Impacting the Lives of Incarcerated Youth: Come to Jail with Haley Hunt
Producer | Sports Media | Philanthropist | Brand Management | Music
Daughter of an Alabama National Champion, Haley Hunt was raised on college football & a deep faith. Her space in the music industry as an aspiring artist at a young age helped give her more insight into what “making it” in life actually means.
She spent the last 10 years helping develop and launch brands from food concepts and fragrances to candles and apparel. She spent a period of time working with NFL receiver Brandon Marshall’s brand, House Of Athlete, as a creative strategist and producer for everything from creative content production to player/ talent liaison.
She helped produce the HOA 2021 NFL Combine, and most recently launched the first annual “Entrepreneur Showcase” at the NFL Hall of Fame, highlighting professional athletes and their brands. She also was the director of content for Pylon sports and produced a YouTube series called 7 Ships where she traveled around telling incredible comeback stories of athletes.
Outside of sports, Haley is the CEO of The VERB Kind, a nonprofit she founded, with the mission to mentor and impact incarcerated youth across the US. She started in her hometown of Orlando, Florida, and has now spread the mission across the state in 9 counties and one in Alabama. With a team of over 400 volunteer mentors, her movement #ComeToJailWithMe has taken the nation by storm and impacting lives everywhere!
More at https://www.theverbkind.com
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0:02 – Hugh Ballou Readings It’s Hugh Ballou We’re back for another episode of the Non profit Exchange Now. You might have heard of this the nonprofit exchange is where you found is the nonprofit exchange dot org there’s three hundred and sixty three episodes that’s this one every one of them is priceless every one of them will inspire you and today’s episode is no exception I’m here with my co host David dun worth he’s the chair of the board of center vision leadership foundation and my special guest today is haley hunt we’re just new acquaintances but I am my world is rocked by her and what she’s done so haley tell us about This is the verb kind and tell us what that is,
0:49 – Haley Hunt Yes.
0:51 – Hugh Ballou and then tell us a little bit about who you are and your background and your passion.
0:56 – Haley Hunt awesome. Well, the verb kind is a non profit and our mission is to give incarcerated youth a 2nd chance through mentoring and so in layman’s terms. We hang out with kids in jail and try to point them in the right direction. We meet them in their darkest moments, in the moments that no one else sees them. And we have groups of, volunteer mentors that go in every single week all over Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, soon to be a bunch of other places. And we go in to the walls of a juvenile detention center and we spend time with these children and we remind them that there’s hope for their future.
1:39 – Haley Hunt So I’m assuming if you’re walking or whatever you like, how do you even get into that? You know, like how, how do you even get into that? So a little bit of a, my story is that I was, you know, a long time ago, I was married to a pro athlete. I did the whole pro athlete thing, you know, He was also a pastors kid, so and he pastors kids out there. It’s a huge red flag. Just kidding. I’m kidding. I kid. I being funny, kidding. It was a church joke. Y’all good. We got some laughs. We got some laughs.
2:07 – Haley Hunt So.
2:09 – David Dunworth Why?
2:11 – Haley Hunt It’s fine. They all understand. I’m just kidding. So I, I was married and had my life planned out. I was a singer songwriter, most likely to become famous in high You know, I was the one that was gonna make it. You know, I, I had a record deal very early in my life and then around 30 years old, my life came crashing down. I went through a divorce, I lost a lot of opportunities. I will say that God saved me from fame. Let’s say that God saved me from fame. I had a Tv show with pro athletes. It was a Espn type Barbara Walters thing.
2:48 – Haley Hunt And I was the next big thing. And I thought, you know, after going through my divorce and all these other things, God was going to bless me with, you know, what I’ve always wanted, which was, you know, do doing the thing that I feel like I was really good at, which was being on Tv or, you know, interviewing people, you know and but how many of us know out there that god sometimes has a totally different plan for your life and it ends up being better than you could have ever imagined but you can’t really imagine it because he does beyond anything you could ever imagine so I found myself back in my hometown of orlando florida completely lost no husband no kids no career nothing and I was an entrepreneur type mindset so it just drove me nuts I lost my purpose I didn’t know and this lady invited me to jail with her and she said hey you should come to the juvenile detention center with me I think you the kids would love it and I kind of thought and I had like okay I’ll go hang out with some kids you know I I’m good with kids or whatever and so the next week I show up at the juvenile detention center and I had twenty two girls in jail uniforms looking at me and if you could imagine the moment where I’m just like I hope I don’t blow this thing because the girls are looking at me like, who is this woman that just walked in, you know, and they asked me what I did and I said I’m a singer songwriter because that was my identity.
