Who We Are

Truth Be Told Cares

COMMUNITY • AUTHENTICITY • RESPECT • EMPATHY • STRENGTH

Truth Be Told is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit service organization providing transformational tools of community building, communication skills, creativity and self-care for women behind and beyond prison walls. The Truth Be Told headquarters is located in Austin, Texas.

Our prison and jail programs provide opportunities for personal and spiritual growth and healing from past trauma through truth telling in safe communities. We offer eight unique programs — all of which encourage compassion, trust-building, community, empathy, self-acceptance and forgiveness, and a greater sense of accountability for one’s life.

Our programs, designed by women for women, address a documented service gap in women’s correctional facilities for gender-responsive programs and practices. Our classes are facilitated by volunteer women who have experienced both literal and metaphorical “prisons” in their own lives and are willing and able to learn and grow alongside the women they serve.

Our Mission

Provide transformational trauma-responsive programs for women who are or have been incarcerated to promote healing and empowerment, and break the cycle of incarceration for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Our Vision

A society where all justice-involved women are healed of their trauma, thereby breaking the cycle of incarceration.

We Teach the Four C’s

Communication skills, Community-building, Creativity, and Care for Self.

STAFF

Heather Emerson,
Interim Executive Director

In August of 2021, Heather stepped down from the board of Truth Be Told and into the Interim ED role while the hiring committee searches for the perfect replacement to Katie Ford after her 3.5 years at the helm.

Heather has spent the last 15 years rebuilding her life after being incarcerated for one year. Her promise upon release was to grow, be honest, and do good things. She graduated from University of Texas with dual degrees in Mathematics and Linguistics, and in 2020 with her Masters from Harvard University.

Heather is an entrepreneur at heart, co-founding a 5 million dollar Austin-based sustainable business called Prep To Your Door that prioritizes people and planet over profit. Her proudest accomplishment is being invited to the board of Truth Be Told in 2020, and named as Forbes Next 1000 for 2021. Heather was also a finalist for Austin Under 40 Awards in 2020 and 2021, and won the prestigious Austin Women’s Way Award for “Business to Watch.”

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emersonheather/

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.

Emily Lederman,
Program Director

Krystall is passionate about working towards our collective liberation in all facets of her life. Her combined personal and professional experiences have brought her to Truth Be Told. With personal experience navigating the criminal injustice system, she has helped others to navigate the world post-release and found her own healing and growth through artistic exploration and a tight-knit community.

Before joining the Truth Be Told team, Krystall worked as a Staff Paralegal at Legal Assistance of Western New York. Her five years there provided a solid foundation in working from a trauma-informed approach. Her most rewarding projects were correcting criminal history records and founding a robust and effective Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee with her colleagues.

From 2018 to 2020, she served as the volunteer director of a latine cultural organization, Cultura Ithaca, through which she organized a variety of cultural events including a six-week writing series for community members. She is also the co-founder of Bien Acompañada Press, a collaborative latine zine, which has published three issues. Several artists included in those issues have gone on to publish their own books of poetry or participate in artist residencies.

Ultimately, Krystall hopes to leave behind a holistic knowledge and practice of healing, tools for understanding our self and our interconnectedness, and plenty of joy, which is the best reprieve from the harshness of life. Krystall graduated from Ithaca College in 2014 with a B.A. in Sociology.

Krystall Escobedo-Paz
Program Coordinator

Hilda Rivas,
Grants & Operations Coordinator

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.

board of directors

Jean Boone,
Board President

Jean Boone is a retired Justice of the Peace from Waco. She was the first Black woman elected in that capacity in McLennan County, where she served for 14 years. She has worked tirelessly with community-based organizations, volunteering with vulnerable populations within her church and community. In 2019, she served as a volunteer co-facilitator for Truth Be Told’s Talk to Me Writing program at the STRIVE Center, housed within the Mountain View Women’s Unit in Gatesville.

Because of her experience as a volunteer facilitator for Truth Be Told, Jean chose to apply for the organization’s Board of Directors. Being a formerly incarcerated woman and a survivor of the federal mass incarceration experience, she felt her perspective would enable her to engage with the board in a meaningful manner.

She is an avid community and social justice activist for underserved communities. Previously, she has served on the boards of Neighbor Works, a Waco-based nonprofit whose mission is to build stronger neighborhoods through homeownership, and the Heart of Texas Community Health Center, an organization that ensures high-quality, equitable health care for all.

Jean is a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) graduate who earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Prairie View A&M University and a master’s degree in education from Texas Southern University. She is a certified Texas Master Gardener and a Special Olympics fan. She enjoys playing Scrabble and reading.

Originally from Orlando, Florida, with a professional background in corporate event planning, Angie created A Soiree by Angie to channel her personal style and passion for design and creativity. A Soiree has grown from designing events to custom dried floral arrangements and consulting for local Austin businesses – ranging from brand development, graphic design, photography, community relations, and social media management.

