Eight years of volunteer facilitating the Talk to Me Writing class for Truth Be Told awakened Katie Ford to the common narrative thread of trauma, abuse and addiction in the stories of incarcerated women. In December 2016, she left behind a 20-plus-year editorial career in pursuit of work inspired by the transformation she witnessed in the classroom when incarcerated women were given the tools and safe space to discover their strengths and personal worth.
In July 2017, supported by donations she raised independently, Katie implemented the first trauma-informed program at Lockhart Correctional Facility while still volunteering for Truth Be Told. In August 2017, she accepted Truth Be Told’s invitation to serve as part-time executive director. In May 2018, she was promoted to full time, and her Healing Trauma program became part of Truth Be Told.
Katie has spoken on behalf of Truth Be Told at the National Adult and Juvenile Female Offenders Conference and the Travis County Sheriff’s Vision Summit: Looking Toward the Future of Re-entry. She has completed numerous continuing education courses in restorative justice, gender-responsive principles and treatment, expressive arts for healing, and recovery and support for justice-involved women.
She views her midlife career change as her way of showing gratitude for the women who awakened her to her purpose and given her life meaning beyond measure.
Complementary paths in education and nonprofit leadership have led Emily Lederman to Truth Be Told. A strong believer in the transformative power of storytelling, Emily has taught literature and creative writing classes for adolescents, college students and adults impacted by the criminal justice system.
Prior to joining Truth Be Told, Emily managed community engagement at the nonprofit Grand St. Settlement in New York City, where she completed an American Council of Learned Societies Postdoctoral Public Fellowship. For the agency, she developed an advocacy strategic plan, focused on public housing, immigrant rights and youth leadership. As part of the plan's implementation, Emily led trauma-informed social justice trainings for staff and developed a teen advocacy program. She also built and sustained strategic relationships with public officials, community leaders, nonprofit partners and educational institutions.
While in New York, Emily also had the privilege of serving on a criminal justice reform campaign led by JustLeadershipUSA, an advocacy group that empowers individuals most affected by incarceration to drive policy change.
Emily earned her PhD in contemporary literature at The University of Texas (UT) at Austin in 2016. She has designed and taught college-level courses on social justice and the intersections of gendered and racial oppression. At UT, she facilitated a women’s leadership program in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. Emily also organized and led a weekly creative writing workshop at Travis County Correctional Complex. Prior to graduate school, she worked for the nonprofit Citizen Schools, developing curriculum and managing volunteers.
Emily’s knowledge of literature, gender studies and restorative justice inform her leadership and her commitment to social justice. She views her role at Truth Be Told as powerfully joining together her work in education and the nonprofit sector.
Over 15 years of using theatre and creative writing as tools for healing and transformation led Kat Craft to Truth Be Told. She started out facilitating mask-making workshops for young people at an emergency youth shelter in Dallas. She then taught for arts-based organizations in Austin and Chicago, as well as in London, where she earned a master’s degree from Goldsmiths College in applied theatre: drama in educational, community and social contexts. She also trained with London-based Clean Break, a women’s theatre company dedicated to changing lives and minds — on stage, in prison and in the community.
Upon returning to Austin, she founded and co-led Conspire Theatre, which for seven years offered incarcerated women and their allies a healing and empowering experience through theatre and creative writing. Kat witnessed firsthand the powerful effects of Truth Be Told’s programs as a guest facilitator of our Exploring Creativity workshops, as well as when several of our formerly incarcerated graduates performed with Conspire Theatre in the community.
Prior to her work in Texas jails and prisons, Kat was the hotline coordinator for Austin-based Lilith Fund, which provides financial assistance and emotional support while building community spaces for women who need abortions in Texas. She was the first paid staff member of the organization and led a team of more than 40 volunteers.
Kat is also a playwright and screenwriter, whose pilot about a woman’s re-entry into society after incarceration, “Halfway,” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and can be seen on HBOGo. She is passionate about the arts as a tool for social change and healing — especially when it is created by folks speaking about their lived experiences.
Hilda Rivas is a firm believer in the power of second chances. In 2011, she had the ultimate second chance when she applied and was accepted into Free Minds, a local project that makes higher education accessible to adults with low income. Her dream of continuing her education became a reality when she completed her bachelor’s degree in human services at St. Edwards’ University in 2014.
Previous to joining Truth Be Told, Hilda worked for nearly 10 years with Communities in Schools, beginning as a receptionist and then stepping into the role of wraparound case manager, where she provided direct services to families with complex needs. Her direct-service work with clients helped her realize that social work is her passion. Hilda loves helping women and children find their voices, and she prides herself on building spaces where her clients feel appreciated and empowered.
Hilda is pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Texas State University. She also has an internship at Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. She has nearly 20 years of nonprofit experience, having also worked as an administrative assistant for the American Heart Association and as a program specialist for Central East Austin Community Organization.
Hilary Russell has worked as a bookkeeper and staff accountant since 2010. In 2016, she went into business for herself and has since attracted a growing list of for-profit and nonprofit clients. She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. Edward’s University. When not crunching numbers, Hilary enjoys yoga, painting, hiking, camping, travel and photography.