4:09 – Haley Hunt That was what I lived for my whole life since I was 14. I was gonna be a singer songwriter and The next question out of their mouth was, of course, okay, well then sing. And I knew at that moment I’d better be able to sing cause these girls are gonna tear me apart. And I sang and they loved it and I grabbed this bag full of goodies and I started pulling out nail polish and cookies and I, I, I started painting their nails and I was hearing them tell their stories while there were tears streaming down their face and they came, you, they turned from a criminal to a child, to a little girl who’s just broken, who, who needed hope.
4:51 – Haley Hunt And at that moment, that night, I realized that there was a need. And so I just started serving every Monday night. And the end of the story is that a year later, at the State of fda came to me and said whatever you’re doing is making such impact on the behavior of these kids I started hanging out with the boys we would bring chick fillet we would you know do fun things every monday night and I would bring friends in to guest speak or build a library or teach them something and the state of florida said we needed you to duplicate yourself in every county in florida because of the behavior modification that this has that this has impacted and so that was you know three years ago and I set on an request to convince people to come to jail with me and so we weren’t even a five hundred c three I was an entrepreneur I was paying for all of it and I would drive to different cities all over florida and meet up with my friends and say hey would you come to the jail with me like what you know every waitress every post office worker every guy that hit on me I was like you know I’m not interested but do you want to go to jail with me and guys would just people just it would blow their minds so today we are open in ten counties In Florida we are open in Knoxville, Tennessee, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and we have groups of people literally simultaneously every single week on a Monday night.
6:12 – Haley Hunt And impact the lives of these incarcerated youth. And you would not believe the revival, the impact, the, the shifting of spirit that happens inside the jails of detention center. So that’s what I do and that’s how I got here.
6:26 – David Dunworth Well, that is spectacular. My, my, you know I have a friend who does Christian. Prison ministry on He works with the hardened criminals and brings God to them. He’s out of Cleveland area and his story is pretty remarkable. About your story. My gosh, that’s incredible. And I can only imagine that when the 1st time that you went in there and those you saw, those all those girls and young women giving you the stink eyes and what are you here for? Type thing. You weren’t there to judge them and that’s You know that would be human nature for the most part.
7:10 – David Dunworth And breaking that ice down the way you did it. What a phenomenal story. Bless, that’s terrific.
7:18 – Hugh Ballou We have hay, we have A group of young people watching here, there’s 14 of them in a class in Dallas, Texas that are on here and they’re, they’re young, young leaders in the future and the, their structure is there. Who’s a visionary leader who impacts the lives. And we have people of multiple faiths here. So we gott Jewish and Muslim and Christian people on the line here. So we, we all, we’re all able to impact people’s lives by showing up. And David brought up a really good point and you know, he didn’t say it exactly, but what I heard in that and what you said was You valued each of those people for who they are and the potential they have, and maybe they didn’t have that anywhere else.
7:57 – Hugh Ballou That is that part of the picture.
8:00 – Haley Hunt one thousand percent I think that you know one of the biggest impacts of this nonprofit. You know, people, people, there are a huge group of people that get it, but then there’s also another group of our society that don’t get it. They’re like, why would you reward kids in jail, you know? But what I say, like, you know, sometimes in our life, you know, but also How many of these children are there because of how they grew up, you know, if you grow up in Val, Colorado or Brecken Ridge, chances are you’re gon to learn how to ski, okay, you’re not gonna get out there without learning how to ski and it’s the same situation.
8:36 – Haley Hunt Some of these kids have no hope from the beginning. Some of these girls are, are in situations where they’re running away because of things that are happening in their home and then they’re running getting in trouble, getting arrested for the trouble, and now they’re in jail because of the thing that was in their You know what I mean? It’s like a big huge circle cycle and and so the verb kind, which by the way, we’re called the verb kind because love is an act a lot of these kids here. I love you, man.
