Voicing Vulnerability: CORRAL Students and Staff


By: Katie Peachey 

The collaborative partnership between CORRAL Riding Academy and the Literacy Community Initiative (LCI) was recently featured in a chapter of the book Genders, Cultures, and Literacies: Understanding Intersecting Identities.  The chapter, titled “Voicing Vulnerability”, was written by the LCI director and CORRAL board member, Dr. Crystal Chen Lee along with graduate assistants Kelsey Dufresne, Laura Jacobs, Caitlin Donovan, and Jennifer C. Mann.  This chapter highlights the healing power that writing, publishing, and sharing stories of vulnerability has had on CORRAL students and community members.  

During last year’s “Night of Stories” virtual reading event, the CORRAL student writers had an opportunity to showcase their vulnerability as a strength.  At the start of the reading, Joy, CORRAL’s executive director, voiced some of the girls’ concerns that, “No one listens to us.  No one hears us.”  Unfortunately, this is an all too common phenomenon experienced by teens from diverse backgrounds and experiences.  Through the partnership between CORRAL and LCI,  two books were written and published by CORRAL youth, A Leg Up and Healing Starts with a Story over the last two years.  From this experience, the student writers were given the opportunity to amplify their own voices in meaningful ways to the community.  Specifically, this chapter focuses on how this ongoing writing project has given CORRAL’s student writers opportunities, “to reclaim and restore power to oneself and for a community of women”.  The student writers were able to do this through opening up about past trauma and experiences.  Through their vulnerability in the writing process, they were able to find personal healing and a better understanding of identity.  One student writer expressed, “I wanted to [share my writing] because I need to say how I feel.  I tend to keep my emotions in and then explode.  I’ve learned not to keep things in because keeping them in is just not healthy”.  This meaningful reflection shows the impact that writing and sharing has had on the students at CORRAL.  Through the challenging yet inspiring work of sharing, “together, the girls strove to understand one another’s experiences as they united in their dreams for brighter tomorrows”.     

One way that the CORRAL students pursued their brighter tomorrows together was through sharing their writing at the “Night of Stories” reading event. Through their bravery and openness, the student writers were also able to redefine vulnerability.  One audience member shared with the research team that, “I was surprised by their willingness to be vulnerable, which actually shows the strength they have”. Another audience member expressed that the girls’ willingness to share their emotions through their writing inspired her to revisit her own writing.  These audience reactions show the power that these students have had in changing the narrative around vulnerability and in inspiring their communities to do the same.  Similar to the reflections of these audience members, we must each consider our own perspectives on vulnerability and its role in shaping our views on ourselves and our communities.     

Questions to Ponder:

How can I begin to see vulnerability as a strength not a weakness?

In what ways do I need to listen to the voices of youth in my community? 

How can I support others in sharing their important stories?

What important stories do I have to share with the world? 

Interested in learning more about CORRAL’s continuing work with LCI?  Visit www.go.ncsu/lci. Be on the lookout for CORRAL students’ next publication coming in April 2022! We would also love for you to join us on May 3rd for our annual LCI reading event hosted by the Friday Institute for Education Innovation located on NC State’s Campus.

CORRAL’s alumni will also be sharing their stories on Friday, May 20th at our Grow and Bloom Gala, which we will live-stream! RSVP here.

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CORRAL is a faith-motivated nonprofit that equips adolescent girls in high-risk situations through a long-term, holistic program of equine therapy and education.

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