Gamaliel Moses (a.k.a. Mr. Gammy) joined our full-time staff this summer – but, as you’ll learn from this interview, he’s been part of our Common Ground family for much longer than that. We are proud and lucky to have Gammy on our team! Just this month, Gammy was awarded Environmental Educator of the Year by the Connecticut Outdoor and Environmental Education Association – a much-deserved honor, recognizing decades of work with young people and families in New Haven. Learn more about Gammy in this interview with Education Change Intern Jayden Carty and Community Impact & Engagement Director Joel Tolman.
What path brought you to Common Ground?
I’ve been an environmental educator, doing youth development work, for about 17 years. That took me from Solar Youth, to Wexler Grant, to Elm City Montessori, then from there to my current position at Common Ground.
I just took on my present position this fall – but I have been part of the Common Ground community for a long time. I’m an alumni parent. My son Jahlil attended school here, and I was very active with parent participation. During my years of working with Solar Youth, I had many opportunities to collaborate with Common Ground. For instance, I partnered with Common Ground’s Green Jobs program, when Solar Youth was a site for interns. Since 2018, I have also worked with Common Ground’s summer camp as a teacher.
What’s your job at Common Ground?
My job title is Student Affairs Manager. Part of the work I do is supporting the restorative processes – working with and supporting students. That involves creating space 1 on 1 and in small groups, to think and reflect when they have harmed the community and need to restore what they’ve damaged. I also support the culture team. By culture we mean not just the way we do things, but also the way we treat and talk to each other. I’m also teaching with Mr. Stone in the Outdoor Leadership class, helping students get outside. Those are my major roles.
What’s your motivation to work with young people?
I believe that young people are not the future, but the present. They have the ability to make change right now, so we should support them in that process. Movements like the Civil Rights Movement were made up primarily of young people; that’s an example that shows that they are a force for change. They’re the ones that influence all the other young people, bring them in, and they also bring in their parents then the parents bring other parents etc. I think that youth work is important in that sense.
In addition to being a force for change I believe that it’s important to make spaces for young people to express themselves. Whether that be through the arts, through music or talking, just creating a space to help them express themselves and to shine.
One of the things that is also important to me is providing spaces and opportunities for young people to have new experiences. Whether it’s going on a camping trip or hiking, or a museum, or to a different state just providing those opportunities for them to do new things. I think that’s important and powerful because everyone remembers the time they did something for the first time. For example, you remember the first time you went fishing or the first time you rode a bike.
Youth leadership is also very important. I’m not talking about just token youth leadership. I’m talking about young people making decisions, doing what they want, and really being heard. I really feel like true leadership is the ability to develop leadership skills in others.
What were you like as a high school student?
I had a wonderful experience in high school. I played sports, and did a lot of cultural activities. It was a really fun experience.
Initially, I got in a lot of trouble. Sometimes, it would be for drumming on my desk. I talked and clowned around a lot. One of the first leadership opportunities that was given to me was by my soccer coach. He made me the captain of the team. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, that other people didn’t see either. From that, other leadership opportunities started to spring up. I became part of a peer counseling group. I started doing speech and debate competitions. A lot of my energy shifted from negative to positive because of that experience. I became the president of my school when I was a senior. One leadership opportunity led to another.
In school, I also had a couple of teachers who knew that I was a drummer, a performer, and liked to sing. They would invite me to perform and bring me to other places to perform. I used to do visual arts as well, and the principal used to reach out to me to do art competitions; that channeled my energy, and helped me continue to grow.
What would you want students and families to know about you as a person, beyond your professional life?
I see this place – Common Ground, and New Haven – as my village. I have seen young people grow up, from being born, to walking, to being in programs that I lead. This is my village, and I am here to provide support in any way I can.
I love community, I love building community. It’s part of my purpose in life, to spread love and vitality everywhere I go, and everyone I come across. That’s very important.
I’m a big fan of intergenerational connectedness – connecting the elders, and the younger generation, and those in the middle, so that we can really have quality change and learn from each other.
I like to have fun. Some of my hobbies are riding bicycles, playing drums, and hiking. I enjoy cooking; I’m a vegan. I like to spend time outdoors. I love performing – I’m a drummer, a storyteller. I like playing music, doing poetry. I’m a friendly person – I love people. I love to see young people having fun, being productive, trying new things.