9:03 – Haley Hunt I love you, man. I’ll be there for you, man. But when I ask a group of kids how many of you guys have been betrayed? Every single hand gets racist because they have been betrayed before. You know, everybody’s dealing with unforgiveness in their and there are some things in those, in those moments that some of us could only imagine. Some of us could because we’ve been through it, But My point is that some of these kids need to be seen and that is the healing, healing part that that literally shifts their heart from wanting to try again the next day.
9:36 – Hugh Ballou I think there’s two sides to this, that we, we’re in a culture in the penal system, especially where there’s not restorative justice. It’s a different kind of penal system where it’s retributive, not restorative. So talk about, you know, what you’re doing is sort of restorative. We’re giving people a chance to say, okay, I screwed it up. Now I can be better. So there’s a different dynamic, is that clear? And how are you providing that restorative piece of this?
10:07 – Haley Hunt well you know we we do it on the inside and then we also offer kids resources on the outside when they get out but the thing is everybody wants to talk about what happens when they get out but you’re never going to catch them on the outside if you don’t catch them on the inside and so one kid for example his name is isa kai in one of the many detention centers and he lost his mom when he was eight years old and he has gone through a lot in his life and at the end of the night I looked at him and I said is the kai you know you could write a book you could change the world I said do you know that and he goes no ma’am I didn’t know that but now I know and it that moment right there with ize ki could have shifted him so much in his brain you know that it is a restorative thing we also have a a night where we’ll do like once every few months a career night and we teach the kids how to interview how to build a resume.
11:01 – Haley Hunt But the favorite station is the tie tie, teaching the kids how to tie a tie. So we have these men come in. We try to get as as many men as we can that night. And there’s that little station where you get to that station and you know Hugh and David are gonna help you tie a tie. Well, their attitude is I’m never gonna wear a tie or they’ll be like, No, I’m good, like I don’t needed to do that because I’ll never be important enough to wear a tie, but then you say, Hey man, I’ll give you a snack if you just participate.
11:31 – Haley Hunt The countenance of their face goes from insecure to thinking they are the best guy in the world once they learn how to tie that tie. They’re walking around the room showing everybody how to tie the tie and the man teaching him how hass impacted him so much because he’s never even had, chances are he’s never had a man teach him anything. So those are the kind of things and moments that the verb kind is providing for these kids through these amazing mentors that are liter Changing the lives of these children that nobody knows about.
12:04 – Hugh Ballou You know, some of us think, oh, I’m just one person that can’t make a difference. And I say, you know, it’s a good thing that Martin Luther King never thought that.
12:12 – Haley Hunt Amen.
12:13 – Hugh Ballou Luther never thought that it’s a good thing, you know, you go right down history where one person made a huge difference, so what’s the power within? How do you help them discover what that power is? I’m going to let David ask a question a 2nd here, but how do you helpp them discover their hidden potential?
12:31 – Haley Hunt You know, there’s a lot of people watching right now that I’ll talk to the leaders 1st, which is that, you know. This wasn’t a part of my plan. I’m not a mentor. I didn’t study counseling, I studied music. Like I don’t know what I’m doing, you know, But when you are called and you have an opportunity to change lives, do it, do it anyway. You know, there’s a lot of reasons why we shouldn’t do it. There’s a lot of, you know, our time or, or we’re just too young, or we’re too old, or we’re too you know, we don’t have money or you know, whatever it is, do it anyway.
13:05 – Haley Hunt If, if you have a passion to help somebody, no matter what it is, figure it out and do it, you know. I And then your question was what do we say to those kids? You know, I always tell them, I always tell my story about not making it, you know, and I’m going. My dreams not coming true has created an opportunity for me to be in this room with you right now. Isn’t that powerful? So to all the leaders out there, to all the entrepreneurs out there, when the 1st door doesn’t open, keep moving forward because the right door is going to open.
13:34 – Haley Hunt You are going to thank the Lord, okay or whoever that None of those doors were open, you know, it’s like a bad boyfriend, you’re like none of those worked out, thank God, because I’m so glad he didn’t. It’s the same thing. Keep going and do it anyway. Don’t let what you know you don’t have or what you don’t know stop you from changing the world.
13:55 – Hugh Ballou Wow, wow, so folks that are, if you come in by the video here, this. Is the Nonprofit Exchange. You can find the episodes at thethe Nonprofit Exchange. Org. And if you’re watching us on the webinar platform right now, live. Which when you go to the Nonprofit Exchange, it’ll give you a chance to sign up so you can be with us. Live. So if you’re watching us on Zoom here, put some questions, put some comments in the chat. So we’re watching the chat and Haley is going to welcome some questions.
