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Meet Samantha Gerson of Survivors of Institutional Abuse and Crete Academy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Samantha Gerson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
When I was 14 I was institutionalized for being rebellious. There I endured 9 months of torture and realized no regulations existed for these type of places. I followed my passion into a career of Social Work, and realized how many vulnerable adolescents and populations needed help. From there I began volunteer work with The Trevor Project, Homes for Homeless, GLBTQ centers, and Survivors of Institutional Abuse. I realized I wanted to become a national advocate and lobbyist regarding institutional violations of youth in these systems and began speaking all over the country at conferences. I even travel internationally to speak. Although this is my passion work, I realized I needed a paying career; but wanted one that helps others. I found a new charter school in South Central that aims to serve homeless or low income children. I am the Director of the Wellness Center and am creating the wellness program from the ground up with the support of the school’s founder. I travel and lobby and speak as often as I can, and privately work with survivors to help them with their trauma. Recently, I’ve gotten into the battle against Conversion Therapy and advocate at a legislative level for the federal ban. My passion is helping others.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This has been a very rocky and tumultuous road. Helping others often means putting yourself last. I beat the odds of at-risk kids like myself, as I am the only student from my institution that is not dead, on drugs or locked up. I have had my fair share of mental struggles but mostly it has been hard balancing all my passions and still progressing with my degrees. I have lost jobs, moved across the country and tested my relationship to the breaking point. I have struggled and probably will continue to at times, but at the end of the day, if I can even help one survivor or change one regulatory practice, it is all worth it to me.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Survivors of Institutional Abuse and Crete Academy – what should we know?
There are two major companies/nonprofits I serve. Survivors of Institutional Abuse is volunteer run and is mostly about traveling to educate others as well as advocacy. I’ve spoken at dozens of conferences and even encountered the parents of children who they’ve sent to these places. I’ve talked many families out of placing their kids, and many others into taking their kids out. I’ve worked with survivors that have tried to kill themselves after enduring the torture, and spoken with various legislators on regulatory practices that continue to allow this to occur. This is my passion and I won’t stop until this is outlawed. Further, Conversion therapy is a huge aspect of institutions and I am working hard to inform other people that this still exists and how damaging it is. I am proud of all the work I’ve done and the families I have helped. I don’t know anyone else who survived and pursued changing these policies, so that is what sets me apart.

I also work for Crete Academy. The founder opened the school after realizing the lack of education for homeless children. She wanted the school to serve the whole child, and not just provide an education. She opened the wellness center to help family find food, housing and job resources, assist the children in getting medical care, as well as services I’ve created such as the safe space, group therapy, and individual counseling. I am the first and only director of this program, and am helping bring it from the ground up. I am proud of being able to take this on in hopes of making a difference in family’s lives.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
There are so many others that deserve credit. From Jodi Hobbs, the founder of Survivors of Institutional Abuse, to all the survivors that have spoken up; I wouldn’t still be doing this without them. Hattie and Brett Mitchell also deserve much acknowledgement for opening such an amazing school that allows me to do the work I do. I wouldn’t be where I am without my fiancé, Lizzy, who has supported me in my highs and lows. There is also one survivor who really sparked my passion. Her story was what ignited the flame in me to work as hard and diligently as I do. So, Emma, thank you!

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Image Credit:
Mikaela Shwer

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