With that passion for connecting people and building community, Angie co-founded a local Women Empowerment group called Glam Soiree. Glam Soiree is a flourishing and intentional community where women of all different backgrounds and professions come together to celebrate life, support and inspire each other, set intentions for the future – and be glam while doing it. Pre-covid, we hosted bi-monthly events at the top restaurants and venues throughout Austin.

Being formerly incarcerated herself, Angie is a strong supporter of women that are currently and have been involved in the criminal justice system who are working to rebuild their lives. She believes that we all have the ability to use our voice, discover our true selves, heal from past traumas, and create the life we want to live.

Angie Hejl,
Board Secretary

Lisa Bell,
Board Member

My name is Lisa Davis Bell. I am 52 years old, a mother of one, a wife, and a grandmother of a tribe!

I was formerly incarcerated at the Lockhart’s Women’s Facility for 3 years, 9 months and 26 days. During this time I was introduced to my “Saving Grace” Truth-Be-Told by way of a flyer posted on my dorm’s poster board encouraging women to come find healing through storytelling.

I am a 3 time graduate of Truth-Be-Told’s programs; Talk to Me Circle, Talk to Me Speaking and Talk to Me Writing. After my release I connected with TBT and began my career in volunteering and giving back. I became certified and approved through TDCJ Ombudsman to enter into the prisons through the front door as a volunteer with Truth-Be-Told. BEYOND BARS!

I became a Facilitator in training under Katy Ford’s tutelage and then became a Facilitator for Talk to Me Speaking at the Lockhart’s Women’s Facility. I have been involved with and spoken at many, many, many, many, fundraising events for TBT as well as podcasts, award events, panel events and much more.

I received my awesome quilt (quilted by Carol Waid’s mom) after staying out for 3 years and staying connected with TBT… those were the requirements in order to receive the quilt… That quilt is my Saving Grace, my emotional support, my “I DID IT” quilt, and so much more!

I am a small business owner of: Her Dreams T-Shirt Designs. I continue to give back and volunteer within the community. I love reading, helping others, and most of all spending time with my grandkids. I’m honored to be on the board. I am excited to add my experience, knowledge and heart to continue to elevate this organization!

Megan Young is a trained life coach with experience in life transitions and grief. Through her own personal story of loss, she has discovered the key to creating a fulfilling life after heartbreak and grief.

Megan began her career journey after graduating with a degree in fashion merchandising from The University of North Texas. She then sought the help of a life coach to navigate success in both her professional and personal life. Through this guidance, she was able to create a rewarding career in both sports and fashion. It wasn’t until the passing of her sister that she felt a calling to transition into her now role as a life coach. Now her mission is to help others redefine their life and guide them with solution based practices to transform their lives.


Megan and her husband have two sons, Dudley the cat and five chickens. As a small town girl who escaped to the city, she finally embraced the saying, “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl” and moved to the Texas Hill Country outside of Austin. There, Megan loves to lend support and encouragement to her community, family, and friends.

Megan Young,
Board Member

Rodney Northern,
Board Member

Rodney Northern is a seasoned business builder with a unique blend of strategic vision, organizational leadership, financial acumen and a “get ‘er done” mentality. During his corporate tenure, he has led billion-dollar businesses, created more than $15 billion of sustainable innovation businesses and managed multimillion-dollar budgets for many well-known consumer brands, to include Miller Brewing Company, Tyson Foods Inc. and Coca-Cola Company. Today, Rodney runs Nucleus Group, a consulting practice that focuses on business operations, leadership development, and organizational alignment and transformation. He is also a lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin, where he instructs students on innovation and entrepreneurship processes and scale.

Born in Kansas and raised in Southern California, Rodney has called Austin home for the past 10 years. He received his bachelor of science degree in economics from the University of California. He earned his master of business administration degree with an emphasis in corporate finance and marketing management at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

Bridget O’Shaughnessy is an assistant district attorney in the Special Victims Unit at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. Prior to this, she was an associate attorney and mediator at O’Toole Atwell PC, where she focused on business and contract disputes, guardianship, and family law specializing in domestic violence matters and Title IX. Bridget also once served as a staff attorney at Texas Advocacy Project, where she represented and counseled survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking regarding protective orders. For Texas Advocacy Project, she led trauma-informed education and outreach efforts to women’s shelters, law enforcement, government agencies and universities with a focus on Title IX. She earned her law degree from Texas Tech University in May 2015.

Bridget O'Shaughnessy,
Board Member

Renae Evaro,
Board Member

Renae Evaro is currently a Technical Project Coordinator in the gaming industry! Renae is a transplant to Austin, but a native to Texas. She was born and raised in Odessa, TX where she completed her studies at the local University. She graduated with a bachelor’s administration degree with a concentration in Finance. Renae’s experience crosses multiple industries, such as hospitality and healthcare, but her current passion is technology. In her spare time, Renae enjoys outdoor activities, concerts, and coffee!

Lauren is a spiritual career coach and corporate sales and HR consultant. She is passionate about authentic leadership and showing up vulnerably in all facets of life. After 10 years working in Fortune 500 sales and HR, she left in December 2020 to start her own practice. 