14:23 – Hugh Ballou So, David, something’s brewing in your brain. What? What do you think? What do you want to ask? I can see his expression. And you’re mutans.
14:36 – David Dunworth A couple of things are are percolating, and one of them is kind of selfish. I live in Clearwater, Florida.
14:44 – Haley Hunt Oh, you’re coming to jail with me, honey. And Nell County Baby, you’re coming.
14:53 – David Dunworth tell you my my brother, who lives not too far from me. Substitute. And there are many schools in Pinellas County. He won’t even go to.
15:06 – Haley Hunt believe you have called.
15:07 – Hugh Ballou Here.
15:08 – David Dunworth Program Sounds perfect for the juvenile detention system. Wouldn’t it be something to bring it to the schools eventually? Sunday too? Scope or what have you but applaud you for the work that you’re doing? That’s would look at it and say, Well, that’s got to be thankless work, that’s got to be tough, that’s good. Why would you put yourself into that situation? But you can see that you are beaming with pride and satisfaction and the joy that you know you’re bringing to those people.
15:48 – David Dunworth And I I have to tip my hat to you, my young lady, that it’s it’s so good that you’re doing that kind of work.
15:56 – Haley Hunt Wow. Well, you’re welcome. Can I just say? You know. One of the most powerful things about our profit as well is, is bridging the gap. You know, a lot of these kids have never encountered someone maybe that looks like you, David or whatever, you know, we, we have people that you know are like you that have never encountered it, why would you even encounter a kid you know and out risk you whatever, because you know, you play tennis and you do your thing and you live in clear water, but when you come into a jail and you are bringing a peace offering, you’re spending time with them.
16:33 – Haley Hunt It changes the entire, spirit of the room, You know, they, they then see you the next week and and you said you would come back and then you did what you said. It means something, something to them, you know. And so what I want to say also is that It’s healed. So many people like we in our generation are so obsessed with ourselves, you know, like look at Instagram, look at Faceook, it’s all about us and how amazing we are and how awesome. We are. And then because of all the trauma that we’ve been through, we have a counselor, we have a psych psychiatrist, we have all these things.
17:06 – Haley Hunt We have to be on medication. We got ohh, gosh. We got to do yoga and we got to meditate. We gotta, oh, because me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me. And listen, all those things are great. Listen to what I’m saying. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. All of those things in their place are beautiful. And let me tell you the best way to heal, go serve somebody. We have people serving on our teams that have been looking for healing in their hearts. Subconsciously they didn’t come to heal.
17:32 – Haley Hunt They’ve just been healing on this healing journey. And as soon as they start serving our kids and their perspective changes, something happens on the inside of them. And so I just want to encourage you guys as watchers, as entrepreneurs, as a leaders, you know, if there’s something that you need to heal from, go serve somebody. It’s the quickest, quickest way. And I also want to say, David, sorry, I’m not if I’m talking too much, but I also want to say to the people that say these kids don’t deserve a pizza party.
18:01 – Haley Hunt W Why are you painting their nails? They’re in jail. You know what I mean? Well, she probably just never had a woman paint her nails before. You know, they’ve never had a pizza party, You know what I mean? Like some of these kids come from thing and people are like, well, I would rather help sick kids. Well, I just want to say to everybody too, these kids are sick, you know, They, they have sickness in the heart from father lessness and and, and so we’re helping the fatherless, you know, 90 % of our kids are fatherless, you know, they either don’t have a father or they’re in the foster system and so.
18:39 – David Dunworth Well, I, I get it, I get it. I, I have been working with a, a small village in Uganda for the last five and a half years and I’m going there so we can’t go into jail until I come back. Because I’ll be gone for two months. But yeah. These kids come from extreme poverty. And they’re happy, they are alive and they know it and I’m able to put them in school so that they can learn something and we just want to do more. And and I work on a collaboration for this particular project, which is an initiative of Center Vision Leadership Foundation, and we would love to support you in any way that we can as well.
19:26 – David Dunworth So I’ll go to jail with you.
19:30 – Haley Hunt And ‘s not getting out of this because we’re opening up in Lynchburg very soon.
