Story of GEC

I arrived at GEC in a slightly unconventional way. It was January 2018 and I was flying back home to New Orleans from a trip in Denver. At the airport I ran into former board member extraordinaire, Rosie Krieger, who I knew through mutual friends. She offered me a ride home, and in that car ride we quickly realized how much our passions and interests in global equity and human rights aligned- her career being in education, and mine in migration. 


At the time, I was working to legally represent unaccompanied children from Central America in their immigration cases. My organization provided both legal and social services, acting as a full support system for our young clients. One of the most consistent patterns I saw with the families I worked with was everyone’s desire to have the means, access, and absence of barriers to attend school. Working on those cases reinforced my understanding of what a privilege an education is and my perspective of how many other factors play into a child being able to obtain one. I knew if I was going to fight for my clients, I needed to understand the complexities of access facing children around the world. I learned that working in social justice means not just advocating for one isolated right (legal status for example), but demands a comprehensive commitment to addressing all intersecting needs for a full life (access to employment, shelter, food, healthcare). GEC not only internalizes this, but practices it. What implored me to get involved with GEC was their realistic application of educational equity, over simply educational equality. This means they understand that treating all students the same does not provide every student with the same opportunity or outcome, but that prioritizing the needs of individual students allows them to have more equitable access and more successful outcomes. 


However impassioned I was by GEC’s perspective, I was still intimidated and humbled at first by the fact that the team is made up of incredible warriors in the education field- from teaching with Teach For America, in Ghana, at public schools throughout the US as teachers, leaders, principals etc. and now leading education programs and consulting for larger initiatives to share their expertise, the members are trailblazers. Even though I have surrounded myself with educators in my life, not being one myself, I sometimes worried that I didn’t have the background to equally contribute to the team or identify the academic needs of our students. In experiencing the classic imposter syndrome wondering if I would be the right fit for the Board, I soon learned that all board members’ diverse perspectives are needed to accomplish the work and help our families in the way they need.  


The comprehensive and patient strategy that first impressed me about GEC has strengthened and flourished in my past three and a half years on the Board. It is clear we don’t only assist our students with schoolwork or with financial access- we take a holistic approach to the meaning of support, and to what being an international partner looks like. By practicing active listening, we prioritize the needs of our families and check in to make sure we are taking a bottom up approach. This is the most evident to me in the way that we have scaled back on taking in new students to our program, in light of realizing our current students were not getting the support they needed to excel to their highest potential. This is vastly different from the experiences I have seen with other nonprofits, who can get caught up in the capitalist driven mindset of wanting higher numbers and increased data points to show to funders. At GEC, statistics are only a portion of how we measure success, because we emphasize quality over quantity, deep connections and relationships over everything else. We focus on our students and maintain that one successful and happy student is more important than performatively reporting 10 semi-supported students whose challenges will only multiply if left unaddressed. We remain small because our aspirations are not outward facing. We draw inward, with our families to make sure they feel they are truly being advocated for, and within ourselves, to ensure we are sticking to our mission and practicing the values we say we do. Our moments of personal and group reflection, our workshops on anti-racism, and our respect of boundaries with each other remind me that I am with the right group. To reflect, to analyze, to critique, to process something is to love it and to want it to do better. Working and learning with our board, our families, our students, and our donors has truly been a lesson in teamwork. GEC has exemplified what it means to be in community, and I am so proud and lucky to be a part. 


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