Gina’s Team founder to speak in Sun Lakes

On Thursday, April 21 at 10:30 a.m., Sue Ellen Allen, an author, speaker and prison expert will share about Gina’s Team, an organization that brings educational programs into prison to inspire and empower the inmate population to strive for a better future and a successful reentry.

As Executive Director for GINA’s Team, Sue Ellen works with prison officials, legislators and interns from Arizona State University to serve the forgotten population behind bars so that upon their re-entry to society, they will join our community as positive, contributing members.

Through her unique collaboration with ATHENA International, Gina’s Team brings the ATHENA Leadership Model inside Arizona’s women’s prison with a remarkable success rate of a 6 percent recidivism rate. Additionally, Gina’s Team has joined forces with the Clinton Global Initiative to create a community collaboration to find jobs for their program graduates before their release, a unique concept in Arizona and the country.

In January she was honored to be a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama in her box at the President’s final State of the Union Address. As a former prisoner, that trip to the White House is a symbol of hope for all who have served time.

Sue Ellen experienced what many consider the ultimate humiliation, prison and disgrace. Now she uses her leadership skills to help bring necessary change. Everyone falls down but it’s what you do after the fall that counts. Sue Ellen knows only two choices: get back up or get back up.

That humiliation was a gift she now shares with others. True leadership includes the ability to face your fears, overcome the unimaginable and then make a difference with the lessons learned. This is dramatically demonstrated in her memoir of life behind bars, The Slumber Party From Hell. Sue Ellen was awarded the Dawson Prize in Memoir in the 2009 Prison Writing Contest for PEN American Center. Her writing was also included in Serving Productive Time by Tom and Laura Lagana, authors of Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul.

GINA’s Team is named for her prison roommate who died there of medical neglect. Gina’s death, at the young age of 25, was the defining moment of Sue Ellen’s journey, giving her life a new purpose and passion.

This event is open to the community. We will meet in Room A-3 of the Cottonwood Country Club. Sponsored by Unity of Sun Lakes. Call Rev. Debbi Brown for information at 602-309-1818.