Wednesday, May 22, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Jessie Irvin

Today’s installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Jessie Irvin. Jessie receives services from Imagine!. More importantly, she is also serving Imagine! and her community through her involvement with the Intersections project. Intersections is a collaboration between Imagine! and Boulder-based Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA), funded by a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women. The ultimate goals of the grant are to facilitate sustainable system change at both MESA and Imagine!, and to help MESA as well as Imagine! staff and volunteers improve both organizations’ ability to serve people with disabilities who have experienced sexual assault.

Thanks for sharing your story, Jessie!

From Baby To Badass
By Jessie Irvin
Jessie as a baby.

When I was a baby, back in 1988, I actually got services from Dayspring. But for most of the time I was growing up, I didn’t have any contact with Imagine!. When I was 18, I got kicked out of my grandma’s house and ended up homeless, no money, no nothing.

So I got in a transition program, and the Case Manager there set me up with Imagine!. When she first told me I was going to Imagine!, I asked, “Imagine what?”

At first when I was working with Imagine!, it was tough. They didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them. But they have learned that I speak my mind – and I think they respect that. I once told my Imagine! Case Manager, “Either you are with me or you are against me.” It turned out that Imagine! was with me.

With Imagine!, I get Supported Living Services and do activities through Out & About. I first met Caitlin Looney (a Mental Health Therapist at Imagine!) when she was running Out & About’s “Giddy Up” activity. After she got to know me a little, she asked me to help out on a project she was working on – Intersections, a collaboration between Moving To End Sexual Assault (MESA) and Imagine!.

Caitlin wanted me to join one of the workgroups for the project so I could provide a viewpoint of a person with a disability, like letting them know what works and what doesn’t from my perspective. I’m a hard worker, and my mom always told me, “You have a mind, use it,” so I actually ended up joining three workgroups for the project! I offer expertise and tell people how things look through my eyes. I also try to offer ideas to represent the whole system, not just my perspective. I do research for the project and have helped create a Policy and Procedure Review Tool and a Safety and Accessibility Tool. I’m working on helping make services at MESA and Imagine! better.

I’ve learned a lot since starting on this project. I’ve learned that change takes time, but you have to keep going. I’ve always believed that it is important to treat everyone equally, and that takes work. My mom didn’t raise me as disabled; she tried to let me do everything other kids did. I want that for everybody. It should be an equal society.

Everybody is seeing a difference in me since I started working on the project. My moods are better, my health is better, and I’ve even starting dressing better. Knowing I can come into work and get done what needs to be done keeps me more upbeat. I am doing more and more for Imagine!.

I think what I’m doing is very important. All it takes is one voice. I don’t know if I’m that voice, but I’m willing to take that chance.

The only thing I worry about being part of the project is that it might ruin my reputation – people might think I’m too nice! No matter what happens, I will still tell you what I think and how I feel. I’m still a badass!

Jessie today - 100% badass!

Are you interested in sharing your story for “50 Years, 50 Stories?” If so, contact Caroline Siegfried at or 303-926-6405. We’d love to hear from you!


  1. You Go Girl!!!

  2. Jessie, You are amazing! I am so glad had the chance to work with you on this project before I left MESA. You truly contributed so much and are an invaluable member of the team. You are an inspiration and truly a badass woman!
    ~Emily Tofte

  3. Wow, Jessie, You are such an asset for Imagine! staff and the folks we serve, you sound super cool, thanks for your hard work.
    Tory, Case Management

  4. Jessie, I love your story and your attitude. Badasses make it happen! I want to be more like you.

  5. Thanks for all you are doing Jessie! Your voice is absolutely bad ass. Thank you for sharing, too.
    Jodi Walters