A Boston native herself, Gemma left her hometown after being awarded a Posse Scholarship to attend college. It was there, while confronted with the overwhelming affluence of the student body, that she began to formally study societal structures and racial injustice. She worked to promote social-emotional growth and social justice while teaching in a middle school life skills classroom, and various positions supporting the empowerment of women and girls across the state of Pennsylvania in shelters, juvenile detention centers, and federal prisons. Her Posse supported her throughout college, where she focused on Children’s Studies and Human Service Systems before graduating cum laude with a degree in Sociology from Bucknell University in 2013.
From there she returned to Boston, wanting to give back to the educational system that raised her. After several years supporting Student Services at the Conservatory Lab Charter School, she transitioned to working for Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. She recognized the historical social ownership of outdoor spaces by white-culture and worked to improve the efficacy of Thompson Island’s educational staff by anchoring their practice around a strength-based approach and culturally responsive practices. Since its inception in 2017, Gemma has been supporting the Outward Bound Professional Learning Lab, working to identify research-based best practices, measurement, and curricula for character development in adolescents. She will continue to expand her understanding of effective practice while pursuing her Masters in Learning and Teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In all of her work, she has been a vocal advocate for the centralization of a lens of Equity and Inclusion. These impacted facets of work spanning from organizational hiring practices, to training on trauma-informed care and cultural humility, to formally serving on employers’ Equity and Inclusion Committees. She is excited to learn alongside other RIDES fellows to deepen her understanding of how equity can be promoted not only in Boston’s schools but nationally.