19:34 – David Dunworth The
19:36 – Haley Hunt listen. And for everybody in Dallas, we just got asked to open in Fort Worth. So if you guys are interested in helping us too, like we need people everywhere to help these kids. So.
19:48 – Hugh Ballou got a group, so let’s talk about leadership. You got Bob, Chris, Danny, Ivan, Kathleen, Paola, Ricardo, Rush, you know, talk about leadership. You just had the idea that or just happened. Now what did you do that it work? And what did you do that you wish you hadn’t done? You know, we learn. I call them learning opportunities. Other people call them mistakes, but I call them learning opportunities. So talk a little bit about the good and the bad and you know, how can we learn from ourselves?
20:13 – Haley Hunt Well, you said in the very beginning that leaders listen and so, you know, as a mentor or volunteer, that’s one of the things that we found is that being a good listener has been changing lives. But I will tell you as a leader and when I started this, I think the passion and just, being convinced every week you go in and being excited about the thing that you do is huge. You know, if you’re not convinced, nobody else is going to be, you know. And then not listening to the naysayers, these are basic things, but for me, take it.
20:46 – Haley Hunt For me that was one of the hardest things for me is why you invite me to a place I don’t want to go, you know, like how do you convince people? Be able to be so passionate that people are truly Vince To give it a shot has impacted so many lives and and I, I think as a leader you just have to believe in the thing that, that you’re doing. A lot of people are really insecure, they’re worried too much about what everybody thinks and as a leader you can’t care.
21:18 – Hugh Ballou High five, high five. So we’re, we’re coming to the end of this, this short piece and we’re gonna invitee questions from those watching. But, but let me, let me take people to your website and it’s called,
21:31 – Haley Hunt than
21:33 – Hugh Ballou how do we find your website the verb kind dot com is that right um she’s very polite she calls me sir ma’am So what do people find when they go there?
21:38 – Haley Hunt Yes, sir. the cool part is scrolled down you know there’s sixty thousand incarcerated youth in America right now and we are excited so if you keep scrolling here are pictures of a lott of our All of our teams from all over Palm Beach, Orange, Miami, pins. There’s our Pinelli team. Literally every kind of person that you could imagine. You guys do not underestimate the power of invitation to what you’re doing. And then, you know, I have a for profit called Joy Boy. It’s uh, it’s an athletic brand for athletes and youth and so That’s, you know, a really cool thing, but I would love for you to scroll up and click all the way to the right and says, Media, You know, we have been so blessed to be on the media.
22:35 – Haley Hunt We have literally been on Espn, Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, Comcast, Morning in America. We have had so many cool things with the Nfl and different media opportunities. Jamen Phillips from the Miami Dolphins was up for Nfl Man of the Year this year. And one of the reasons why was because of his, you know, work with the verb. Kind. So we were really proud of that. And so if you want to become a mentor or more, you can go there. But yeah, our website is full of really cool stuff.
23:08 – Haley Hunt And if you want to follow us on Instagram, it’s very easy on Facebook and on Twitter, guess what it is? Come to jail with me.
23:17 – Hugh Ballou David You go an invitation and I’m looking at kidding, I can hardly wait. Pinal County You’re in trouble, so Hayley do you, Where do you want to leave people with today? What’s a challenge or thought for people to step up their game and do something similar?
23:39 – Haley Hunt Sometimes in life the unconventional the uncomfortable, the inconvenient, is the place we’re supposed to be. And you know, America Being Americans, we are convinced that we are supposed to be comfortable all the time. We’re supposed to have the white picket fence with the cute little dog and the perfect little family and the la la la la la and you know what that’s not true you know at not telling my age but at thirty nine I didn’t think I would be here you know being the cee o of this growing nonprofit helping kids in jail I just didn’t but I will tell you that every single day I wake up full overflowing with peace in my heart because I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and so just an encouragement that even if it looks unconventional if you know it’s what you’re supposed to be doing who cares like just do the thing because if you don’t who’s gonna do it you know what I mean who is gonna do it if you don’t do the thing who is gonna do it.
24:43 – Hugh Ballou David told you, David. There it is.
24:47 – David Dunworth Unbelievable. What a treat.
24:50 – Hugh Ballou Haley, You’s us. You’ve encouraged us, You’ve inspired us. Thank you for being our guest on the nonprofit exchange today.
24:56 – Haley Hunt Thank you guys so much for having me. You’ll need, you know. Fy me.