Middle school students are taking initiative and turning a class project into a community speaker event.
Each year, seventh graders in Kelly Kaiser’s class at Jackson Hole Middle School do a culminating project called the “guts factor.” Students, tasked with finding the courage to make a difference in the community, often do bake sales to raise money for causes they’re passionate about or other public activities to boost awareness of different issues.
Alexandra Gingery, Angel Orton and Andrew Hanna took a new route this year. They’ve invited a wrongfully incarcerated man, Darrell Siggers, and his lawyer and co-founder of nonprofit Proving Innocence, Bill Branham, to speak at Teton County Library.
“Mr. Siggers has such a powerful story to tell, and we want to help others hear his story,” Alexandra said. “Could you imagine spending 34 years in prison for something you didn’t do?”
The men will speak from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday. The students hope their time in Jackson — during which they will also speak at Jackson Hole High School and Jackson Hole Middle School — will “combat the silence” around wrongful incarceration.
“Wyoming is still lacking legislation to compensate exonerated prisoners,” Alexandra said. “By bringing Darrell to Wyoming, we hope to influence policymakers to enact legislation to financially compensate exonerated prisoners.”
Siggers was wrongfully incarcerated for 34 years and exonerated of first-degree murder in 2018. Proving Innocence is a Michigan nonprofit that works to free people imprisoned for crimes they did not commit and help them reintegrate into society.
The organization also provides investigatory services, advocates for change in the judicial system, and educates the public and policymakers.
Clarene Law donated rooms at the Antler Motel, and the students raised funds to pay for the men’s plane tickets. They planned to show them around Jackson over the weekend, taking the Aerial Tram and seeing Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.