Lauren’s soul purpose is holding space for women to heal their trauma and rise. Her favorite activities include travel with her husband and dog, nature walks, meditation and sister circles. 

Lauren Hughes,
Board Member

Past Leadership

Katie Ford,
Former Executive Director, 2017-2021

Almost a decade of volunteer facilitating a “healing through storytelling” class at a women’s prison in Lockhart, Texas, awakened Katie Ford to a cycle of interpersonal violence/abuse, addiction and incarceration affecting generations of women. In December 2016, she left behind a 20-plus-year editorial career to pursue work inspired by the transformation she witnessed behind prison walls when women are given the tools and safe space to heal from past trauma and discover their personal worth.

In the summer of 2017, Katie launched the first and only trauma-specific program at Lockhart prison. She supported herself entirely through private donations, which she raised as she facilitated consecutive rounds of classes through the fall of 2017. In August 2017, she became the executive director of Truth Be Told, the Austin nonprofit under which she had been volunteer facilitating since 2010. Her Healing Trauma project officially became a Truth Be Told program shortly thereafter.

While Katie was executive director of Truth Be Told, her experience as a writer and storyteller became her superpower. The nonprofit’s operating budget nearly tripled in size, its sustaining monthly donor community increased sevenfold, and the staff grew from 1.5 employees to 4 employees, 1 contractual position and 2 paid peer facilitators with lived experience of incarceration. Katie retired from her role as executive director in June 2021 and is eager to find new ways to apply her skills as a writer, organizer, community builder and facilitator

Nathalie Sorrell is a “show and tell” woman, commissioned minister to women, and a passionate personal and spiritual growth advocate. In February 2000, a prison warden’s desire to have female inmates tell their stories to juveniles on probation resulted in Nathalie designing the first Talk to Me Speaking class. Her husband of 40 years, Jim Walsh, became the first supporter of Truth Be Told and has continued to support the organization as a donor. Nathalie has a daughter, Sarah Orman, whose family lives in Austin, and a son, Devin Walsh, whose family lives in Asheville, NC.

From 2000-2010, Nathalie shifted her focus as a commissioned minister and retreat leader for church ladies like herself to creating healing and truth-telling programs for incarcerated women. She exercised her “take charge” qualities as the visionary leader of Truth Be Told when it became a nonprofit in 2003. From 2003 to 2010, she was the organization’s behind bars coordinator, serving as the liaison with prison officials, overseeing the program calendar, driving carpools of volunteers to the prison, and emceeing program orientations and graduations. Meanwhile, as a natural networker, she invited everyone who seemed interested in what she was doing to come participate at Lockhart prison. With Carol Waid, a writing buddy who shared Nathalie’s respect for 12-step spirituality, Truth Be Told’s program offerings increased from one Talk to Me class to three, as well as the addition of Exploring Creativity workshops and the God in Human Form annual performance (now known as Miracles in Human Form). In the fall of 2010, Carol and Nathalie took the Talk To Me program to TDCJ’s Hilltop women’s unit in Gatesville.

In 2016, Nathalie retired from her active role in Truth Be Told’s daily operations, but she remains committed to the organization as a donor and volunteer. In retirement, she enjoys her role as grandmother, is active in her radical little church, Journey of Imperfect Faith, and practices her own 12-step spirituality in all aspects of this beautiful, full life.

Nathalie Sorrell,
Co-Founder

Carol Waid,
Co-Founder

Though never incarcerated, Carol Waid believes there was a time when she was serving a “life sentence,” imprisoned by chaos, addiction and domestic violence. She found her way to freedom through 12-step programs and an 18-year journey as a co-founder, facilitator and program director of Truth Be Told.

This shy, curious woman — a mother of two adult children, a gifted writer and a seeker who was looking for meaningful work — had no idea that meeting women in prison would be the threshold she needed to step over. As Truth Be Told’s program director and a facilitator of programs behind and beyond prison walls for nearly two decades, she became a woman with purpose, passion and healing gifts who was willing and able to give back what had been given to her.

Carol was the first facilitator of the Talk to Me Writing program at Lockhart in 2002. At the invitation of a programs warden, she designed a re-entry class called Let’s Get Real for incarcerated women who had been given a release date. Carol also created the Living Deeper & Freer program for Talk to Me graduates serving long sentences.

Under Carol’s leadership as program director, Truth Be Told grew to serving approximately 1,000 justice-involved women every year across five correctional facilities and in the free world.

Aryanna “Suzanne” Armistead — a dance artist and life coach — was invited to lead an Exploring Creativity workshop at Lockhart prison in late 2001. Aryanna encouraged Carol to create Talk to Me Writing and then went on to develop Talk To Me Movement, the third class in the Talk To Me program. In 2003, Aryanna enlisted the certified public accountant who helped the three founders complete the paperwork to transform their work behind prison walls into a 501(c)3 organization. In November 2003, Truth Be Told officially became a nonprofit. Aryanna retired from her prison work in 2004, but her legacy lives on in Talk to Me Movement and Exploring Creativity, two programs which are still offered today.

Aryanna Armistead,
Co-Founder