avoiding public scrutiny and fueling public perception and paranoia with propaganda, but I hadn’t truly seen it in action.
I can say with certainty that this impacted my personal and academic development. It has changed the way I teach, the way I volunteer, and the way I speak with the general public. It has made me an advocate, one who is not shy to discuss issues that may be controversial. And it has allowed me to better myself as an advocate, finding new ways to directly reach people and raise awareness. The internships have been invaluable to me.
Valerie (Intern, Summer/Fall 2016)
I can’t overstate the impact that co-facilitating the book clubs has had on my teaching. Primarily, I’ve learned to be a better listener. The experience has reminded me that we bring our own stories with us to class, those stories affect how we experience literature, and the stories we bring are so varied. After working with APBP, I have begun to theme my sophomore composition courses around the issues of mass incarceration. I have also designed my American Lit survey course and Pop Culture course to occasionally correspond to the men’s prison book club reading schedule. This allowed me to bring the voices of the incarcerated men into my classroom, and vice versa. By the end of the semester, my students felt like they knew the imprisoned men and began incorporating considerations of the costs of “law and order” rhetoric into their informal and formal writings. Many students, in both composition and literature classes, have expressed that connecting the texts we encounter in class with a specific social justice issue has helped them better understand the social and political power of literature and writing.
Working with APBP has helped me develop a strong alt-ac résumé and portfolio for making a smooth transition to the nonprofit world. The skills I honed during my time with APBP translate well to fit job descriptions for many community outreach and director positions within nonprofit organizations. For example, I recently applied for a Community Outreach Coordinator position with ACLU of West Virginia. I frontloaded my work with APBP in both my cover letter and résumé and also highlighted my teaching experience within the department. I was quickly contacted for an interview. I’m confident that my application would not have been as successful without the nonprofit experience APBP internships provide.
I have loved every minute of my work with APBP. Simply, this work has made me a better scholar, a better teacher, and a better person. I’ve learned a lot from working with Katy, but one of the most valuable lessons is an ongoing one. Katy consistently engages in deep, honest reflection and evaluation of the work of APBP. She has a unique ability, and willingness, to hold the big picture in view and to evaluate the day-to-day work of APBP from within the frame of prison abolition advocacy. Some of my most memorable conversations with Katy are times when she grapples with the long-term effects of the book clubs and whether we are doing the work we set out to do or if we are at risk of being incorporated into a broken system. I’ve seen Katy mentor many of us APBPers through this process of introspection and self-evaluation. This skill is vital to the work of nonprofits, but is also very needed in discussions of higher ed.
Whichever path I take, academic or alt-ac, I will bring this practice with me. It is one of the many reasons I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with, and learn from, Katy.
Lydia (Intern, Summer 2016)
I learned so much, especially by volunteering with the book club—it was honestly unbelievable. I’m so glad I met those incredible men and women. I also learned more about the behind-the-scenes running of a small nonprofit. Since I want to work in the nonprofit sector professionally, this experience was invaluable.